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The Attention Myth: Why Paying Attention in Class is Overrated

May 11th, 2015

Prakash Nair , Founding President, Fielding Nair International
Edutopia, Posted 05/08/2015

Prakash Nair questions the way our education system emphasizes the need for students to pay constant attention to a teacher:

“Are we in crisis because of short attention spans and the losing battle teachers are fighting to keep kids interested in class? Before we answer that, let us look at the word “attention” to see how this important word has been co-opted by the education establishment to represent something completely different than its true meaning.”

Nair posits that attention is not only natural to survival, but it should be directed from a teacher to their students instead. Student’s needs should come first, and their individual styles of learning be honored.

Read his post here.

Are iPads Creating a New Instructional Ecosystem?

December 22nd, 2011

An article by Joanne and Kit Hard

Premise: The iPad’s combination of simplicity and versatility gives teachers the ability to meet the diverse learning needs of students and distinguishes the iPad as a disruptive force within education.

Click here to read and add to the comments if you agree or disagree.

Education Nation?

October 7th, 2010


Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools (Jossey-Bass)
by Milton Chen

Review by Randy Fielding

Milton Chen poses this challenge in his recently published book, Education Nation:
“Imagine an Education Nation, a learning society where the education of children and adults is the highest national priority, on par with a strong economy, high employment, and national security.”

Chen proceeds to help us imagine this scenario with examples from his own experience. His intent for the book is to curate the collection of, with its wide range of films, articles and other materials about education. He frames these resources within six “edges” of innovative definitions of learning.

Two of these edges are the “Curriculum Edge: Real Learning and Authentic Assessment,” and The Technology Edge: Putting Modern Tools in Young Hands.” In my experience, these edges have proven to be powerful drivers in successful schools around the world. An example is Hip-Hop High in St. Paul Minnesota (also know as High School for Recording Arts). Forty percent of the students are homeless; many have been in the criminal justice system, expelled from other schools, and have children of their own. Despite such difficult challenges, these students are authentically engaged at Hip-Hop High—connected through a sense of community, music, and the opportunity to master emerging technologies. ( )

Using stories gleaned from his many years of work in public television, the Sesame Workshop, and as executive director of The George Lucas Educational Foundation, Chen arranges a wide variety of complex ideas into accessible categories, making the volume an organized repository of innovative educational components. The message of the book is the need for these “edges” to move toward the center of American society’s focus. In his view, quality education is actually the key to a strong economy, high employment and national security, positioning it as the highest priority in this country today. Yet, the truth is that many of these creative concepts remain on the edge or are non-existent in American public education.

A national dialogue about the priority of education recently occurred, and Chen’s book title and input played a role. NBC’s Education Nation Summit was held, along with a preview showing of Waiting for Superman, a documentary on the state of public schools, which officially premiered October 8th. The film is by David Guggenheim, the award-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth, and it follows a cast of school children as they struggle for a chance at what used to be a given in the United States – an excellent public education. Heart-breaking stories and facts combine to create a potent indictment of the current state of public schools.
 With a less emotional viewpoint, Chen’s Education Nation provides solutions to these complex issues, and will serve as a useful reference indeed for administrators, teachers and indeed anyone concerned with the state of the American public school system.

What approach will be the most effective in producing change? We’re interested in your views, so please comment below.

Randall Fielding, AIA, is the founder of DesignShare, and also the Chairman of Fielding Nair International, Architects and Change Agents for Creative Learning Communities. He can be reached at:

CEFPI and Schools for Children of the World Partner in Haiti Relief Effort

January 20th, 2010

January 20, 2010
CONTACT: Barbara C. Worth

CEFPI and Schools for Children of the World Partner in Haiti Relief Effort

Washington, DC - In response to the overwhelming challenges facing the people of Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake of January 12, the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is partnering together with Schools for the Children of the World (SCW), a non-profit organization dedicated to building schools in emerging and developing countries, to establish a relief effort.

The first priority is to seek volunteers, particularly structural engineers with seismic expertise, to participate on a task force to assess the safety of the damaged school facilities and to assist with the immediate clean-up efforts. This task force will also formulate strategies on how the organizations can best help in the recovery process, as the need will be monumental in rebuilding the damaged and destroyed schools. Several assessment trips will be planned during the next two months. Each volunteer can expect to pay $1,500-2,000 to participate. Visit to participate or contribute to this effort.

Schools that can be repaired will need project managers to manage project funds and provide project oversight as well as architects and engineers to provide design solutions and contractors to make the needed repairs. Facilities that are beyond repair will need project managers, contractors to assist with the demolition and cleanup and educational facility planners, architects and engineers with seismic experience to plan and design replacement facilities. Fundraisers to identify and secure resources will be of great import in the recovery process.

The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only professional organization whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn. CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality.


School Design Futures

December 17th, 2009

Design Futures

Creating spaces for learning or making room for education?

December 10th, 2009

Gert Biesta
Creating spaces for learning or making room for education?

May 27th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus at ***2.00pm

Recent discussions about education have seen a remarkable rise in the use of spatial language, particularly around the idea of the creation of environments for learning. This is mainly the result of a shift in emphasis in educational thinking from the activities of the teacher to the activities of the student, changing the role from the teacher to that of a facilitator of learning processes. Although a lot can be said in support of this shift, there are also some problematic consequences that primarily have to do with a decline in attention to questions about educational purpose. It is, after all, one thing to create environments that support learning, but it is another thing to create environments that support a particular kind of learning. In this presentation I focus on the latter question in order to explore how different views about the aims and ends of education generate different requirements for the creation of the spaces and places in and through which education happens. In this regard I am particularly interested in the connections between education, space and democracy. Rather than a focus on creating spaces for learning in a general sense, I will argue that the key question for school architecture is how to make room for education.

