Sign up for updates

Skip Navigation

Spacing Out

Classroom Design Challenge

Spacing Out
  • Grades:
  • Length: 90 Minutes

Rate this Page

Average Rating (2 votes)

View Comments


As schools return students to the physical classroom, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed necessary limitations and guidelines on school environments and raised many questions about what is really necessary to safeguard the health of students, teachers, staff, and families.

In this lesson, students are challenged to design an art room that will afford the social (physical) distancing required during the coronavirus pandemic. Working through the challenge will raise awareness about the complexity of arranging the physical environment to reduce disease transmission in a traditional classroom.

Teacher Background

Students will design a solution to the problem of how to arrange an art room in a school to allow for social (physical) distancing during the pandemic.

Objectives and Standards

Learning Objectives

Students will design a solution to the problem of how to arrange an art room in a school to allow for social (physical) distancing during the pandemic.


Science, Health, and Math skills

  • Measuring
  • Interpreting
  • Communicating
  • Problem solving


NGSS Science & Engineering Practices

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Using Mathematics and Computational thinking
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Materials and Setup


Each student will need:

  • notebook or copy paper
  • ruler or online drawing program (approved by the teacher)
  • "Droplets Image" pptx. (1 slide)
  • “Spacing Out–Student Design Instructions” page

Procedure and Extensions


  1. Whether you are physically holding class in a school building or teaching in a virtual classroom, explain to students that face-to-face learning will, or does, look different right now because of the worldwide outbreak of the infectious disease called COVID-19.

  2. Explain that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the nation’s science-based health protection agency whose job it is to protect our health, safety, and security from threats here and around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has worked to keep us safe and informed by giving us guidelines to follow.

  3. You have probably heard about some of these guidelines already, e.g., social distancing. Ask the students for their ideas about what “social distancing” means. Ask, Can you give examples of how you have personally practiced social distancing? Accept all answers and discuss students’ responses.

  4. Explain that the expression “physical distancing” is more accurate. It means keeping a physical distance of at least six feet between you and others in order to reduce possible spread of SARS CoV-2 virus, a type of coronavirus that causes COVID-19, from one person to another. Ask, Why six feet? Discuss students' answers. Clarify that SARS CoV-2 virus is a respiratory virus mainly spread through respiratory droplets. That’s the distance that droplets from a sneeze, cough, talking, or singing can travel before settling out of the air.

  5. Use the accompanying "Droplets Image" pptx to illustrate how droplets are sprayed into the air when we breathe, talk, shout, etc. Tell students that the droplets carry virus and other small particles in them. Add that bigger droplets don’t travel as far as the unseen microscopic droplets. Explain that although it is possible for COVID-19 to be spread via airborne transmission—that is, through smaller particles that remain in the air for longer distances and periods of time—physical distancing helps reduce the main mode of transmission (person to person via droplets).

  6. Social or physical distancing, along with wearing a mask and frequent handwashing, are some of the best defenses we have right now against this coronavirus until an effective vaccine is widely available.

Explore and Explain

  1. Tell students that opening schools and businesses safely during this pandemic has required a lot of new thinking and redesigning of spaces. Ask, Does anyone have an example of how people have redesigned a space to work in where social distancing is required? Students might mention measures inside grocery stores or restaurants.

  2. Explain that updated guidelines from the CDC now say that students in a classroom, wearing masks, can be seated three feet apart. However, adults and teachers wearing masks still have to keep a six-foot distance from students and other adults.

  3. Mention that there are other considerations too. Here are some examples:

  • All students should be seated facing the same direction.
  • Ventilation systems should bring in fresh air, if possible.
  • Materials should be easy to clean and sanitize.
  • Students will not be able to share materials as before, so new ways to store individual supplies are needed.
  1. Announce that today you will challenge them to design their own model classroom that maintains the required social distancing between students, and between students and adults, while still providing the basics needed in a classroom.

  2. Project “Spacing Out–Student Design Instructions." Read over them together to ensure that students understand the requirements and ask any questions they may have.

  3. Assign the completion date for their work and explain how they will share their designs (to be determined by the teacher; see suggestion in the next step).


  1. Tell students that they will be playing the roles of design companies who are trying to win a contract to create and build a new art classroom. Each student or team of students will present and explain their designs for an art classroom space.


The COVID HACKS curriculum project is made possible thanks to the support from Laura & John Arnold and Baylor College of Medicine. Scientists, educators, and physicians from Baylor College of Medicine provided content, feedback, and technical reviews.