Creativity is nurtured by creative physical environments. Light, space, softness and hardness, color, flexibility, portability, variety: all are factors in developing a culture of ownership. While we wish we had a new school with skylights, open spaces, and tall trees, with sliding walls and whiteboards everywhere, we are a public school living under public funding and design constraints. Our building is old, our lights are flickering fluorescent, and our rooms sit lockstep with no connecting doors. Nevertheless we’ve learned how to work with ‘less is more.’

Physical Space

We’ve found three principles that help us configure our physical space: variety, flexibility, and responsibility.


Rooms need to have a variety of spaces. Our old, decrepit classrooms have ‘soft spaces’ with rugs, beanbags, small movable tables, and whiteboard/chalkboard contact paper. These spaces are used by students when they want to smush, sprawl, collaborate, or be alone. They also have more formal workspaces, some of which are student-centered, others of which are teacher-centered. Every room is configured differently based on its needs.


Our classrooms have desks that kids and adults can move around and reconfigure as needed. Sometimes this happens multiple times in a day; other times a configuration may last for weeks or perhaps even months. The general rule is that the furniture and space serve the learning and creating needs of humans.


In Japan students clean their own classrooms. This teaches them respect for their environment as well as ownership of their daily habits and actions. We think this act of maintaining one’s space grows core ownership.

You can find the details of how we configure our Physical Space under Toolkits.

My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. 

Steve Jobs, Co-founder, Apple