Gert Biesta is Professor of Education and Director of Postgraduate Research at the Stirling Institute of Education, the University of Stirling, where he also co-directs the Laboratory for Educational Theory. He is editor-in-chief of Studies in Philosophy and Education and author of many books on the theory and philosophy of education. Recent titles include: Beyond Learning: Democracy Education for a Human Future (Paradigm Publishers 2006); Education, Democracy and the Moral Life (Michael Katz, Susan Verducci and Gert Biesta eds., Springer 2009); and Rethinking Contexts for Learning and Teaching (Richard Edwards, Gert Biesta and Mary Thorpe eds., Routledge 2009).

Transforming teaching and learning through architecture and design: what is possible or desirable?

December 10th, 2009

Pamela Woolner
Transforming teaching and learning through architecture and design: what is possible or desirable?

May 26th

The current wave of school building, especially Building Schools for the Future (BSF), aspires to be transformational: changing physical settings but also educational aims, methods and outcomes. My talk will examine the relationship between school premises and educational practices, considering research evidence from various disciplines and past experience of school building programmes. When can physical change support, enable or even cause change? What are the limitations?

Pam holds a first degree in psychology, taught maths in schools and is now a Research Associate in the Research Centre for Learning and Teaching (RCfLaT), School of Education, Newcastle University. Through carrying out reviews and evaluations commissioned by the Design Council, CFBT and the Arts Council, she has developed her understanding of the evidence base and historical background relating to the effect of environment on education, as well as the actual experience of attempting change. Currently she is an Advisory Group member for an EPSRC funded project, ‘Designing New Schools - putting people at the heart of the process’, based at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, and a Steering Group member for a HEFCE investigation of academic workplaces based at the Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University. She is also working on a book to support educators and others in schools to engage with architects to develop their school environments through rebuilding or refurbishment.

Education, sustainability and the built environment - the ecology of the classroom

December 10th, 2009

Linda Farrow
Education, sustainability and the built environment - the ecology of the classroom

May 20th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, The University of Nottingham, 5pm

Knowing how to live within our environmental means is an increasingly core life-skill. To what extent can the design of educational buildings and landscape help equip people with the knowledge, skills and experiences to do this? I will explore this question using examples from our practice portfolio. Linda Farrow is Director of White Design, Bristol.

Critiquing the Idea of a Sustainable School as a model and catalyst for change

December 10th, 2009

Professor William Scott
Critiquing the Idea of a Sustainable School as a model and catalyst for change

May 18th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, The University of Nottingham, 5pm

The government has a hugely ambitious goal that every school will be a ’sustainable school’ by 2020, and it encourages institutions to address sustainability across all aspects of school life: [i] what (and how) students are taught; [ii] how the school campus is managed, and the school is led; and [iii] how the school can act as a model and catalyst for change within the wider community. In 2004, Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

“Sustainable development will not just be a subject in the classroom: it will be in its bricks and mortar and the way the school uses and even generates its own power. Our students won’t just be told about sustainable development, they will see and work within it: a living, learning place in which to explore what a sustainable lifestyle means.” Drawing on recent research, the lecture will critically examine the idea of the ’sustainable school’, and raise questions about the role of the school in modeling and catalyzing change within the community.

William Scott is a Professor of Education at the University of Bath where he is head of its Education and Sustainability research programme, director of the Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, and a deputy-director of the University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment. He was founding editor of the journal Environmental Education Research, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and chair of the community interest company South West Learning for Sustainability Coalition. William Scott’s research focuses on the role of learning in sustainable development, on the contributions that educational institutions can make to this, and on the problems of researching the effectiveness of such activities. Of particular interest are: conceptual issues to do with the nature of education and professional development; pedagogical and evaluative issues about processes of learning and teaching; and, ethical questions about the focus and limits of such interventions. These issues are addressed through research, consultancy, development and evaluation studies, through teaching, and through writing and reviewing, and William Scott has worked closely with research councils, government, industry, NGOs, and other agencies in the UK and in other countries.

Please see the links below to the video recording of the lecture:

Mp3 version:

m4b (audio book)

m4v (enhanced podcast)

Leading Practice in creating learning spaces in Victoria

December 10th, 2009

Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young and Ms Lynne Sutton
Leading Practice in creating learning spaces in Victoria

May 13th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, 5pm (Video presentation)

In 2009 the Australian Government’s stimulus package in response to the Global Financial Crisis includes ‘Building the Education Revolution’. This involves building new science or language learning centres in disadvantaged secondary schools across Australia. Eligible schools need to have a demonstrated need, readiness and capacity to complete the facilities before 30 June 2010. Victoria has produced a range of interesting designs based on the evidence from its Leading School Fund work, where, over recent years, whole-school change has been supported by development and renewal of facilities. Lynne and Elizabeth will show the designs, discuss how they have been informed by recent evidence and current needs, and identify challenges for designers and educators.

Dr Elizabeth Hartnell-Young is Group Manager Research in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia and also an honorary fellow at The University of Melbourne. Ms Lynne Sutton is Senior Project Manager, Building the Education Revolution project at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria.

Researching the relationship between sustainable design in education buildings and institutional change for sustainability.

December 10th, 2009

Glenn Strachan
Researching the relationship between sustainable design in education buildings and institutional change for sustainability.

May 11th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, The University of Nottingham, 5pm

Increasing numbers of education buildings are labelled as being sustainable and deliver environmental management benefits. However, consideration is not always given to how elements of sustainable design can be used as a catalyst for whole institutional change. This seminar will explore a research method for investigating the relationship between sustainable building design and institutional change for sustainability in the education sector.
Glenn taught in schools and colleges until 1998 when he left the formal education sector to become Head of Education at Earth Centre, a flagship Millennium Project in Yorkshire based on demonstrating and promoting sustainable development. From 2002 to 2008 he combined consultancy work on a wide range of sustainable development projects with work on the London South Bank University, Education for Sustainability Master’s Programme. He joined the International Research Institute in Sustainability at the University of Gloucestershire in June 2008 where he leads a research strand on professional practice and sustainability. He is also pursuing his own research interests in the sustainable design of education buildings with a view to completing a PhD.

