Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Welcome to my blog for CEP 818! This page will serve as my portfolio of coursework as I explore creativity in teaching and learning. Work will be added as it is completed. Navigate and enjoy!

How Do I Love Thee:

Module 1: Veju Du and More

Most people are familiar with the phenomenon know as "déjà vu" - that strange inclination that a moment is being relived and is oddly familiar.  For me, déjà vu happens when my alarm goes off in the morning, and I ask myself, "Didn't this just happen?" (I am sure others can relate)! Véjà Du, however, is quite the opposite of déjà vu. In véjà du, one is perceiving an event with fresh eyes, so that something that is ordinary and familiar becomes something new and different. 

In the series of photos below, I have captured an everyday household object through an unique lens. See if you can make a guess as to the identity of the object!

The big reveal...

           ... a wine bottle opener!

Module 2: Perceiving 

The cognitive tool of perceiving entails close observations of a particular topic, and then using those noticings to develop an envisioned understanding of the subject. The beauty of perception is that it is unique to the eye of the beholder, for no two people will recognize and make sense of a situation in exactly the same way.

When the concept of “revolution” comes to mind, many Americans immediately visualize a scene from the American Revolution, such as the one pictured below.


This particular image of the American Revolution depicts a great number of soldiers rallying together around a specific cause. The individual in the center of the image appears to be a leader of the movement, looking strong with his fist thrust high into the air. Such an action evokes a feeling of strength and a passion for the cause. When viewing this image, it is easy to imagine the sound of gunshots, the cries of war, and words of support and encouragement. As Patrick Henry cried to the Virginia Convention, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Clearly, these soldiers truly believed in the notion of freedom, and they were willing to fight for that freedom, no matter the cost.

While the image above aims to unify, not all Americans were in favor of independence from Great Britain. As with any revolution, differing sides and viewpoints will exist. For this reason, the concept of “revolution” can also evoke feelings of tension, conflict, and even anger. As much as revolution is about change, it is also about resistance to change. A revolution, therefore, would perhaps be better represented by a balance that “weighs” both sides of the conflict. In the re-imagined version of revolution shown below, some of the positive and negative aspects of revolution are presented.  (Click image to enlarge)

Both sides of the balance hold ideas that appeal to different senses. On the negative side of the balance are feelings of tension, of conflict, of resistance, and of chaos. From an auditory aspect, as the Beatles sang in the song “Revolution”, “We all want to change the world/But when you talk about destruction/Don't you know that you can count me out.” These lyrics illustrate that for some, the violence is too much to endure.

The positive side of the balance expands upon the initial observations from the American Revolution image. This side of the balance depicts that revolution is not only about change and getting rid of the unjust, but that it is also about innovation and new ideas. When Thomas Edison perfected the commercial lightbulb, people remarked at his “revolutionary” invention. In this essence, the concept of “revolution” touches on life-altering discoveries and innovations that forever change lives.

The concept of a revolution is neither simple or straightforward. Revolution signifies change, but not necessarily for the better. The idea of revolution can perhaps best be represented by a balance: weighing the risks and the benefits, and then deciding if the sacrifices are worth the cause. 

Module 3: Patterning

The act of patterning consists of two components: recognizing and analyzing the presence of existing repetitions, and creatively constructing new repeating arrangements. Patterning appears everywhere in the world around us, from the meter of a poem to the rhythms of a song. Identifying patterns is important because it allows us to make sense of the world, to make predictions, and to forge connections.

After closely examining the English, French, Russian, and American Revolutions, and after studying content published by historian Crane Brinton in his book The Anatomy of Revolution (1938), I have found that all four revolutions followed a similar pattern in terms of sequence of events. In a simplified version, the pattern is carried out as follows:

1). Causes: Citizens become angry over an issue (e.g., financial strain/inequalities). Current government is inefficient or inept.

2). Movement Gains Momentum: Anger increases among the citizens; momentum is gained. Some sort of battle or uprising occurs (e.g., storming of the Bastille, Battles of Lexington and Concord), and the current government structure collapses. Moderates are in power.

