In many school districts across the country last year, students traded desks for kitchen tables and chalkboards for computer screens. The education system, like most sectors, was disrupted by the COVID-19 epidemic. Case in point: Schools pivoted, and e-learning proved to be one effective tool in reducing the spread of infection while maintaining the continuity of instruction.
But turning the modern classroom on its head comes with its share of consequences. For instance, how do you keep children engaged while learning in a foreign environment? That’s where Aubrey Wallen, co-founder of Cincinnati-based CASA Design Consulting enters the equation.
CASA Design is based on the principle that simple and sustainable child-focused adjustments can yield significant results in the home environment. Wallen, who has a background in psychology and a master’s in education, is half of the CASA Design duo. She and her business partner and educator Christine Trimmer launched CASA Design in 2018, based on the Montessori philosophy of education.
“We have extensive training in child development, observation, and environmental design,” she explains. “So, Montessori, for me, stands out because we really take their development into account. Using our observation skills, we prepare our environment in a really special way that’s strikingly different from a traditional classroom.”
For instance, there are designated learning areas. Each classroom is divided into multiple segments, each dedicated to either sensory, practical, language, math, or culture experiences. The idea is that children are capable and can thrive when they’re given freedom to do so.
Via their School by Casa model, Wallen and Trimmer translate that classroom look and feel to clients’ homes in and around the greater Cincinnati area.
“What we typically do is give each child a designated space for working, making sure that everything that they need is at their fingertips, be it technology, paper, art supplies, and manipulatives for different types of math work,” she says. “They also need a chair and table that’s appropriate for their size, and easy to get in and out of.”
Wallen likens this process to adults setting up a home office. If you make the transition from the office to a home setup, you don’t want it to be haphazardly. Working at the kitchen table, for instance, might not produce the best results. Children are just as sensitive to their environments, so setting them up for success is important, especially in the case of virtual learning. Speaking of success, Wallen says the client’s reaction is one way they know they’ve made a mark.
“They say they look and feel lighter,” she says. “It's interesting because at first they have a really hard time expressing how much it's helping them. But ultimately it creates peace of mind — it's like a huge weight of stress lifted off their shoulders. The sheer beauty and organization of the space makes them feel better.”
Wallen and Trimmer offer a complimentary 15-minute call. Visit their website to learn more.