We still line our students up in rows facing the same direction toward a voice of authority. We use desks that lock them up in place, where the majority of movement within their staring is eyes forward, eyes down? The experience of space has a profound effect on how we use that space and behave ourselves. Space evokes a particular way of feeling, of being. What is the message we are sending? We develop behind desks? Think about it!
sit, listen and write
If we look inside current learning spaces and look at the world there is a big disconnection. It’s not reflective. We as a society have agreed by doctrine that our children will come together in a building and learn, and yet we allow our kids to be behind desks for a majority of their developing years. Students don’t need places to sit, listen and write. Instead, they need places to connect, explore, discover and relate. They need places of support. We spend over a decade being conditioned to receive and compete, imagine if space invoked us to support each other, everyday and in every way.
human potentiality incubators
We need environments that help realize that within us there are unbounded treasures and talents. We need environments that shine a light on our potential and provide opportunities to explore and express ourselves. Schools at their heart should be human potentiality incubators. We need to think about what type of environment supports our own individual greatness. The cultivation of the student, the learner is all that matters. So the question becomes: What kinds of spaces naturally lend themselves to drawing out, rather than pushing in? How does one draw out what is within? And how do we enable one to feel confident enough to draw out from oneself all the magic that is inside. These are the questions of an educational space designer.
The school model was to make every day interactive, playful and creative. The space created needed to be versatile and functional for experiential learning across a broad spectrum of approaches: role-play, making and building, digital simulations, instruction, games, mobile apps, ideation and collaborative exploration.
a space for the birth of ideas
Imagine yourself within a soft, white room. The room feels safe, perhaps even feminine, not unlike a blank canvas. Bright, sloping whiteboard walls surround you so every inch of wall space can be drawn upon. It is a fresh environment where ideas are free to emerge. Curved, stretchy chairs meet flexible tables, with writable surfaces. Completed with a sign of nature and multicolored windows it opens the mind for exploration. Creativity is celebrated here, divergent thinking developed.
The space acts as an open-ended explorative think tank for education, where students can purposefully dream, explore and create. Whether launching business projects, openly exploring technology and science concepts, constructing novel inventions or imagining innovative companies; this kind of a space symbolizes birth.
a room for adventure
What follows birth? Experimentation and adventure. Imagine a large room with a ceiling grid for hanging displays and dividers that can be sectioned off into small group exploratory spaces or opened up for large collaboration and presentation. It’s an exploration space, ideal for mobile learning, embodied learning, floor simulations and game-based learning where students freely explore a variety of content domains by interacting in virtual environments and one another.
In this kind of space, educators are not positioned as lecturers, at the front of a class. Rather, they move throughout an exploratory space as a guide and advisor, listening in and offering advice as needed. Expression and collaborative interaction is championed in this learning environment.
After exploration and experimentation, creation follows — the manifestation of cultural artifacts, inventions and product as well as the building of confidence through real experience. A space that enables easy movement between individual and group work allows machines to be built, inventions to be launched, games to be programmed, or prototypes to be created. The space adapts elegantly with various multimedia stations, such that all students are motivated to physically manifest their intuition — whether individually or by virtue of collaboration.
The idea that a school’s function is one of purely academic development should be retired entirely. We have a responsibility to foster each student’s inherent genius and draw out his or her natural brilliance while maximizing emotional growth. Schools have an opportunity to create spaces that represent a more complete idea of growth; intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
Lets us imagine it. Let us create that reality. Give learning back to life.