3). Period of Crisis: Revolutionaries get more extreme, and current government is overthrown (or broken away from). Radicals take control, wars ensue, some citizens only join in due to terror.

4). Stabilization/Recovery: The revolution begins losing steam, and a new leader takes power. The country works at rebuilding and stabilizing.

The pattern of revolution stated above, while informative, is grossly oversimplified. I do believe, however, that the watered down version of revolution would help my students in an introductory lesson, as they are just beginning to develop their ideas of revolution. The main hindrances in the concise version of revolution are that it does not distinguish just how different the American Revolution was in comparison with other revolutions, and that the condensed version does not discuss the lasting implications of revolution. For these reasons, I have created a new version of the pattern - one that breaks down each component in more detail. As a 5th grade American History teacher, my focus is on the American Revolution.

Breakdown of a Revolution: A Revised View

1). Causes: Discontent is felt among citizens, usually among the middle classes. Largely, the discontent is due to financial inequalities or social injustices. In the American colonies, there were several small occurrences over a period of years that eventually snowballed into a strong anger among the colonists. These events included the Proclamation of 1763, taxes spawned by the French and Indian War (e.g., Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Quartering Act), and the injustice of taxation without representation. Not having a representative in Parliament to help make decisions for the colonies was a major concern for the colonists.

2). Movement Gains Momentum: Anger increases and more people join the “fight” toward change. In the American colonies, however, many people were not in favor of revolution. In fact, historians estimate that only 40-45% of colonists were Patriots. The other colonists were either loyal to King George III, or they remained neutral. During this stage, small uprisings occur (e.g., Boston Tea Party, Boston Massacre) and pamphlets or other media are published to try to gain support.

3). Period of Crisis: This stage entails full-blown war. If this stage is successful, the movement is referred to as a revolution. If unsuccessful, it is usually only labeled a failed rebellion. During the American Revolution, the crisis period was critical. The Patriots gaining support of French allies and using guerilla warfare tactics were both crucial to their victory. The “radicals” gain control here - these being the people who fully support breaking free of Great Britain and becoming a new nation.

4). Stabilization/Recovery: A strong new leader comes to power and the country tries to recover from the revolution. This stage is where the American Revolution differs greatly from other revolutions. In the American Revolution, the colonists had actually broken away from their mother country, so this stage was about building a new nation that had a government that was completely unique and “revolutionary”. Other revolutions sought to overthrow inept leaders or ineffective governments, so this final stage was instead about rebuilding and picking up the pieces. Additionally, the outcome of other revolutions tended to lead more toward conservatism after the revolutions ended, in an attempt to forget about the terror and violence that engrossed the revolutionary period. In some cases, dictators even took power in the aftermath of revolution (e.g., Stalin after Lenin’s death), disguising their repressive regimes with seemingly revolutionary ideals. The lasting results of the American Revolution were therefore much greater than those of other revolutions.

Below is a visual aid to better conceptualize the pattern of revolution (click to enlarge):

I believe that the broken down pattern that details how the American Revolution both compares and contrasts with other revolutions, along with the visual aid that I created, will greatly help my 5th graders better understand revolution. In the visual aid, all 4 stages are shown with brief descriptions of each stage. In blue font, the components of the American Revolution that align with each stage are given. A common misconception that 5th graders have is that revolution means war. In fact, many of my students have entered my classroom believing that “Revolutionary War” is synonymous with “American Revolution”. By identifying the patterns of revolution, and by examining how no revolution really fits the pattern precisely due to the complexities of such a movement, should aid my students in developing a deeper understanding of what revolution is all about.


Butler, C. (2007). A comparison of the french and russian revolutions. The flow of 
history: A dynamic and graphic approach to teaching history. Retrieved from

Brinton, C. (1938). The anatomy of revolution. New York: Vintage Publishing.

