By David Stephen, Guest Author
How can schools re-envision their classrooms and campuses to make them more maker-oriented and, in the process, help students and faculty to develop the tools they need to better understand and effect change upon their physical environments?
This is the essential question that we have been asking as we engage a number of Agency by Design’s Oakland Learning Community school sites in the process of redesigning their school campuses using a simple design thinking process for master planning. The beauty of this effort has been the opportunities it affords both students and teachers to interact with, and actively recreate, the learning spaces that they occupy everyday. This is an iterative process that has no particular end state, but that serves to connect people to their environments, foster Maker Empowerment, and positively transform their school campuses in real and ongoing ways.
As both an educator and a school architect with a longtime passion for inquiry- and project-based approaches to teaching and learning, I see the design thinking process as providing a perfect vehicle for this exploration. Through a series of workshops with selected groups of teachers and students, during the past nine months each participating AbD school has been working to clarify its learning goals and spatial needs as connected to maker-thinking and doing. This includes generating a list of Guiding Principles and Priorities for Design, identifying specific campus redesign and building projects that support these priorities, and engaging teachers and students in carrying them out.
To help guide this endeavor, each school is creating a “Maker Campus Master Plan” that outlines their short and long-term implementation goals. The process appears to be greatly energizing for those involved, as well as increasing awareness of how spatial adjacencies, design elements, and furniture choices can dramatically influence the ways in which people use space, interact, and collaborate. Although varied, there is considerable overlap in the areas of focus that are being addressed within each school’s master plan. They include:
- Articulating a safe, friendly, and clear entry sequence that strives to orient all building inhabitants and visitors to the school and campus as they enter.
- Creating consistent and clear branding and messaging platforms that communicate the values, learning goals, and priorities of the school.
- Fostering easy navigation and wayfinding to assist students, teachers, and visitors in making their way through the school building and campus.
- Showcasing visible learning and engagement through vistas into classroom and meeting spaces, as well as public art projects and installations.
- Establishing multiple venues for ongoing display, exhibition, and celebration of student work.
- Defining classroom and neighborhood zones that encourage students and teachers to build a sense of ownership, identity, and connection across disciplines.
- Designing and developing flexible classroom, gathering, and collaboration spaces that support large group, small group, independent, and project-based work.
- Provisioning flexible furniture and equipment that allow students and teachers to quickly transform their learning spaces and empower them as makers and doers.
- Developing outdoor learning spaces that promote maker activities and extend learning beyond the classroom.
- Initiating the development of maker spaces that support a range of design thinking and maker activities. Continue reading