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. The majority of movement 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!
connect, explore and relate
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 that our students come together in a building and learn. We allow our students 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. 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.
And how do we enable one to feel confident enough to draw out from oneself all the magic that is inside. This is the question of an educational space designer, because the learning of the student is all that matters.
The school environment was made 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, ideation and collaborative exploration.
A classroom where creativity is celebrated and devergent thinking is developed is a bright, flexible environment. Whiteboard walls, tables with writable surfaces and multicolored windows opens the mind for exploration. Students can purposefully dream, explore and create. The space acts as an open-ended explorative think tank for education.
Imagine a room which is easily devided into sectioned for small group exploration or opened up for large collaboration and presentation. It’s an exploration space, ideal for active learning where students freely explore a variety of content domains by interacting in (virtual) environments and one another. Expression and collaborative interaction is championed in this learning environment.
After exploration and experimentation, creation follows. A makerspace is needed to prototype ideas but more important to build students confidence through real experience.
In this kind of spaces, educators are not positioned as lecturers, at the front of a class. They move throughout an exploratory space as a guide, an advisor, listening in, offering advice as needed and empowering students to think, create and reflect on their process and product.
The idea that higher education function is one of purely academic development should be retired entirely. We have a responsibility to foster each student his inherent genius and draw out his natural brilliance while maximizing emotional growth. Higher education has 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.