Please see the links below to the video recording of the lecture:

Mp3 version:

m4b (audio book)

m4v (enhanced podcast)

Learning through Architecture - Engagement, design and construction as a learning tool

December 10th, 2009

Prue Chiles
Learning through Architecture - Engagement, design and construction as a learning tool

May 6th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, The University of Nottingham, 5pm

The talk will look at how schools and playgrounds can inspire children and staff about issues of environment, about healthy living, about interactive learning. and about how the process of design and construction is fundamental to creating a good learning environment. This will be illustrated by our own built projects and others we have found inspiring and supported by our research.

Prue Chiles is Director of Architecture at the School of Architecture, The University of Sheffield and continues to practice as architect and Director of the Bureau of Design and Research, Sheffield.

Please see the links below to the video recording of the lecture:

Mp3 version:

m4b (audio book)

m4v (enhanced podcast)

Listening to Children: developing the sustainable school

December 10th, 2009

Elizabeth Barratt Hacking
Listening to Children: developing the sustainable school

April 29th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, ***2.00pm

A range of resources, advice and tools have been provided to support schools in planning their ‘journey to sustainability’ in consideration of the campus, curriculum and community dimensions of the sustainable schools initiative. However, this advice tends to focus on the role of adults involved in leading this initiative, with little attention paid to the potential role of children. Drawing on participatory research with children and adults in schools I will explore the benefits of listening to children and engaging children’s participation in developing the sustainable school.

Elisabeth is an academic from the Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, University of Bath, UK. Elisabeth lectures in geographical and environmental education and learning at postgraduate level. Her research focuses on how environmental experience influences children’s wellbeing; this is undertaken in school settings using participatory research approaches with children and teachers. She was co-director of the ESRC (UK Research Council) project ‘Listening to Children: Environmental Perspectives and the School Curriculum’ and is currently co-ordinating a research project for the national ‘Growing Schools’ programme in England. Recently, Elisabeth co-edited ‘Childhood and Environment’, a special issue of the journal Environmental Education Research. Elisabeth was Honorary Editor of the journal Teaching Geography for almost 10 years.

Basics of Good School Design

December 10th, 2009

Alan Dale
Basics of Good School Design

April 27th, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, The University of Nottingham, 5 pm

Alan Dale is an experience schools architects working both for local authority and in private practice. He has recently been working as a design advisor for Building Schools for the Future programmes in the North West, South London and Islington and is preparing a book on school design which summarizes his many years of experience.

Please see the links below to the video recording of the lecture:

Mp3 version:

m4b (audio book)

m4v (enhanced podcast)

At the heart of the (sustainable) community…

December 10th, 2009

Robin Nicholson

At the heart of the (sustainable) community…
April 22nd, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, The University of Nottingham, 5 pm

My journey will bring together some thoughts arising from the education work of our practice, the urban regeneration business under New Labour, CABE’s work on school design and sustainable development and the work of the Zero Carbon Schools Task Force. I will explore some of the gaps between what is and what must be if we are to have a chance of mitigating the effects of climate change and our need for design excellence.

Robin Nicholson is a senior member of Edward Cullinan Architects, which he joined in 1979. Previously he had worked for James Stirling and taught at the Bartlett and North London. He was a Vice-President of the RIBA (1992-94), Chairman of the Construction Industry Council (1998-2000) and founder member of the Movement for Innovation Board (1998-2001). He sat on the DETR Urban Sounding Board (2001-03). Currently he is Joint Deputy Chair of CABE, where he leads on Climate Change and Sustainable Development. He is a Board Member of the NHBC and chairs NHBC Services Ltd. He is chairman of the DCSF Zero Carbon Task Force. He helped develop the Design Quality Indicator and sits on the DQI Development Group. He is Convenor of the Construction Industry think-tank, The Edge Debates (1996-), and was awarded a CBE for Services to Architecture in 1999 and an Honorary Fellowship of the Institution of Structural Engineers in 2002.

Please see the links below to the audio recording of the lecture (University login required):

Mp3 version:

m4b (audio book)

m4v (enhanced podcast)

Education Design and Crowd Control

December 10th, 2009

Mark Dudek
Education Design and Crowd Control

20th April, C15, Pope Building, University Park Campus, The University of Nottingham, 5pm

From Tom Brown’s School Days, by way of Lindsay Anderson’s If, through to The Wire and Laurent Cantet’s The Class, school environments are and always have been the context for high drama. As designers, should we therefore be more interested in the people using the spaces rather than making grand architectural statements about how buildings can transform people’s lives? By way of an introduction to the series, Mark Dudek asks the question, why are the environments within which education and learning takes place, of such high cultural value, yet at the same time perceived to be so little significance by the teaching profession?

Mark Dudek is an architect and school design consultant, Director of Mark Dudek Associates a specialist architectural design consultancy concentrating on education and childcare. He is author of many authoritative books on school design, including Schools and Kindergartens: A Design Manual, Building for Young Children, Children’s Spaces, Architecture of Schools: The New Learning Environments and Kindergarten Architecture.

Connecting innovative design with innovative ways of learning

October 26th, 2009

Please share your ideas and experiences with truly innovative educational facilities. We invite you to write about the most innovative schools you’ve worked for, attended or visited. Describe how those facilities intertwined phenomenal curricular activity with outstanding buildings, and your schools could become DesignShare case studies!


October 23rd, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (October 23, 2009)— New officers for 2009-2010 were introduced during the closing plenary of the recent Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) World Conference & Expo in Washington, DC.

Judith P. Hoskens assumed the helm of the organization as president of the CEFPI Board of Directors. Judy Hoskens’ past contributions have been exceptional in furthering the vision of the Council – to promote excellence in student learning environments. Judy’s dedication to the development of effective educational facilities utilizing a successful planning process with attention to the community, the educational specifications and the environment is unparalleled.

