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November 7, 1998

UEF's workshop at Columbia University Teachers College attracted over 35 architects, engineers, planners educators, technology experts and others from all over the Northeast and as far away as Cincinnati and Minneapolis. The workshop began with a general session, followed by small-group discussions led by the various committee chairs.

The General Session
Dr. Robbie McClintock, Director of the Institute for Learning Technologies at Columbia University, opened the workshop by stressing the importance of community participation in urban schools. He noted that schools are too large with too many activities, too many students and too many teachers. Dr. McClintock felt that there is no substitute for the kind of environment where teachers know each student personally. Thus, one of the greatest challenges to facility planners will be the manner in which they re-scale the educational environment so that there are no more than 100 students per grade level.

Prakash Nair, UEF’s Vice President, followed with a visioning presentation titled, "The Urban Crisis and a Role for UEF". After discussing the compelling statistics showing disparities between urban and non-urban student achievement, Mr. Nair noted that urban school facilities are rarely designed keeping the end-goal of overall student development in mind. In most cases, the urban school is simply a response to an unhealthy environment and rarely is there an attempt for it to influence the environment.

Talking about the disconnect between educators and facility planners, Mr. Nair explained how educational innovations are rarely translated into physical form. From the understanding that a healthy community is essential to a healthy school, Mr. Nair proposed a new paradigm of school as community. n his proposed model, the school building becomes a healthy "surrogate" community to balance the negative influences outside the school. By reaching out to parents, teachers, and community leaders, creating partnerships with educational and cultural institutions and building bridges with other, more fortunate school districts, impoverished schools can defy the odds and graduate not only better students, but better citizens.

Mr. Nair discussed how technology which has the power to widen the divide between the haves and the have-nots can, instead, be harnessed via the Internet, distance-learning programs, multi-media applications within the classroom, etc. to level the playing field for urban kids.

For a free copy of Prakash Nair’s presentation, please email him at pnair@nycsca.org.

Ed Kirkbride, UEF President, briefly discussed how to translate, "Breaking Ranks" – the new educational model for High Schools - into bricks and mortar. Please see UEF article (html link to UEF pages with Kirkbride article) which provides more details about Breaking Ranks as it relates to school facility design.

Committee Presentations
After the general session, the UEF workshop continued in a small group format. Individual committees were charged with the task of discussing their specific areas of specialty and making recommendations to the larger group. For committee reports, see the menu at the top of the page.