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So how can I redefine my learning space with a VERY limited budget?

Back in the day?
A very big part of becoming a Future Ready school is a commitment to redefining our learning spaces. A shift is happening to make our classrooms inspiring spaces to allow students the flexibility to learn in a way that supports the way that they learn best. Not only are we redesigning our classrooms to best support student learning, we are starting to look at how we want our students to work. We want to allow them the space to collaborate, to make products, to read in solitude, to have access to the digital tools we are now providing them and to utilize every available square foot of space to its fullest potential. Gone are the days of rows of student desks, the teachers desk at the front and a document camera plugged into the projector taking up more space than it deserves.

Books like From the Campfire to the Holodeck by David Thornburg have inspired teachers to thing about the why and the what. Why would we redefine our learning spaces and what would be add to our classrooms to help increase engagement. But Thornburg does not address the how. How are we to pay for an upgrade? That comes down to money. Having your building's administrator on board is a good start. Using crowd sourcing websites like DonorsChoose can help revision your learning space too. Have a popcorn sale at school. Add that money up. And look into cheaper DIY alternatives to some of the pricey items out there that can be made for a fraction of the cost.

For instance, tables with whiteboard tops are extremely popular today and can really make a students desk or classroom tables more useable for visual thinking. A quick Google search led me to several vendors who sold varying sizes of whiteboard tables starting at around $200. Not cheap. And if you are looking to furnish a common space, you are looking at spending thousands of dollars.

Always have an artist test your DIY whiteboard table
Enter the DIY whiteboard table. First of all, find out if your school district has a surplus warehouse that old furniture is sent to when it is no longer wanted by one school. One persons trash is another persons potential whiteboard table. I visit mine as often as I can. If you are a Beaverton School District employee, here is the link to visit them online.

When I stopped by the warehouse a while back they had several older computer tables. You can see pictures of everything I am talking about by clicking on the DIY Whiteboard Table Images here and below. These tables were in good condition, had wheels and were free. I grabbed eight of them. Once they arrived at my school it was time to get to work. First I measured the table tops. 60 1/4 x 30 1/4. Time to go to Home Depot. If you head to the lumber section, kind of by the baseboard section you can find decorative panel board. Not sure what this is used for by professionals or the weekend home warrior, but these things make for an awesome dry erase white board. When I was teaching 4th grade, I would buy one of these panels and have the good folks at Home Depot cut me up about 30 boards for my classroom. It costs $14.22 a board so that is a good price per unit. Next while the guys at Home Depot are cutting the panel to the dimensions for the table I run and grab a thing of Liquid Nails. This stuff is like Rubber Cement on steroids. Once everything is paid for time to head back to school.

DIY Whiteboard Table Images

Once you have everything together in one spot, its time to get to work. It is really easy to get things done in a few steps.

  1. Clean off the table top and the non white panel side of the decorative panel board
  2. Crack open the Liquid Nails. You will need a caulking gun for this
  3. Spread the Liquid Nails all over the table top. Not to close to the edge. Otherwise it seeps over.
  4. Have someone help you gently place the panel white side up on the table. 
  5. Give it a good press down all over
  6. If you have a friend with a hand router ask them to route the sides for a cleaner look
  7. If you do use a router, be ready to clean up the saw dust.
That's it. Total cost to DIY our 4th grade common area was about $60. The kids are now excited to use these new to us tables as are our small group teachers and instructional assistants. 

Look what a a little imagination and a popcorn sale can do.


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