The name of the game for Universally Designed Environments is flexibility. Across the district we've been experimenting more and more with creating learning environments that lend themselves to choice making and student autonomy. My favorite part of all these changes has been seeing the different personalities of teachers come out as they design their flexible environments. The best environments are the ones that can change based on the goals of a teacher's instruction. Having environments that can seamlessly transform from teaching in whole group lecture to small group collaboration to independent student lead discovery in a matter of moments is the type of environment that allows for quality Universally Designed Lessons.
Thoughts if your looking to jump in:
Freedom for Change - Experiment with your environment based finding structures that meet your learning objectives. Remember learning is the key.
Levels - Design your environment so that students can access content at from a floor, seated, and standing positions.
Accessibility - Make sure that all areas of your room that will be devoted to learning are accessible for all students. A great test for this is visualizing a student in a wheelchair coming into your learning environment and making sure that it would be accessible for them (wide enough lanes between furniture, supplies at levels that student could access). You'll find if it works for their needs often I works well for everyone.
Safety - Assume that the unexpected will happen. Does furniture keep students safe? If their is any question head back to the drawing board to find options that meet your same goals but keep kids always safe. #murphyslaw
Send pics our way as your design and post them here!
Amy Williams & Zach Smith
District Leads for Universal Design for Learning
Sanger unified school district
Curriculum & Instruction department