Imagine if you could encourage literacy simply by having a family visit the grocery store?

That’s the idea behind a recent story covered by NPR. It shared the results of a small study about a placing  signs in grocery stores to encourage conversations between children and the parents. The results showed a one third increase in conversations between children and their caregivers. This low cost intervention turned a necessary routine into a learning experience.

Now imagine if you could turn other spaces into learning environments?

These same researchers are also part of a project to create what they are calling “Urban Thinkscapes.” Essentially, these are small children’s museums in otherwise empty public spaces. The idea is to facilitate the growth of math and literacy skills of children while also engaging their parents.

Now imagine if you could do the same thing to the unused spaces of your school? Could you turn your school into a thinkscapes where your hallways, cafeteria, or even your bathrooms promote literacy, math, and social-emotional skills? Do you have a space in your building where parents congregate before or  after school? How does it get your parents to connect with their children’s learning?

This is more than just a well-made bulletin board or a display of student artwork. Think about what you find alluring about children’s or science museums. There is a combination of conveying information, creating interactions, and asking questions that engages the participant that is completely different from your traditional classroom or hallway decor.

Every square foot of space in a school is considered precious, so why not use these spaces to promote and enhance your schools’s mission?