BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Rocking or swiveling in a chair isn’t generally allowed in classrooms. At Eastside Elementary, movement isn’t a requirement when students are learning, but it’s allowed with very few limitations.
“No matter where you sit or what you do, you stay on task and you are safe,” said Britney Romito, a 4th grade teacher at Eastside Elementary. “Those are the only two parameters that I put on my children.”
These students are learning in a different kind of setting for part of the school day. Traditional seating is going out the window, or the garage door.
“When they’re in those rows and those seats, it’s stifling their creativity and their ability to express themselves and their choice in how they learn and control their environment,” Romito said. “Let’s keep it real. We all like to have some control and I put in what we do.”
If they choose to do so, kids can walk directly outside the classroom, but when the ground is a little too wet, they just opt for the open door.
“It definitely probably helps me focus since it has flexible seating and you can move around,” said Anna Gauthier, a 4th grader.
Choice is the central focus of this new classroom setting. Students pick where they want to sit. They can go where they think they’ll learn best and they lead the discussion.
"It makes learning fun,” said student, Brynn Catalano. She likes to sit on the floor, “I don’t know why… it’s comfy,” she said.
Principal Kelly Labauve says the classroom opened at the beginning of the school year. She says teachers must have a reason to use the space and provide her with the standards that will be taught. She says teachers and their students use the new work space several times a day.
Labauve says it was a dream to help empower the teachers, as well as the students.
“I want the students to be in charge of their own learning,” Labauve said. “My vision for that room has been surpassed by the attitudes and the learning that I see.”
There are rules to using this new classroom though, Labauve says. It’s a requirement that students lead the discussion and work together. Educators say collaboration creates a positive environment. Plus, the teachers, like Romito, aren’t afraid to get on the students’ level.
“I sit down to see what their game plan is and see what they’re thinking so I can meet the child where they are,” Romito said. “If it’s like a spoonful of sugar, if it’s fun, it’s not going to feel like medicine and it’s not going to feel like a chore.”
It’s about making learning fun while making sure the information sticks and if teachers can do that, they’re making a difference.
“If we make it fun or interesting or out of the norm, they are going to learn more. They are going to remember more,” Romito said.