As senior educational planner and project manager in Cuningham Group Architecture’s Minneapolis office, Judy Hoskens has first-hand experience translating client goals and needs into unique building solutions. Through her participation on many projects, she has reaffirmed her belief that the best educational facilities result from the active participation of all stakeholders, including learners, educators, administrators, parents and community members.

Daniel R. Mader, AIA, REFP, LEED AP, takes over the position of Midwest Great/Lakes representative on the Board of Directors. As president and CEO of Fanning Howey, a leading architectural engineering firm specializing in educational facility design, Dan Mader has over 30 years of experience in educational facility planning and design. Dan has been an active member of CEFPI for 17 years and has served as the Midwest – Great Lakes region president, past president and treasurer as well as governor for Area 5. He has been a part of the International strategic planning team, a member of the panel for the selection of CEFPI Planner of the Year, and has served on the nominating committee for international president.

An active member of CEFPI since 1974, Edward M. McMilin, REFP, at-large representative, Board of Directors, has held a number of leadership positions, including president of the Midwest/Great Lakes region for six different terms. He is currently serving on the International Governance task force that is part of the effort to create and implement a new strategic plan enabling CEFPI to assume a greater global position. During his 32 year tenure as facilities planner for Milwaukee Public Schools, Ed McMilin was involved in all phases of the planning, design, and construction of hundreds of projects involving new schools, additions, and renovations of existing facilities totaling over $500 million. He oversaw the implementation of the $120 million Neighborhood Schools Initiative that created 11,000 new student seats in six new schools, 19 additions to schools, and renovations in 14 other schools in order to reduce an equal number of students being transported, thus permitting these students to attend school in their neighborhood. Ed also accomplished several community projects that were part of the economic development in the City of Milwaukee.

The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only professional organization whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn. CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit

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School Building Expo - CALL FOR PAPERS

October 22nd, 2009

2010 School Building Expo
2010 College Building Expo
MAY 10-13, 2010 – NAVY PIER, CHICAGO, IL

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: November 18th, 2010

TWO Conferences under one roof!! In 2010 School Building Expo will be held in conjunction with College Building Expo at the Navy Pier in Chicago, May 10-13th. These two events will offer over 25 concurrent sessions that highlight the top professionals that are shaping the future of education design, build and construction. The sessions should focus on furthering the knowledge of professionals associated with education and educational facilities.

If you are in K-12 and want to share your expertise and experiences with our industry please visit and if you are in higher education and want to share please visit .

I would be happy to discuss your ideas further or answer any questions. Please feel free to contact me directly at or 508-759-0075.


October 19th, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (October 19, 2009) – Rosa Parks School and the Community Campus at New Columbia, Portland, Oregon, received the highly regarded 2009 James D. MacConnell Award for school facility planning excellence during the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) recent World Conference & Expo in Washington, DC. The internationally recognized award was created by CEFPI to acknowledge the significant contributions that Dr. MacConnell made to both the profession of planning educational facilities and to CEFPI. The MacConnell Award is presented to the most exemplary project that demonstrates a comprehensive planning process, development of wide-ranging educational specifications, and a design that meets the requirement of the educational program.

The Rosa Parks School and the Community Campus at New Columbia began as a community conversation concerning Columbia Villa, a low income housing project that had fallen into economic and social disrepair and resulted in a collaborative vision to rebuild Columbia Villa as a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood called New Columbia, anchored by the Community Campus. The centerpiece of the Community Campus is the new Rosa Parks School, the second new school to be designed and constructed by Portland Public Schools in 30 years.

The firm of Dull Olson Weekes Architects led the district in a consensus-based design process which involved city leaders, Columbia Villa residents, adjacent neighbors, Housing Authority commissioners, local businesses, staff and parents. Meeting at the Community Campus, a Campus Compact was drawn that integrated the public-private partnership creating a framework for operations, funding, rights and obligations, as well as an on-site committee to deal with future initiatives and issues. The partners include the Housing Authority of Portland (HAP), Portland Public Schools, Boys and Girls Club and Portland Parks & Recreation.

Without the combination of private, public and federal funds, Rosa Parks School and the Community Campus might still remain a dream. Over 25 private donors and foundations provided support and in-kind services for this truly intergenerational center. Federal tax credits provided supplemental funding and the state of Oregon provided monies to procure furniture. Even more importantly, by partnering, sharing space, and aligning programs, the overall cost of the project was reduced almost by half.

The school is Portland Public School’s first “green” development and has been certified LEED Gold. Environmentally focused, Rosa Parks’ developable property is less than 1.8 acres and nearly 90% of the students walk or bike to school. The school is divided into four educational neighborhoods, each serving 125-130 students. Internal programs are augmented by support from local businesses that provide mentorship, and family participation is encouraged.

“Rosa Parks School and Community Campus is to be congratulated for its intensive collaboration and community planning that resulted in an exemplary model for building future community partnerships, outstanding learning environments and strong neighborhoods in the Portland Public Schools district. It truly is a sustainable learning laboratory, including photovoltaics, 100 % stormwater retention and a community garden,” stated Judy Hoskens, REFP, president, CEFPI.

The construction of the Rosa Parks School and Community Campus was instrumental in initiating a city-wide conversation regarding all Portland Public School facilities, the roles of school in the community and the community in the school. In a city noted worldwide for its exemplary planning, schools seem to have been forgotten. The conversation concluded with the development of a set of Guiding Principles on which the district will base future school decisions. These principles include: schools as center of community and neighborhood; community and the development of partnerships; creative teaching and learning; sustainability- think green/teach green; and, adaptability to continuous change.

The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only professional organization whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn. CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit

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Irene Nigaglioni, AIA, REFP, awarded 2009 Planner of the Year

October 15th, 2009

SCOTTSDALE, AZ (October 14, 2009)—Irene Nigaglioni, AIA, REFP, is the recipient of the 2009 Planner of the Year award, the highest and most distinguished individual honor conferred by the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI).