Module 4: Abstracting

Abstracting is a technique that attempts to break down a complex topic by focusing on just one specific attribute of an idea, while ignoring the rest. Abstracting often incorporates analogies as well. An analogy relates two things that are not similar, but still have a certain quality or property in common. 

When it comes to my focus topic of revolution, the immediate feeling that is evoked is one of tension. Revolutions of all kinds involve opposing forces, whether these forces are enemies in battle or simply people who are supportive of a new idea pitted against those who resist change. To represent the sensation of tension in revolution, I have created two separate pieces: a poem, and a work of abstract art.


Opposing sides face off
Stubbornly planting feet into the ground,
Tugging in different directions.

Pulling, jerking, yanking.
Gains forward, then retreating back again;
Tensions mount as the match advances.

Two sides. Two ideals.

This is the pressure and strain of war.

In this poem, I use the analogy of a game of tug 'o war to capture the underlying tension of revolution. Although the popular children's game and picnic activity are nothing like a revolution, both still share the attribute of tension. In a game of tug 'o war, this tension is physically felt by a rope, whose fibers strain as teams are pulling in opposing directions. Teams plant their feet into the earth in an attempt to use the friction of the ground to help stabilize their side. 

In a revolution, there are also two (or more) sides, comprised of people who are physically, emotionally, and/or intellectually fighting against each other. The tension of conflicting ideals is apparent; men promote their beliefs through their words and sometimes also through violence. Just like in a game of tug 'o war, there are advances and retreats for both sides (as the old idiom goes, "One step forward, two steps back"). 

Abstract Art:

My piece of abstract art above also plays on the analogy of a game of tug 'o war and the feeling of tension felt in a revolution. Instead of using realistic renditions of the soldiers, I decided to represent them as nothing more than squares. In my abstraction, what the soldiers physically looked like does not matter, for I am only interested in recreating the tension felt between the two groups. My representation is intended to depict the American Revolution, so I presented the larger, stronger, better trained/equipped British redcoats as a  fairly large red square. The smaller, seemingly less capable American Patriots are represented as a smaller blue square. The bar located in between the two parties in symbolic of a the rope in a game of tug 'o war, or even more abstractly, of the tension between the two sides. The stars above the rope are (like in an old Saturday morning cartoon) intended to represent the headaches, the pressure, and the strain of such an intense conflict. 

Having to "boil down" by topic to just one abstraction was a challenging, yet beneficial task. Through forcing myself to zero in on one specific aspect of revolution, I had to think about what really signifies a revolution at its very core. I arrived at the idea of tension because it is something that is consistent in every revolution, from the American Revolution to the French Revolution, from a revolutionary idea to the moon's revolution around the Earth. All revolutions involve the yearning to change, and the resistance to that change. After arriving at an abstraction on which to focus, incorporating the analogy of a game of tug 'o war was extremely helpful, for it allowed me to examine what tension looks like and feels like in different circumstances. I will definitely be using the analogy of tug 'o war when teaching my students about the American Revolution this year to help illustrate the tension felt between the Patriots and the British and Loyalists. 

Module 5: Embodied Thinking

Embodied thinking describes our awareness of our bodies as we interact with our surroundings. At times, this awareness is subconscious, as though our bodies are going through the motions without really having to "think" about our actions and movements. Embodied thinking can also allow us to empathize with others, enabling us to walk in the shoes of another when we look at the world from their perspective. 

The American Revolution was comprised of differing perspectives of several groups, so using embodied thinking would be an effective way to understand the various viewpoints of those involved in the revolution. The embodiment that I chose was that of role play. The image shown above represents six different "sides" of the American Revolution: Patriots, Neutralists, Loyalists, American Indians, British, and African Slaves. Each of these groups had different feelings about the revolutionary movement, and each group had their own wishes and desires regarding the outcome of the revolution. Perhaps most importantly, each of the groups represented above had their own thinking and reasoning to support their views.   

