The Idea Chairs

Idea Chairs

Last Friday, I left work late and walked out in the evening sun to a stunning sight – several sets of colorful lawn chairs in the green space between Wells Hall and Erickson Hall (the two buildings where I spend much of my time on campus.) There were lawn signs around the chairs with inspirational quotes and the statement: What’s your dream? #IDEACHAIR. I was immediately captivated by the chairs and thought about them all weekend. Every day this week I have made a point to move one of my meetings out to the “Idea Chairs.”  Classes officially started today and it was another wondrous sight to see how the chairs moved – into new configurations. How they invited conversation, joy, smiles.  If you look around campus, any of the outdoor seating is firmly bolted to the ground.  There are benches, but, sitting on them is a bit awkward for a collegial conversation.  The idea chairs on the other hand are mobile, malleable, adaptable. My friend Ira speaks to this much more eloquently than I can as to why this is so important (see: Making Learning Spaces: The Secondary Library.)

Several years ago, Alison gave me the beautiful gift of the book The Third Teacher. Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach said “There are three teachers of children: adults, other children, and their physical environment” (aka, the third teacher.)  The Michigan State University campus is our classroom, the campus is the Third Teacher.  The idea chairs are a small, yet wonderful reminder and example of how important it is to create an environment conducive to how we learn and interact – and how something so simple has the potential to transform. I will be watching closely over the next few weeks to see how the space continues to adapt and grow.


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