The Planner of the Year award is presented annually to the individual whose professional facility planning activities have produced a positive and significant regional, national and/or international impact on educational facility planning, adding to the body of knowledge and store of best practices in the field. This year’s exceptional winner qualifies on every level, signified by her passion for planning quality facilities for all students served by her constituents.

Ms. Nigaglioni was instrumental in the establishment of the “School Construction Cost Outlook”, an annual collaborative publication between members of the CEFPI Gulf Coast Chapter and the Houston chapter of the Associated General Contractors (AGC). The annual publication provides recommendations which assist school districts in planning bond referendums and scheduling future construction.

In response to the devastating hurricanes of 2005, Irene Nigaglioni was first to volunteer and co-chair the Katrina/Rita Task Force, a CEFPI Southern region effort to turn adversity into a positive outcome. She headed the effort, eventually enlisting the support of the CEFPI Foundation & Charitable Trust’s Paragon Project program to assist her in providing support and expertise to affected school districts. Motivated by this experience, Ms. Nigaglioni led the charge in developing a Disaster Recovery Guide, available to school districts worldwide in an effort to assist them to prepare, manage and recover from a disaster. This dynamic Guide resides on the CEFPI website and Ms. Nigaglioni continues to update the information.

“Ms. Nigaglioni brought a dimension to CEFPI’s role in educational facility planning which extends beyond its belief statement: there is a standard by which to measure. She used her professional skills in a true humanitarian effort for our children and should be held up as representative of the true mission and vision of CEFPI,” stated Beverly C. Lawrason, assistant superintendent, St. Bernard Parish, LA.

“Dedicated, energetic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, coupled with her ‘let’s get-it-done’ attitude, are words that come to mind when describing this unique and remarkable woman, Irene Nigaglioni,” said William A. Stice, REFP, president, CEFPI Southern region.

Most recently, Ms. Nigaglioni served as international chairperson for the CEFPI Communications Committee, delivering the “101 Handbook”; website upgrades and teasers; video conferencing and podcasts; as well as an online library and bulletin board. A graduate of the CEFPI/San Diego State University Advanced Certification program, Ms. Nigaglioni serves as a professor for one of the eight-week courses.

“Nominated by her colleagues for this prestigious award, Irene Nigaglioni’s compassion and commitment to provide quality learning environments for all learners is unparalled,” remarked Judith P. Hoskens, REFP, president, CEFPI.

The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only professional organization whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn. CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit

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Richard Riley Award – Schools as Centers of Community: A National Search for Excellence

October 2nd, 2009

*Richard Riley Award Nominations Due December 1, 2009 *

In 2004, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation launched the Richard Riley Award – Schools as Centers of Community: A National Search for Excellence. This initiative was part of an effort to support school districts and communities that make school facilities more conducive to learning, and more accessible to the entire community. The award is named in honor of former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, who led the way in the 1990’s in promoting the concept of schools as centers of community.

The American Architectural Foundation, in partnership with KnowledgeWorks Foundation, is pleased to continue acknowledgement of community school design achievement through the Richard Riley Award. In the fall, a school that illustrates both community collaboration and school design excellence will be announced. A $5,000 prize will be awarded to the winning school. The prize will be offered to the school only; individuals are not eligible to receive the award.

*Due to high interest in the Richard Riley Award, the deadline for nominations has been changed to December 1, 2009*

For nominating instructions, a sample nomination form, and information about past winners, please visit the Richard Riley Award page.

Online charter middle school in St. Paul gains IB certification

July 31st, 2009


Cyber Village Academy, one of Minnesota’s first online schools, has become the state’s first charter school to win International Baccalaureate certification for its middle-school program.

The development for the academy, which is based in St. Paul, shows how tough competition for students has become not only between traditional public and charter schools, but also among online schools. One result is that Minnesota students should have more and better school choices; another is that online education will continue to grow in the future, education experts said Monday.

International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are highly regarded for requiring students to meet high international standards, for their focus on global issues and for their encouragement of students to contribute in their own communities.

Cyber Village Academy has a unique mixture of online and classroom instruction. From Monday through Wednesday, students go to school; on Thursday and Friday, they study from home, take field trips, go to libraries or otherwise participate in distance learning.

Cyber Village is hoping the IB stamp can bring in more students for its grades four through eight. When the school got its start 11 years ago, even the word “cyber” was new to most people. “We were the only game in town,” said school director David Alley.

But a procession of competition from newly minted online schools whittled the school’s enrollment to 116 at the end of last year, from about 180 in 2001 when it had two locations.

“We needed, in marketing terms, to differentiate ourselves,” Alley said. “What made sense was the IB program … so we could stand out in the market.”

Gaining the IB certification also meant convincing the Geneva, Switzerland-based organization that a school with a big online component could meet its rigorous requirements. The school has been working on gaining accreditation for four years and has been teaching the IB curriculum for two years, Alley said.

IB spokeswoman Sandra Coyle said Cyber Village was certified based on its classroom instruction, not its online component.

“They spend enough time in the classroom to qualify,” Coyle said.

Regardless of its emphasis on classroom time, the IB organization is moving into online learning, too. This year the organization began offering teacher training over the web, and it has begin designing an online diploma program.

“The IB curriculum is a strong curriculum,” said Joe Nathan, director of the Humphrey Institute’s Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota. And it is one that can be taught through Cyber Village’s online and in-class mix, he added.

Cyber Village parents seem to agree. “I really like the fact that it is an International Baccalaureate school,” said Lisa Gale, who has a fifth-grader and a seventh-grader at the school. Working independently on Thursday and Friday has helped her children set priorities and manage their time, she said.

“What we’re seeing all over the state,” Nathan said, “are districts and charter schools looking for ways to increase their effectiveness and attractiveness to families. Which is a good thing.”

Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287

July 28, 2009

EcoPlay Playgrounds… from start to finish

May 21st, 2009

CNN aired a story recently (as part of their ‘Green Solutions’ segment)
featuring the use of recycled materials for playground projects. It shows
the entire recycling process — from collection, to manufacturing of
equipment, to installation. The two playgrounds (one under construction, one
completed) are EcoPlay Playgrounds and the manufacturing process was
recorded at the Safeplay Systems facility in Marietta, GA. Here’s a link to
the CNN video clip

Safeplay Systems
4452 Winfred Dr.
Marietta, GA 30066

CEFPI Efforts Pay Off: House Approves Green High Performing Public Schools Facilities Act

May 19th, 2009

May 19, 2009
CONTACT: Barbara C. Worth

CEFPI Efforts Pay Off
House Approves Green High Performing Public Schools Facilities Act
Washington, DC - The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public Schools Facilities Act.

“CEFPI has been one of the lead advocates for this legislation for over a year and was involved in crafting the language for the green renovation portion of the State Stabilization Fund (Title VIX) of the AARA as well as the Miller bill introduced last session,” stated Sue Robertson, president, CEFPI.

The multi-year school construction bill would provide states with funding to make grants and low interest loans so school districts could build, modernize and repair facilities to make them healthier, safer and more energy-efficient, while also making hundreds of thousands of jobs available. The bill passed 275-155, and now goes to the Senate, which took no action after the House passed similar legislation last year.

The funds, totaling $6.4 billion for 2010, would be allotted under a formula based on a district’s share of students from low-income families, but the bill guarantees that every district that receives federal money for low-income students will get at least $5,000. A majority of the funds will have to be used for projects that meet green standards for construction materials and energy sources.

John Ramsey, executive director/CEO, CEFPI noted, “CEFPI , together with our partners, will continue our efforts to explore various AARA funding mechanisms, isolating the areas of money that affect educational facilities and will serve as the resource for all aspects of school planning, design, construction, and maintenance.


Tiffany Green, DesignShare Advisor interviews Adrienne Baker, Producer of the Agenda for a Sustainable America conferences

March 13th, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Green Revolution is on fast forward with the passing of the stimulus package. The goal of this blog is educate myself about all things green and share this information with others especially as a new resident of the Atlanta Metro area. I am researching, networking and writing about Green entrepreneurs, green in the education sector, manufacturers, suppliers and vendors and the overall strategy for sustainability.

This interview with Adrienne Baker, Producer of the Agenda for a Sustainable America events highlights how large corporations have moved from wanting to know about case studies to overall strategies for sustainability.

Tiffany (T): Hello Adrienne, Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today from Vancouver Canada. I wanted to learn more about Green Power Conferences and the Agenda for a Sustainable America and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Green Industry. I am also interested in Green Schools because I am an Educational Designer of innovative learning environments.

Adrienne (A): I am looking at your blog now.

T: I put up articles in late 2008 then I got busy but now I want to make it more about my own personal journey in the Green World.

A: Great. I like your website. Tomorrow we are launching a new series of events that is the best thing we can talk about.

T: Absolutely. Also as I began networking at Green events and I started to see the same people and we were all asking the same question…where do we fit? What is our niche? How do we get in?

A: That’s the time we are in isn’t it?

T: Yes, especially with the economy the way it is in the states. Everything is on the table.

A: Yes

T: Everyone is attempting to find his or her niche. My first question is about you and how you got involved in this industry?

A: I was an editor of a financial publication called Investor Relations magazine and started doing some work chairing conferences for Green Power. I should also tell you that out of this office in Vancouver we only run a series of the events called the Agenda for a Sustainable America. This is the new series we are launching. It was previously called Corporate Climate Response. Green Power does events on renewables, biofuels etc.

So my background was an editor then I became very interested in how large corporations were beginning to look at the threat of global warming impacting their operations. Initially we began looking at how shareholders looked at that. That moved into a series of events called Corporate Climate Response that we have been running for four or five years now. And those events really focused on how companies responding to global warming.

We did those for four years and basically looked in depth at carbon management and climate response and we saw really that companies who wanted to be sustainable could not take a piecemeal approach. They have to look a very strategic view of long-term sustainability. They basically have to make it their DNA, if you will. So we are re-launching this series of events under the name, Agenda for a Sustainable America. It is really looking at how some companies have developed a sustainability strategy through the top down approach and are looking at things like anticipating future regulations, climate response, carbon management, energy efficiency, clean technologies, water management and supply chain issues in a systemic way and really trying to anticipate how they have to be proactive rather than reactive, let’s say.

We have a series of nine events in 2009 that are bringing together the corporate leaders in this area and other green innovators that are working with the companies to talk about how you can become strategic and systemic strategies for green, clean and profitable companies and how you can take things one step further. The reason is because these companies cannot look at these things separately any longer. They have to have a system for it.

T: And this impacts their bottom line directly.

A: It does, It does. A lot of companies recognize this and the anticipated carbon trade system.

T: When is that first event?

A: Our Sustainable Manufacturing Summit is on the 29-30th of April. Then the next event is called the Agenda for Sustainable America in Seattle, June 10-11. That is our first one. We are repeating that in Chicago in September, and Miami in November and New York in July. The website for this series is We are making it live tomorrow.

The exciting thing about the Sustainable Manufacturing Summit is that we have a lot of very big manufacturers coming along like Siemens, Kraft, Toshiba, US Steel, Pfizer, Owen Corning and Holender. They are going to talk very specifically about how they are building sustainability into their business as a strategy. We also have the CEO of McDonough and Braungart Chemistry who have developed the Cradle to Cradle methodology. He is going to give an interactive session introducing cradle to cradle and two of his companies, Herman Miller and Shaw Industries are coming along to talk about how they use this method. That’s quite interesting because their methods ends in zero waste and that is an incredibly challenging thing to do.

