Skip to main content

Third Places and School Community

“Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community. Third places are informal gathering places. They are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, but sadly, they constitute a diminishing aspect of the social landscape." - Ray Oldenburg


Who remembers "Cheers"? The television third place of libated conversation and humor, where everyone knows your name.



Are we creating school-based places where climate and community become positively established? 

Left to their own devices, students and staff will build segregated hangout bubbles in hallways, offices, and nooks beneath stairwells. Third places are comfortable confines between the private life of home and the prearranged areas of school and work. Informal and inviting, Oldenburg says third places offer tremendous opportunities for learning, "Managers have learned if they let people work where they want and when they want, productivity goes up. Additionally, if you get people sitting together, talking together, innovation comes quicker."


You would be hard-pressed to find an education conference without at least one session called, "Innovative Learning Spaces." Thankfully, rows and cubicles are becoming viewed as roadblocks to modern, collaborative learning. Libraries, churches, and community centers are examples of community-based third places. Bosu balls, carpet squares, and tinker centers accessorize classroom-based third places. Are there places at school that exist between the private and the formal where students and staff gather to tell jokes, discuss politics, and share their stories?


Oldenburg says there are ten essential functions of third places. Among these are; promote democracy, establish unity, create friendships, personal development, and intellectual forum. It was not uncommon for my father to hang out with the guys after work. Often, their third place would be my grandma's kitchen or patio. EZ-pops, my grandfather, kept the garage refrigerator fully stocked with Old Style. Today, I enjoy fitness classes at the local gym. Not only do I get to break a healthy sweat, but kickboxing and cycling have become opportunities to chat casually with neighborhood friends.



Our school library is nearing completion of a major remodeling effort. Eighteen hundred square feet of this project is a dedicated learning cafe. A few critics have expressed their displeasure calling the coffee shop a frivolous waste of money and space. However, school leaders and project designers see "Pete's Cafe" becoming a social hub for students and staff, a purpose-built third place. Much like Cheers, Starbucks, or Barnes and Noble, comfortable seating, casual decor, food, and beverages, will provide an inviting place to gather, connect, and grow. 


Oldenburg's research from 1989 focused on face-to-face interaction, but the internet has become a principle place for social interaction. Can third places be established in social media? Whether it's in-person or virtual, I believe in the power and longevity of informal learning. I am looking forward to raising a coffee mug in the name of our school community.


References and Related Reading


The Great Good Place... - Ray Oldenburg


Ray Oldenburg - Project for Public Places



photo credit: byronv2 cafe al fresco via photopin (license)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"Five Reasons Why Schoology Rocks!"

Networking at IETC last week provided me validation in my choice for best learning management system, Schoology. Having used Moodle, Edmodo, Canvas, and Blackboard, I can tell you that these are all terrific products for digital instruction. However, for the past several months, I felt that Schoology was a better choice than these previously mentioned products. Many times, asking the right questions is a precursor to making sound decisions. Here's an article that serves as a guide to asking the right questions when choosing a learning management system:


10 Questions Everyone Should Ask When Choosing an LMS
Here are five reasons why Schoology remains my #1 choice for a classroom LMS: Full-featured classroom organization tools, a collaborative learning place for teachers and students, device-independent applications, Schoology API allows the program to play nicely with others, and the basic level instructional components are, and will always be, FREE.

1.  Schoology's classroom mana…

Good People; The Product of Good Schools

The nightly business reports frequently mention inputs and outputs. Gross National Product (GNP) is a widely recognized leading economic indicator. Widgets aside, what is the product of schools? Some of you want to jump on a table and scream, "children are not products!" Let this breathe a bit as you trudge forward.



In his recent post, Mark Heintz eloquently shares his ruminations to a question being kicked around in our Modern Learners community, "What do we want our children to be?" Credit Pam Moran, Ira Socol, and Chad Ratliff, co-authors of "Timeless Learning; How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-based Thinking Change Schools," for sparking this conversation theme. Timeless Learning provides interesting provocations, inspiring experiences, and compelling rationale for school change.

Like others, my school's leadership team is engaging in discussions about reimagining school to meet the needs of our modern learners. These conversations are seldom e…

Grammarly Writing Hacks for Better Blogging

Writing is learning. It's taken me about thirty years to realize the metacognitive power of written expression, the same amount of time it took for me to recognize that my writing skills suck. Apparently, time in composition class was spent daydreaming and making silly faces at girls. Today, each post is an exercise of will power, unlearning and relearning prepositional phrases, comma usage, and when to use the ever-popular semicolon. Two hundred posts into my blogging adventure I've picked up a few tricks that add efficiency to my writing, things that make me appear smarter than I really am.


Freelance writer, Jennie Cromie, writing for ProBlogger.net, identifies five ways blogging can make you a better writer. Discover your voiceBuild social connectionsAcquire valuable feedbackBecome self-disciplinedWrite faster and more efficiently
Writing with intent to learn is the mindset to lead with. Using the right tools permits scatterbrains like me to focus on the message rather than un…