Brian Knoerzer teaches computer science. But his classroom doesn’t feel like a typical computer science lab.

“It feels like a theater, and it feels like when you come to teach, you should put on a show," Knoerzer said. "We should come in to inspire people and try to get them to connect with each other about ideas because that's what this is about."

What You Need To Know

  • The "collider classroom," created at Lincoln Center, aims to offer students a flexible, comfortable place to learn

  • The city has piloted the design at one school in Brooklyn — and is now planning to add fifteen more around the city

  • The goal is to allow students to feel both physically and emotionally safe at school after the pandemic

It's called a collider classroom — featuring open space, flexible seating, and even a faux-grass lawn. It was created at Lincoln Center, by scholar-in-residence Christopher Emdin.

He set out to design a room that would make kids comfortable, after students told him the pandemic had left them isolated, frustrated and disconnected.

The plan was to inspire schools, and he did.  After a visit, the city's Department of Education partnered with him to build a collider classroom at the Williamsburg High School of Art and Technology.

“To see something I dreamt of, that I built and created with an amazing team, come to life in classrooms in two months is magical,” he said.

Once it came to life, a group of students started building on it, learning about human-centered design and deciding how to lay out the classrooms.

Nyla Ruiz, a senior, is one of the students crafting the floorplan.

“I really love this space, and because of the fact that I'm working on this space, I feel proud of it,” she said.

The students want to make the room feel comfortable, even nostalgic, like an elementary classroom. There’s a whiteboard on the floor, scribbled on by cross-legged teens, and comfy seating that isn’t assigned.

“We wanted to deviate from normalcy, we wanted students to have options, wanted them to have choices, wanted them to be able to come into the room and not feel like, 'I have to be forced into this box.,” Nyla said.

With most students having spent eighteen months outside any classroom, Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter says making children feel both physically and emotionally safe is key.

“Part of coming back from the pandemic was creating that open space, where you can social distance if you needed to. But also, you know, get intimate in spaces where you need to,” Porter said.

Porter, along with staff from the Schools Construction Authority and Lincoln Center, toured the classroom last week — and made an announcement:

“We’re going to be doing this in over fifteen classrooms across New York City,” she said.

She says she hopes that’s just the beginning.

Those 15 new collider classrooms will have a similar student-led design process, and they’ll be ready for classes beginning in the fall of 2022.