Every year when I teach the American Revolution to my 5th grade students, I read a book entitled George vs. George by Rosalyn Schanzer. While this book does give students an idea of the different perspectives of those involved in the American Revolution, I have always known that I could do more to get students invested in trying to understand the varying perspectives. As Americans, we tend to romanticize the notion of being a Patriot, and have a difficult time empathizing with someone who may have been supportive of the Loyalist cause. The other groups, such as the American Indians and the African slaves, are usually mentioned only briefly in history lessons (or not at all). It is my hope that incorporating embodied thinking into my lessons will help students to reach a new level of understanding of all parties involved.

This year, after reading George vs. George, I plan to divide students up into six groups to represent each of the identified viewpoints that I have already discussed. Each group will receive the same "breaking news" clippings about well-known events in the American Revolution: The Boston Tea Party, The Boston Massacre, The Stamp Act, etc. After reading each news clipping, the groups will have to come up with a short skit reacting to the news as someone from their group would. In their skits, students will also be required to give reasons to support their reactions. For example, after the Boston Tea Party, the Loyalist group would likely have a conversation about the inappropriateness of "rebel"'s behavior. They would also express outrage at wasting tea, and how the Patriots were disrespecting their own King. The Patriot group, on the other hand, would likely perform a skit illustrating the success of their actions and happiness about showing the King their feelings. In order to write their scenes, each group will have to dig deep to get into character. They will have to think, feel, and move as someone who actually belonged to their group would.

I believe that this activity will enable my students to empathize with the numerous perspectives that existed during the time of the American Revolution. Including groups other than the Patriots, Loyalists, and Neutralists will also give students a broader understanding of the number of viewpoints that existed during this time period, as well as a recognition that humans tend to support or resist certain causes for very specific reasons. My main goal in teaching history to elementary students is to stray from the model that many Americans grew up learning from: the white man's perspective. By exploring history through the lens of the many parties involved, students will be able to better understand the complexities of history, while also learning to identify with groups with which they may not have identified before. 

Module 6: Modeling & Dimensional Thinking

When using the cognitive tool of modeling, one is creating a representation in order to view an object, idea, or process from a different perspective that may not otherwise be clearly observable. Often, modeling involves other cognitive tools such as dimensional thinking (e.g., taking a 2D experience like a blueprint and crafting a 3D structure out of it or vice versa), perception (e.g., observing details and making sense of them), and abstraction (e.g., identifying essential components and "zooming" in on them). 

When teaching fifth grade students about the American Revolution, one of the largest struggles I face is getting students to conceive an understanding of time. To ten-year-olds, the 1980s seem like ions ago! Imagine their confusion when trying to explain that the United States is a relatively "young" country, at only 238 years old! Furthermore, my students tend to have a difficult time understanding the various events that led up to the American Revolution and how there were several causes that took place over a period of many years that ended up resulting in war. 

In an attempt to clarify some of the areas of concern mentioned above, I created a timeline to represent some of the important causes that led up to the revolution. I also included events that we will have studied prior to learning about the American Revolution, such as Columbus's explorations and the founding of the settlements of Jamestown, Roanoke, and Plymouth, to try to help students place the American Revolution in time. Other important events such as the Civil War, the Civil Rights Acts, the invention of the telephone, the sinking of the Titanic, and the creation of Microsoft were inserted in the timeline to assist with the chronology and timing of historical events. I have also added more recent events in history, such as the year most of my fifth graders were born, to make them feel included the the history. The short video below shows the timeline:

Song in video: "New Colonial March" performed by the 18th Regimental Band of the Royal Hussars

The benefits of using a timeline as a model to teach the American Revolution are several. First, the timeline will allow students to visually "see" where the events are placed in history. I purposely chose to create a timeline that had a 3D aspect so students could feel as though they were traveling through history. Transforming real-life events into a timeline is no easy feat, but have the timeline feel more "alive" will be appreciated. Additionally, the timeline includes many events which with students are familiar, such as the landing on the moon and the sinking of the Titanic. Having students "see" where these events fall relative to the American Revolution will be beneficial.

