LEFT TO RIGHT:
David L. Schrader, Jury Chair and Don Gillmore, CEFPI Chair, rooftop at National Association of Realtor building for the award ceremony held in Washington, DC
School districts, cities, communities and the decision makers within these institutions have a challenging job in dealing with issues around learning environments. There is often a sense that overcrowding, growing student population, building disrepair is at crisis proportions. The urgency with which these issues are often addressed can sometimes preclude good planning. As well, there seems to be no time for participation in the planning and design of these projects. One very important missed opportunity is the involvement of students, the client, in the creation of new learning environments.
The School of the Future Design Competition offers an opportunity to illustrate the kind of creativity that students bring to the design process through the student design competition. The competition highlights the importance of well-planned, high performance, healthy, safe and sustainable schools that foster student achievement and enhance community vitality. Dedicated architecture students, architects and school planners will contribute their time in mentoring middle school students through the competition so that learning about the design and built environment can take place. The multi-disciplinary solution requires students to design an educational facility from the concept phase to completion of the project, with thorough documentation. The middle school students will present their project to an architectural jury for review.
When working with students to participate in this competition, volunteer mentors should consider the following issues in helping the students to develop their design projects.
Students will work in groups to design the projects, following a true planning process.
Students will utilize and develop skills in math, language arts, communication, leadership, science, technology, architecture and facility planning.
Students will enhance their awareness of environmental and "green" building issues.
The design focus can be on a single classroom, studio, laboratory, or the entire school and can be new construction or a renovation project. The School Building Week jury will consider the following criteria in selecting the School of the Future Design Competition award winners.
Each team is required to submit a project model, a video or PowerPoint presentation and a 750-word narrative description documenting the planning process and rationale. Teams may include perspective drawings, architectural boards or similar renderings.
As you work with the students, it may be helpful to discuss the following topics and questions:
Develop and Implement a Planning Process
Who would be helpful to talk to as you create your ideal space or school? Why would that person or those people help your solution be better?
How does your proposed learning environment connect learning to the community?
Are there any partnerships between your learning environment and the community?
How does the community benefit, and how do you benefit?
How will this place help students tie learning to real life and make it more meaningful?
Why is learning better in the environment you're creating?
What will the learner be able to do that he or she can't do now?
What would a typical day in your learning environment be like?
How does your environment help to make stronger relationships between students and between students and the teachers?
How will this place make it easier for students to learn?
How do people get here – are there buses or cars?
What are the materials, colors, and textures?
How does your design preserve the environment?
Given that Learning happens best when...
...all of your senses are engaged, not just hearing and sight, but smell, touch and taste;
...your technology is integrated. It should not be an end in itself, but a tool, which enhances your learning experience;
...you feel safe and secure. Learning is about risk taking. A sense of safety and security encourages you to stretch outside of yourself to achieve your best;
...you actively participate, you are actively engaged in making your own learning happen;
...you're connected to the world. There are levels of connections that you make with other learners, with teachers or "guides," with the school as a whole and with your community;
...you feel a sense of pride about your school and your community.
And acknowledging that all of us can learn, anytime, anywhere, but that all of us learn differently, so that we need to provide a variety of learning spaces to engage all learners.
Most importantly, encourage your students to be as creative as possible and to have fun!