In Seattle in June we have had an incredible response for speakers such Microsoft, Starbucks, Kettle Foods, Boeing, Shorebank Pacific…a lot of strong names and high profile executives. Many of the speakers of CEOs and Presidents. That is fitting for that event because it is focused on strategy. A lot of our events in the past were focused on case studies about specific companies. This series, Agenda for a Sustainable America will incorporate that practical advise but it begins from the first day with a look at how you can build sustainability as a strategy. That is much different than looking at isolated examples of carbon management or energy efficiency. I have observed after going to these events over the years is that we attract speakers that head sustainability of the company and the delegates are their peers…They are the head of CSR, head of environment, etc. They often say to us that they want to hear about the strategy and we really want to know how they made this their strategy. That’s interesting in the US because up until now that has been entirely voluntary. You have some fascinating companies that have spear headed this change but like you said with this difficult economy the companies that have adopted this strategy realize there is an economic benefit to being sustainable and you have to take the long-term view of that. Even if there is a two-year payback time for an energy efficiency project for example there is still the motivation to pursue these strategies. I think it is a very exciting time.

T: That is exciting to hear that these big companies are now coming to the table because that will trickle down into other industries and small to midsize entrepreneurs who possibly supply those companies. That’s going to have a major impact on green industries and that growth sector.

A: Yes!

T: I was watching CSPAN when President Obama signed the stimulus package and there was a guy speaking who had a solar panel manufacturing company and he shared how his company has tripled over the last three years.

A: Oh wow!

T: He essentially hires a new employee each month and how the stimulus package would help him continue that growth so he would not have to lay anyone off. That is really optimistic. I try now not to watch the news because it is too depressing but if you read about green things and green industries it is so inspirational. Seeing schools doing it, cities doing it…This is a growth industry. And having a last name Green, I feel it is important for me.

A: [laughing] You are already well positioned.

T: I always joke that “I was Green before it was in”. I like to hear that those companies are now moving into strategy. It’s almost like reverse engineering not to have any waste. That is fantastic. I went to Germany and visited V/S International, a corporate and educational furniture manufacturing. They were very much using the same methodology. I was able to tour the factory and talk to the employees and that informed me a lot about the manufacturing process and all the stuff that comes from it. Stuff being a technical term [laugh]. You want to reduce stuff or use it. They are very exceptional at taking waste and recycling it into other furniture. I live in Clayton County close to the airport in Atlanta and it is a major transportation hub. I am always thinking about new business ventures so I thought that at least I could get informed and share that information. There are many people that also want to be informed so why not blog about it. I can create a calling around it or marketing around it. I can help you out and you can help me out. That is how it is done. Most people do not know where to start.

A: I will send you a link to our series homepage. If you want to fill in anything it is best to look there.

T: A last question would be about what has surprised you in the industry or what have you sense as a need that has been unfulfilled that could be an opportunity for small or mid-sized entrepreneurs?

A: That’s a great question. There is a big opportunity in energy efficiency. One of the things that US companies have been good about it the energy efficiency as a result of the crisis in the 70s. Now we are coming back to the realization that energy efficiency is essential and it is the first step in carbon management and decreasing dependency on foreign oil. So I think that discussion is coming back on how to cut energy use on a global scale especially if you have international operations. That discussion has been around a long time but it is interesting to see it come back when we are hearing it from the new administration and what companies are focusing on as a first step to becoming sustainable. I think that is a great evolution.

T: Yes. I was at the Georgia Charter School Conference and spoke with a school green cleaning company and she was sharing how many companies and schools are moving to “day cleaning” so they do not have to turn the lights on. I remember growing up in Chicago and going downtown in the evening and seeing all these skyscrapers lit up because of a few cleaning crews in the building. She told me that “day cleaning” can save upwards of 15% on annual energy costs. Now that’s amazing and simple to do. It is good that energy efficiency is coming full circle. I was worried when gas costs came back down that people would go back to their wasteful ways. But the new administration is keeping energy conservation on the forefront.

Well Adrienne, I appreciate you sharing this time with me and being the inaugural interview for the re-launch of Green Revolution.

A: Excellent. I am pleased to speak to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

T: Thanks and have a good day and stay warm.

A: Bye-Bye.

New school of thought on building schools

March 13th, 2009 Toronto Edition

New school of thought on building schools
by Christopher Hume
Mar 13, 2009 04:30 AM

Whatever else schools may be, they are also buildings; in many cases, bad buildings. But like everything else, the architecture of learning is undergoing big change….

SLATERPAULL Architects goes green with annual Green Challenge

March 11th, 2009


Denver, CO (March 10, 2009)
SLATERPAULL Architects, a Denver based architecture firm, announces the kick-off of its 3rd annual Green Challenge, a five week commitment to impact the environment. The Green Challenge runs from St. Patricks Day to Earth Day and encourages employees to make at least one significant change to reduce their personal carbon footprint, culminating with a firm wide green activity. This years corporate activity is working with the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment to take the Green Challenge nationwide.

SLATERPAULLs Green Challenge highlights the firms longstanding commitment to sustainable design and environmental responsiveness, nearly 100 percent of SLATERPAULLs technical staff is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited, the firm designed the first LEED Gold certified private high school in the state, uses a hybrid vehicle for business travel, hosted a large tree planting event in honor of its 35 year anniversary and recently added a full time sustainable design consultant.

The Green Challenge has been an exciting opportunity to strengthen and promote our firms core values, says Adele Willson, AIA, LEED AP, principal, SLATERPAULL Architects. Our philosophy is centered around designing for a sustainable future and the Green Challenge has helped further amplify this message in the community, our office and our personal lives.

Employee activities throughout the five week challenge include paying bills online, biking or taking public transportation to and from work, installing low flow fixtures, buying locally grown produce and recycling all paper, glass, aluminum and plastic items. The goal is to change old habits or form new ones that positively impact the environment and continue after the challenge is completed.

For more information, visit

School district identifies best practices for enhancing indoor air quality in schools while reducing costs

March 9th, 2009

Pasco County Schools Testing Finds Low-Moisture, Dry-Extraction Floor Maintenance Systems Superior Based on Rigorous Performance Standards

School district identifies best practices for enhancing indoor air quality in schools while reducing costs

LAND O’ LAKES, FL – [March 9, 2009] – Pasco County School District (PCSD) today released the results of a comprehensive study conducted to determine the best long-term, sustainable floor care maintenance strategy for its district. Full detail of the results will be presented at the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists International Conference, March 10 – 12, 2009.