Of course, several significant events in American history have been excluded from the timeline in an effort to keep the timeline concise. My attempt to scale down history to only events relevant to 5th grade social studies standards was an enormous task of abstraction, boiling history down to to its bare bones. My model is by no means perfect, but it will serve its purpose in my fifth grade social studies class. 

Module 7: Play

The cognitive tool of play involves allowing oneself to explore, learn, and make new connections for the purpose of enjoyment, without worrying about correctness or failure. Play can lead to new discoveries, such as Alexander Fleming's penicillin, or can simply encourage motivation and thought. 

In my playful introductory activity to the American Revolution, students will take on characters roles without any prior teaching on the topic. Each student will receive a card that has a short bulleted list typed upon it, detailing their character's position in Colonial America and some of their character's beliefs. Students will be instructed to embody their characters to the best of their ability, based on the limited information that they have about him or her. In the game that follows, all thinking and actions must be justified and explained by the backstory of the characters who they are representing. 

Once students have transformed into their characters, students with the same character cards will gather together. Event cards will then be read aloud. After each event, students will have to decide the following: 1). How does this event after me? 2). How do I feel about this event? 3). What actions should I take in response to this event? They will be given time to discuss these questions with their same-character counterparts. No agreements have to be reached, but the discussions should encourage students to think in multiple ways about the topic. After a few minutes of discussion, each student will write down his/her response, justifying their answers with information about their character's thinking.

A description of roles and events are included below (click each image to enlarge):

This role playing activity is both playful and meaningful because it allows students to embody characters from Colonial America, offering the opportunity to think and act like people of the time would have (and did). Students will be using critical thinking skills to make decisions both with classmates and individually. Because this game will be played prior to instruction, students must really utilize their reasoning skills, as they will not have any "correct" historical information upon which to rely - all decisions must be made through reason and judgment. Some students with the same character card may respond in different ways, and as long as they act with logic, then they cannot be wrong. Through playing this game, students will gain a better understanding of how it is human nature to make decisions based on what is beneficial for oneself. Additionally, events that are harmful to some are favorable to others. This activity will also introduce students to the diversity of people who were living in the colonies at the time of the American Revolution.

I created this activity will the hopes of enabling the following: role play (embodying/empathizing), critical thinking, decision making, justifying, and debate. I like that students will feel accomplished throughout this activity, with no sense of failure or correctness. The purpose is to explore, to think, and to become familiar with the time period. 

Module 8: Synthesizing

White Paper

Video: Elevator Pitch

The Creative "I":

Defining Creativity

When envisioning people with exorbitant creativity, the individual at the forefront of my mind is my uncle, Dr. Edward Knight, composer-in-residence and director of music composition at Oklahoma City University. My uncle’s music has been performed on five continents, and his impressive arsenal of awards ranges from Oklahoma Musician of the Year (2002) to Aaron Copland Award recipient. With so many notable accomplishments, I was very eager to interview my uncle regarding his interpretation of creativity.

Dr. Knight believes that creativity is “the realization of one’s inspired thoughts.” In contrast to Mishra, Henriksen, and the Deep-Play Research Group (2013), who stress that creative ideas should be new, my uncle believes that novelty should not be included when defining creativity, stating, “The end product does not have to be completely novel. In fact, I don’t think there’s much that is absolutely original. Creativity and originality are two different things. We’re inspired by works of the past – literature, visual art, music – and what has come before pushes you to develop your own work.”

When writing music, Dr. Knight’s creative process is surprisingly systematic. He begins by reviewing existing scores and by conversing with conductors to discover what is needed in the repertoire. Next, he creates a rhythmic, textural draft of the piece, top to bottom, and revises incessantly, allowing the exact pitches and pacing of the music to organically ebb and flow. He remarked, “I’m discovering the work along the way, much like when you’re peering across a misty lake and then the fog slowly lifts. The work gradually takes shape and becomes apparent. That’s what the creative process is like for me.”

For Dr. Knight, there is no delineation between his work and his life. He concluded, “Everything in my life inspires and informs my art.”

