Often, our adult education centers serve as a community hub, providing space for family literacy events, adult education instruction, literacy tutor training, and community events designed to draw attention to the value of adult education. These centers often serve as a 'third space', a public space where people gather outside of work (second places) and home (first places).
Ray Oldenburg's concept has been widely accepted by community planners and is regaining popularity as people live more isolated lives. Third spaces create an opportunity for individuals to find a place of belonging. The key elements of a third space is that the space is:
- neutral: individuals are not required to be there,
- a leveling place: individuals are not judged by their economic or social status,
- centered with conversation: relationships and discussions are priorities,
- accessible: individuals can access the centers,
- led by 'regulars': regular attendees establish a tone and help attract newcomers and make these new members feel welcome.
- inviting: creates a feeling and environment that is welcoming and has a positive mood.
As adult education professionals, we seek to create the optimal environment for our students to be successful. I invite you to consider the following:
- How does this concept of a third space align with our priorities?
- How do we create the environment and what professional development do we offer as it relates to creating the optimal student environment?
- Is it possible to create a third space in a virtual environnment?
- Finally, how does preparing programs to create a third space lead to student outcomes?
I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.