What should a fifth-grade classroom of the future look like?

Why is it, Linda Perlstein wonders in Slate today, that most American classrooms still look so much like they did back in the days of “Little House on the Prairie”?

Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Very little about the American classroom has changed since Laura Ingalls sat in one more than a century ago,” Perlstein writes.  “In her school, children sat in a rectangular room at rows of desks, a teacher up front. At most American schools, they still do.”

Slate is aiming to change the old-fashioned notion of a classroom by inviting readers to submit their own ideas for a more modern classroom. The winning design may be built in a new charter school.

“We’re seeking to collect your best ideas for transforming the American school. We’re asking you to describe or even design the classroom for today, a fifth-grade classroom that takes advantage of all that we have learned since Laura Ingalls’ day about teaching, learning, and technology — and what you think we have yet to learn. We will publish all your ideas on Slate; your fellow readers will vote and comment on their favorites; expert judges will select the ideas they like best, and, in about a month, we will pick a winner,” the blog post notes.

So what should a modern fifth-grade classroom look like? It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this experiment. If nothing else, Slate may discover that many classrooms have, in fact, changed. Some fifth-grade classes these days have students sitting around long  — or even round — tables, while others are grouped together in small circles. And there are classrooms where students sit on the floor for much of the day as well. But there are plenty of the old-fashioned kind, too.

Slate offers a photo gallery that provides insight into what students like — and dislike — about their classrooms.

We look forward to seeing  some of the new designs, and especially to thinking about they’ll impact the heart of what should be going on in any classroom — teaching and learning.