After reflecting upon the reading and interview, I understand that no idea is completely novel, for some derivative probably already exists. One can, however, build upon an old idea and remix the design to create something surprising. In order to carry out an inspiration, one must first recognize the value of the idea and realize its purpose. Without this awareness of potential, an idea will perish before it has the opportunity to develop and blossom.
In my personal and professional life, my new understanding of creativity implies that I need to stop dismissing my ideas. I devalue my inspirations, believing my ideas are worthless. To become more creative, I need to allow my life to inspire me. I have the tendency to compartmentalize my life, but this strategy is problematic because creativity does not want to be placed in a box. As my uncle reflected, “By living my life -- having a family, seeing the world, meeting new people -- it makes for richer insight and a more productive creative process, much more so than sitting cloistered in a studio.” If I enable creativity to interact with each aspect of my life, the results would yield a greater outcome.


Mishra, P., Henriksen, D., & the Deep-Play Research Group (2013). A NEW approach to defining and 
measuring creativity. Tech Trends, 57, 5,  5-13.

Variations on a Theme

Before this assignment, I was very leery of the idea that anything could ever be completely "novel" in this day and age, for hasn't everything already been done? During the process of rewriting lyrics to Aretha Franklin's hit song "Respect", however, I realized that creating something new doesn't have to mean starting from ground zero. So in a way, my prior beliefs were confirmed, but they were also expanded to a reach a different level of understanding. Let me clarify: in my version of the song, every element is the same as the original, from the melody, to the music, to the catchy nature. The only thing I did was tweak the lyrics so that instead of singing about the idea of respect, the song's message now conveys an explanation of creativity. Here are the original song and lyrics:

Original Lyrics
"Respect" by Aretha Franklin

What you want
Baby, I got it

What's you need? 

You know I got it

All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you get home

Hey baby, when you get home, mister

I ain't gonna do you wrong while you're gone

I ain't gonna do you wrong because I don't wanna

All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you get home

Hey baby, when you get home, listen

I'm about to give all of my money

And all I'm askin' in return, honey

You give me my profits when you get there

Yeah baby, when you get home, oh, yeah, ooh

Your kisses sweeter than honey

And guess what? So is my money

All I want you to do for me is give it to me when you get home

Yeah baby, whip it to me

When you get home now


Find out what it means to me


Take care, T C B

Oh, a little respect

Yeah, baby, I want a little respect

Now, I get tired, but I keep on tryin'

Runnin' out of foolin', I ain't lyin'

Yes, respect, all I need is respect

All I want, ooh yeah, I want little respect

Yeah, baby, a little respect

Oh honey, sock it to me

Ooh, I want a little respect

Revised lyrics:

Modification you want
 Baby, I’ve made
Derivative you need
 Do you know I’ve tweaked it?
All I'm askin'
Is for you to understand when you create (just a little turn)
You need (just a little tweak) when you create
(just a little change) Yeah (just a little twist)

You’ve got to use your background knowledge to create
Use your practiced eye to make something new
All I'm askin'
Is for you to remember when you create (just a little turn)
You need (just a little tweak) when you create (just a little change)
Yeah (just a little twist)

I'm about to show you to make connections
Look for possibilities
That you could synthesize
When you create
You need to (turn, turn, turn, turn)
When you create (just a little turn)
Yeah (just a little tweak)

The knobs
You’ve twisted and turned
One small change
Sparks a new idea
All you need to do is to
Remember when you create to (turn, turn, turn, turn)
That one knob (tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak)
Now (create, just a little turn)
When you create, now (just a little tweak)

Find out how it works for me
One twist, easily

Oh (turn it for me, turn it for me, turn it for me, turn it for me)
A little altering (twist it for me, twist it for me, twist it for me, twist it for me)
Turn that knob (just a little turn)
A little altering (just a little tweak)
I get inspired (just a little change)
And keep on tryin' (just a little twist)
It only takes one change (just a little turn)
To make something new (just a little tweak)
(cre, cre, cre, cre) ‘ate
You can create (cre, cre, cre, cre)
It’s not magic (create, just a little change)
So give it a try (just a little twist)
I find I have (just a little turn)
To create (just a little tweak)

