'Lounge' gives West Clay new take on learning

Second-grade teacher Ginny Huffman goes over lessons with some of her students in the "learning Lounge" at West Clay.
Staff Writer

Take a nondescript school classroom, add a little color, throw in some large TV screens and iPads, punch it up with couches, tall stools and vibrant bean bag chairs and "learning" takes on new meaning.

At least it has at West Clay Elementary School where, less than a month into the school year, a hot spot called the "learning lounge" already is making a difference.

"We love it, just getting out of the classroom makes it better, it's more comfortable, more relaxed. They look forward to it," second-grade teacher Ginny Huffman described.

"The technology, too, makes a difference, being able to do three different activities at once. They are doing things and having fun and don't even know they are learning," added Hannah Pollard, who teaches third and fourth grades.
Teachers use the room in a variety of ways, from a change of scenery from their regular classrooms to technology centers where they can do everything from experiments to play educational games like, "Kahoot!", which is a student favorite.

The different furnishings and seating options add to the variety.

"The big chairs are their favorites," Huffman said of the stools, which make her second-graders feel more "grown up."

And with only nine students in her class, the room allows her students to have "their own little areas. They can just chill out," said Huffman, a 15-year teaching veteran who has been at West Clay for five years.

"I've set it up sometimes where we have three different stations. We can break up that way and do different things," explained Pollard, who has 18 students in her class.

"I think my students are better behaved in here, too. I think they are more relaxed and they all have their own technology. It makes a difference," explained Pollard, who is in her fourth year teaching.
While technology is one of the room's focuses, it also has more traditional uses, including erasable boards and old-fashioned reading.

"We've done that, just come in with books and been comfortable and read a book," Pollard said.
The teachers don't use the classroom every day and agree it's too early to tell whether it has an impact on achievement and learning.
But little signs may point in that direction.

"I don't know if this gets all the credit, but my students did very well on their test at the end of the book we just finished. They all passed it," Huffman said.
If attitude has anything to do with it, then the "learning lounge" will make a difference, students say.

"It's fun, I like all the activities. It's quieter and it's better than the regular classroom," said Jahzarria Townsend, a 9-year-old fourth-grader in Pollard's class. a broad grin lighting up her face.

"The games in here are better, I love the games...Kahoot! isn't work in here," added a smiling 8-year-old Leshaun Nolgen, who is a fan of the bean bag chairs.
"It has TVs. It's more relaxed in here. It seems like more fun than learning," stated 7-year-old second-grader Charlasja Johnson.

"That's what it's all about, making learning fun. You do that and the rest will come," West Clay Principal Brad Cox said of the investment.
The "lounge" still is a work in progress. Cox hopes to add more TVs and other technology. One teacher already is planning to use the center as a home for video projects.