What will the 'threshold experience' be for your students?

When your students walk through the door on the first day of school, what will they think / feel / wonder?

Photo of Kevin Jarrett

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So, what'll it be?

Will your students see and think 'classroom'?

Or something else?

We got the idea for these 'Crazy Clocks' from Christian Long, a professional learning space designer and friend, who suggested they would help create the vibe were looking for.

He was right.

On the first day of school, a my first Kindergarten class entered the room, a young boy pointed at the Bikini Bottom clock and exclaimed, "THAT'S WHAT TIME IT IS WHERE SPONGE BOB LIVES!"

I thought to myself ... YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! IT WORKS!

Wonder. Possibility. Imagination.

Mission accomplished!


p.s. for a close-up shot of the clocks, click here.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kevin Jarrett

Hi Tom, thanks for the comment. I'm underwater getting ready for school and haven't been in here much. Some quick thoughts in response.

First, I've seen clocks used in a variety of similarly-creative ways at other schools, strikes me as a somewhat whimsical approach that's right for some classes/teachers and not so much for others. It fit in my case; the space was right, the look was right, the vibe was right, and it worked. Others? Maybe not so much.

A colleague in another school (Rafranz Davis, HS Algebra I believe) has something called a "Wonder Shelf" in her room onto which she places different objects to spark discussion, analysis and ... wonder. :) I need to speak with her to get more of a sense for what this looks like, but, I am already pondering how to incorporate a Wonder Shelf into my new space (since I am no longer in the room with Crazy Clocks, which is elementary, as I now teach Middle School.)

A larger general framework is a great way forward. The idea for the clocks came from an architect friend whom I deeply respect. Not everyone has such a friend. Surely they have other influences in their lives. But how to connect people in such a way as to foster brainstorming and sharing?

A 'clearinghouse' of ideas, organized in a Pinterest-like visual way, with tags and titles to help clarify and group them?

A 'design blog' with brief posts (comments, really) written by great designers, particularly school designers, identifying effective, fun and unusual classroom features that spark innovation, conversation and wonder?

A 'think like a designer' series where aforementioned designers help us lay folk understand the design process from a creativity standpoint, how it's important to come at the conversation from the perspective of the end-user (in this case, students)?

I dunno. Blogs can be ... meh. Now, make something like this into an APP, and it'd take off like a rocket, I bet.

What do you think?

I'm headed back down the rabbit hole getting my classroom ready and may not see the light of day for ... a while. Your message caught me at just the right time, in between tasks. I love this place and what it stands for, and am feeling guilty for not participating more. But crunch time is crunch time, and, I've gotta bounce. Happy to continue the conversation - just not sure when that'll be. :)

Thanks again,


Photo of Dan Ryder

Speaking to the Wonder Shelf notion, I have a had an Inspiration Shelf the past two years in my room for similar purposes. Here's a link https://twitter.com/WickedDecent/status/638370510544470016

It is full of things that inspire me in one way or another and an early in the year activity is students exploring it, looking at the items, making hypotheses about why I've included it, and then a conversation where I clarify and give them some insight into me.

Over the year, I encourage them to add items that inspire them and that they feel comfortable leaving in the class. (Haven't lost an item yet!) We build a stronger sense of community around those items. And when it's time for new design challenges and projects, we go to the shelves for discovery phase -- get ideas, see how these items might inform a product, solution, or way of demonstrating understanding.

This year's shelf includes, amongst other things:
* Wired Magazine
* A collage of my daughter at age 3 screaming her face off and laughing her neck off
* A postcard from West Virginia entitled "Seldom Scene Coal Mine" (I've claimed that name for yet another unrealized indie band I'm going to start.)
* How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way
* Maus I & II by Spiegelman
* ESPN the Magazine feat. Rob Gronkowski
* A key collage
* Star Wars LEGO
* A hunting book from 1967 entitled "A Sporting Chance: Unusual Methods of Hunting"
* A Contract with God by Eisner
* a menu from a hip gastropub in Bridgton, ME
* Steven Johnson's "Everything Bad Is Good for You"
* a page of doodles from one of my favorite student artists ever

I cannot wait to see what this year brings.

I'm also wondering what sort of framework we could provide teachers who want to try this out? What are the essential elements of an inspiration shelf? What are the essential elements of a "crazy clock" wall or a wall to engage/inspire?

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