The classroom is alive with color, with a vivid mosaic of mats on the floor, and eye-catching posters and graphs on the walls. The first graders of Hawthorne Elementary fill the room: some sitting together at small clusters of desks; some sprawled on the floor; and others by themselves, wearing headphones, and reading. But despite all the vibrancy and activity, there is a sense of calm to the room. A focus. What could easily devolve into chaos is, instead, collaboration and concentration.
Hawthorne Elementary School is a very old, industrial-looking building, without fancy furniture or modern designer trappings. But once you get inside one of the school’s thirty or so classrooms, you could suddenly find yourself on a beach in Tahiti, or in a movie theater, or in a park with picnic tables, or even a game-themed room, taking thematic and visual cues from games like Scrabble and Operation, with areas labeled with fun plays on words.
“All of our students want to learn, they just need to do it in different ways,” says Hawthorne Elementary principal Yvonne Barhight. “It’s fascinating to see them in a space that they really want to be in and have them just go for it. It’s about understanding what some people—even the greatest thinkers of all time—need, in terms of opportunities to work and create. Oftentimes we don’t honor that in learners. We forget sometimes that you need to nurture certain habits and ways of learning.”
Read more about how Baltimore County’s Hawthorne Elementary is setting the stage for student success.