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Free-Range Students Learn Their Way At Sunnyvale Middle School

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SUNNYVALE (CBS11) - It may look more like an artist's loft, but one North Texas middle school is giving its students a whole new way to learn.

In the old days you needed a hall pass to leave the classroom. At Sunnyvale Middle School it's actually encouraged, and the kids we met are turning that freedom into success.

With natural light coming through the high-ceiling of the open common space, fifth and sixth graders are free to use some of their time however they see fit.

"Well, I really like fractions, like multiplying and dividing fractions. It just kind of makes me feel good," 11-year-old Landon Lozano said.

It's safe to say not every kid feels that way, but after Landon finished his lesson plan, he chose his own math program to follow while other students made their own choices.

"Especially if we're working on different things where they're reviewing and they need to help each other, this allows them to spread out a little bit more and think through and talk," fifth grade teacher Dr. Lisa Stovall said.

Even inside Dr. Stovall's math classroom, things are different. Taller desks make it easier for her to move from one group of students to the next without having to stoop down, and it's also good for restless little legs to swing.

"What I love about it is that our kids are becoming so independent and self-directed at a younger age than most students," Principal Carmen Ayo said.

The space is easily adaptable. If one classroom needs quiet time for reading or exams, garage doors can come down to temporarily close off part of the space, but most of the time students say the fewer walls, the better.

"It's more freedom, like instead of just sitting in straight rows in our classrooms just doing worksheets all day, we get to come out here, and we get to interact in this awesome environment," Landon said.

The school district said the idea for the space came from a collaboration between the administration and school board with input from the community.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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