In the revised version of the song, the original is still clearly recognizable from the familiar melody and music. The message, however, is completely different. Instead of singing about respect, the message of the song communicates how creativity isn't something magical, and it isn't necessarily something groundbreaking or novel. Instead, creativity is about using a critical, observant eye to take in experiences, to connect moments to prior knowledge, and to "turn the knob" just a tad in order to make a modification that is interesting and purposeful. In my own personal and professional life, I can definitely use these insights to take in the world around me and to use what I already know spark my creativity. I know understand that it is not that some people are inherently more creative; it is that some people either have more rich experiences on which to draw upon or that they are just better at making connections between their plethora of experience and knowledge. 

Architecture of Space

The West Bloomfield Public Library offers to its visitors a sanctuary from the real world. Spacious, organized, and full of nooks and crannies, this beautiful public space is attractive because it can be utilized in a multitude of ways. 

To begin, there are rows upon rows of books that can be employed for research, exploration, or pleasure. An "Information Station" is centrally located in the library for visitors who may need assistance in locating a particular resource. Computers are also in abundance; for they are stationed in individual cubicles, at the ends of rows, and in a lab-type setting. This allows those who need quick access to check a book's whereabouts to do so, while also enabling those who would appreciate some quiet time for computer research to have that particular opportunity.

The library also contains several types of rooms for various purposes. There are "Group Study" rooms with large tables at which participants can hold discussions without disturbing other library visitors, there are "Quiet Study" rooms with individual tables for those who need a calm environment in which to think, and there are even rooms specifically designated for conferences. 

One end of the library is reserved for children; a colorful archway leads into a section of the building equipped with lower chairs, tables, and bookcases. A play area fills one corner of the Youth Center, complete with a play kitchen where imaginations can run wild. Additionally, the children's section contains a performance theater, encouraging kids to act out their favorites stories, embodying and connecting with the characters.

Perhaps my favorite area of the library is the section in one corner that seems a bit more hidden than the rest. The walls are lined with magazines and newspapers from around the world, and a fire gently burns in a stone fireplace. Comfortable armchairs are situated in varying formations for readers to curl up and get lost in their books. 


The West Bloomfield Public Library is engaging and useful because it fits so many purposes: it is a study area, a collaborative place, a play space, a research center, and somewhere to simply get lost with a book. The library's visitors can transform the space into whatever they would like it to be, within reason. On a Saturday morning about one hour after opening time, the library was already filled with many types of people: students studying in the "Quiet Study" areas, professors engaging in a discussion in one of the "Group Study" rooms, West Bloomfield residents browsing for pleasure reads, people curled up in the armchairs in front of the fire reading, and even a dad playing with his toddler in the youth section. Christopher Alexander (1996) has a perception of architecture that recognizes the needs of the people, and centers the design process around those needs.  I truly believe that the library's designers took the various needs of the community into account when planning the library's design. It appears as though the natural interactions of library users were considered, for there are so many options for library patrons. 

In my professional life, I have learned that I need to take the needs of the students into account when designing my classroom space. Students need to have areas within the classroom that fit their own varied needs. Just like the West Bloomfield Public Library, there need to be spaces for collaborative tasks, areas designated for independent work, and nooks and crannies for students to curl up and get their creative juices flowing. Even though I dictate the design of the classroom, like Alexander, I need to consider the interactions and reality of everyday learning. Instead of designing top-down, I need to step back and listen to my students.


Alexander, C. (Oct., 1996). The origins of pat- tern theory, the future of the theory, and the generation of a living world. The 1996 ACM 
           Conference on Object-Oriented Pro- grams, Systems, Languages and Applica- tions (OOPSLA). San Jose, CA. 
Mishra, P., Cain, W., Sawaya, S., Henriksen, D. & the Deep-Play Research Group (2013). A Room of their own. Tech Trends, (
          (57) 4. p. 5-9.