Darlington School: DarDesigners: Can Spaces Inspire Passion?
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DarDesigners: Can Spaces Inspire Passion?

Jennifer Sikes | April 12, 2017 | 477 views

“Did you know that schools in the United States were started as a way to train factory workers?”

This was one of the first questions Darlington graduate Rostam Zafari (‘14) asked the DarDesigners during his visit with us in March.

After talking about past trends in education, Rostam asked us to think about whether or not traditional forms of education are best suited for 21st-century learners: What if learning could become even more meaningful if students are given spaces to use their passions?

The good news for us, as Rostam pointed out, is that Darlington is already headed in that direction with our iPeriods, a student-led and faculty supervised period during the school day where we can pursue interests and still get feedback from teachers without added pressures of grades. But what we're now wondering is could we be doing more? And if so, how does flexible seating and classroom layout fit into that "more?" 

Rostam’s inspiring, positive energy and his unique understanding of education brought many ideas to our classroom redesign project. We’re going to continue thinking about students as advocates of their own learning and how we can help students get the most out of their experiences at Darlington. 

We’re also looking forward to having Rostam as a resource as we embark upon our journey to learn how the classroom affects a student’s experience and how flexible environments accommodate various styles of learning--now and in the future.

As Rostam shared his passion for merging entrepreneurship and education, he challenged us to push ourselves to find every way we can to think outside the desk and to learn more about how classroom layouts inspire teachers and students to think about how and when learning occurs.

The DarDesigners thoroughly enjoyed Rostam’s visit because we were all inspired by his amazing accomplishments since graduating from Darlington. We hope he will visit with us again soon, and we look forward to visiting him at The New School in the fall.

If you’d like to learn more about DarDesigners or our classroom redesign project, email us at dardesigners@darlingtonschool.org.


Rostam Zafari, founder and director of the Uber-style tutoring company, Mystro, has also developed early detection test strips for Ebola Virus Disease. He was named one of the top 25 college entrepreneurs in the United States by Entrepreneur’s Organization. He currently serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at The New School in Atlanta, Ga.

This blog was co-written by members of DarDesigners, a design team that includes students from the Pre-K to 8 and Upper School divisions. DarDesigners will be redesigning Molly Jordan's second-grade classroom and Jennifer Sikes's Upper School English classroom. This project is funded through the Wood Distinguished Faculty Fellowship. Jordan and Sikes will not only be rethinking their classroom layout, but also how their pedagogical practices complement their physical learning spaces.