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The Third Teacher at AGC

Created by an international team of architects and designers concerned about our failing education systems, The Third Teacher forges an often-overlooked link between how we learn and where we learn, between the physical environments in which children spend their school days and the knowledge, insight, abilities, and joys they gain." Take a peek into AGC's learning environment to learn how teaching and learning have been transformed through utilizing the design principles of The Third Teacher.

Shuffle the deck.
Multiply intelligences.
Display learning.
Make caterers caretakers.
Grow your own.
Make classrooms agile.
Cherish children's spaces.
Unite the disciplines.
Slip off your shoes.
Make peace with fidgeting.

A. Cherish children’s spaces.

TTT says: “It’s a natural impulse to nurture our young — let that impulse extend to the places where young people learn.” View PDF

At AGC: A healthy environment is important for the health of our students and the planet. We strive to create an ideal environment for young learners. In addition to ensuring social and emotional wellness, positive nutrition and healthy behaviors, we want to make sure that our physical space is safe as well. We use only non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning products and materials: from the rugs in our classrooms to the mugs in our kitchen, AGC is toxin-free.

B. Multiply intelligences.

TTT says: “Allow students time and space to choose what they want to do—their choices will illuminate their individual strengths.” View PDF

At AGC: Through project-based work and rotating stations, students are given the opportunity to not only choose from a variety of activities that reflect the diversity of multiple intelligences, but to create their own activities that draw upon their unique desires and talents. Last year, Ms. Moore’s class wanted to create a food drive and clothing exchange called “the free store.” Their teacher molded her curricular needs around their newfound passion – teaching math, English, civics and public speaking while coaching her students through the process of creating a business plan and presenting it to the AGC administration and Board of Directors.

C. Display learning.

TTT says: “Posting student work, both current and past, up on the walls tracks progress in a visible way.” View PDF

At AGC: Every unit of inquiry culminates in a public display of knowledge. Working towards a practical and shareable application of learning – such as a health fair in our cafeteria, a book, or a schoolyard market – shows our students their own growth and involves the family and school community in applauding a job well done.

D. Unite the disciplines.

TTT says: “Art and science need each other. Discoveries — great and small—happen when the two come together; so give students places for cross-disciplinary work, and who knows what creative genius will flourish.” View PDF

At AGC: Stroll the hallways and treat yourself to a gallery of student artwork, projects and plans. At AGC, you can also see student work in many other forms: in plans for the future, model communities made of recycled cardboard and blueprints for sustainable schools, recipes and menus for healthy garden-fresh foods; in multimedia, in short films, songs and stories; and in the day to day operations of our schools, in the gardens they have planned and built, the signs they have created, and the school-wide initiatives they have helped to shape. AGC teachers foster leadership and build self-worth through interdisciplinary project based work that is meaningful to our students.

E. Make peace with fidgeting.

TTT says: “Think of it as brain development, which it is. Then think of how to make room for it in the classroom.” View PDF

At AGC: In our classrooms, students can choose between exercise balls, cushions on the floor, couches, comfy chairs or a traditional table. Our teachers weave in physical activity, walks, stations and cheers, to break up blocks of seated work. If a student’s fidgeting behavior is disruptive to his or her peers, they may take a self-directed yoga break in the corner.

F. Make classrooms agile.

TTT says: “A learning space that can be reconfigured on a dime will engage different kinds of learners and teachers.” View PDF

At AGC: Our classrooms are furnished with flexibility in mind: choral risers serve as a stage, an exercise tool, a seat and a desk; squares of carpet can be arranged in patterns, paths or patches and alternating colors provide direction for young students who are learning how to sit in class. Physical and academic spaces are designed to encourage unique minds to flourish rather than growing frustrated.

G. Make caterers caretakers.

TTT says: “Consider the people who prepare school meals, the places where those meals are prepared and served, critical to children’s well-being—and hire and design accordingly.” View PDF

At AGC: Students are served scratch-made, 100% organic, nutritionally-balanced and locally sourced meals in AGC’s zero-waste cafeteria! Menus, ever improving, are informed by student interviews and often mirror the colors and flavors being grown in our schoolyard garden. AGC’s food program has received national recognition and awards from the USDA and Michelle Obama!

H. Grow your own.

TTT says: “Growing and preparing fruit and vegetables on school grounds educates children’s senses of taste, touch and smell.” View PDF

At AGC: The students at AGC create their garden from heirloom seeds they hand-selected and plant based on their knowledge of companion planting and harvest cycles. By involving our students in every aspect of the garden, from watering herbs to selling tomatillos, we foster an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of nature, which, in turn, fosters environmental stewardship.

I. Slip off your shoes.

TTT says: “Creating a learning space that’s safe and comfortable to navigate in socked or slippered feet offers an opportunity to use a physical act— the taking off of shoes— as mental preparation for learning.” View PDF

At AGC: The entryway in AGC’s Annex building resembles the mudroom in a ski lodge. Wooden shelves line the walls to hold students’ cozy slippers. Trading dirty snow boots for slippers creates a space for students to pause and prepare to shift gears, but it also improves indoor air quality by keeping pollutants from being tracked through the school and helps reduce maintenance costs, as our floors are protected from excess grime and road salt. Classrooms become a safer, cleaner and more comfortable learning environment.

J. Shuffle the deck.

TTT says: “Change up the locations of regular activities so children can explore new surroundings with their bodies and their minds.” View PDF

At AGC: Picnic tables provide space for lessons outdoors even when the garden isn’t directly involved. We also use our neighborhood as an extension of our classroom, taking walking field trips to sell produce to local businesses, clean up local parks or learn from nature in our community.


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