The study, conducted by the Pasco County Steering Committee (PCSC), tested five cleaning methods at one of its elementary schools. Each method was conducted by a manufacturer representative. Methods tested included high-flow wet extraction, portable wet extraction, low-moisture encapsulation, low-moisture dry extraction (absorption) and truck-mount wet extraction.

At the conclusion of the four-week testing period, Pasco County Schools’ representatives determined the low-moisture, dry-extraction absorption system best accommodated the school system’s maintenance program. The system was selected based on its reduced cost, the immediate availability of carpet, limited time and resources required, its positive contribution to indoor air quality and its ease of training and operation.

“Some schools are implementing vinyl-composition tile (VCT) and alternative hard floor surface coverings because it is believed hard floor surfaces have a better impact on IAQ and cost less to maintain over the life of the floor,” said Edward Flicker, Custodial Services Coordinator at PCSD. “Our study found that by using the HOST Dry Carpet Cleaning System, we were able to retain the carpet and maintain an optimal learning environment for students without compromising appearance, cost—or IAQ.”

Using low-moisture, dry-extraction absorption maintenance methods, the PCSC was able to restore its 10-year-old, vinyl-backed, nylon-faced carpet to like-new appearance levels, eliminating replacement costs and enabling the school to retain its carpet rather than replace it with alternative floor coverings such as VCT.

Considering that initial purchase costs of carpet with installation are typically higher than VCT, the PCSC still found that the savings from the system were a better value. Overall costs of the low-moisture, dry-extraction maintenance strategy resulted in the following savings:

In a new school construction setting, it would take 4.3 years to recover the cost difference from savings on carpet maintenance compared to VCT maintenance. It would take 9.2 years to recover the total lifecycle cost of carpet with maintenance savings alone compared to VCT.
In a school renovation setting, it would take an estimated 5.28 years to recover the cost difference from savings on carpet maintenance compared to VCT maintenance. It would take 11.7 years to recover the total lifecycle cost of carpet with maintenance savings alone compared to VCT.

“Carpet is the primary floor covering in 45 schools throughout our school system,” added Flicker. “Inadequate maintenance practices resulted in compromises to the appearance of the carpet, downtime, training and budget. With the results from this study, we have been able to find the best floor surface covering and maintenance program to fit our needs.”

About Pasco County Schools

Pasco Country School District is based in Land o’ Lakes, Florida. For more information, go to

About Racine Industries Inc.

Founded in 1935 as the Rench Manufacturing Company, Racine Industries Inc. is known for its innovative dry extraction carpet cleaning system which is used in commercial, institutional and residential carpet cleaning worldwide. Racine Industries is headquartered in Racine, Wis. For more information, go to


Around the World in 80 Schools

February 18th, 2009


On Feb 29th 2008 Charline Evans, a teacher from Wales, sets off on a quest to visit and connect 80 schools around the world. Her journey starts in Wales with the first school visit to Coed-y-Lan Primary school in Pontypridd.

Her route takes her across the 7 continents and through over 30 countries to visit a further 78 schools before returning to Wales for the 80th school, Maes-yr-Haul Primary in Bridgend, South Wales.

Each school visited will be producing a film representing their country and culture. All participating schools will be involved in the tracking and submission of environmental data to help create a worldwide picture of sustainable development and global citizenship through schools and education.

Charline’s travels will also be represented through the virtual character “Cyber Charline” with primary and secondary school pupils being able to create their own animated representations of her journey through the Kahootz application.

This amazing project combines the real and virtual worlds and demonstrates how the world can truly join hands through children and young people to create a better future whilst helping to protect our planet along the way.

Check out Charline’s blog:

Contest to Improve the Design of Classrooms Around the World

February 18th, 2009


Worldwide, 776 million people are illiterate. To address this crisis by providing access to a quality education for all children, there is an urgent need to upgrade the crumbling infrastructure of tens of millions of existing classrooms, and build ten million new classrooms. Meeting this challenge represents the largest building project the world has ever undertaken. In response, Orient Global, Architecture for Humanity and a consortium of partners are launching the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom, the first large-scale initiative to improve the design of classrooms around the world.

Read more…

School Architecture: Doing the Wrong Thing Right

February 18th, 2009


Hear keynote speech from noted author Russell Ackoff, Ph.D. at the National Summit on School Design

We need to teach our kids skills, not subjects! Phorecast Podcast with Randall Fielding

January 14th, 2009

Cozy up with Randy Fielding for this 24 minute interview with Phorecast’s Christina Jeurling about innovative school design.

Phorecast Podcast

randy podcast

Review of First National Green Charter Schools Conference

November 22nd, 2008

The First National Green Charter Schools Conference took place November 7 to 9 in Madison, Wisconsin. An opening address confirmed that 135 green charter schools have been identified alone in the U.S., and another hundred or two have yet to be identified. As the trend continues, we must be aware of what this will mean for education. Currently most curriculum systems have to be countable and testable. Since there is no one textbook or even library of textbooks that can teach students everything they need to know in the world, we instead need to move towards assessing a students level of success by how we teach children to aspire to ten qualities Professor Bill Cronon identified in his keynote speech, Only Connect. He argues these ten qualities mold a liberally educated person, though such a person does not even exist. For becoming a liberally educated person is not attainable, rather it is a way of life. To attain means to end the learning process.

The qualities that make a liberally educated person:
1. They listen and hear.
2. They read and understand.
3. They can talk with anyone.
4. They can write clearly, persuasively and movingly.
5. They can solve a wide variety of puzzles and problems.
6. They respect vigor.
7. They practice respect, humility, tolerance and self criticism.
8. They understand how to get things done in the world.
9. They nurture and empower the people around them.
10. They follow the words Only Connect to make sense of the world.

Professor Cronon concludes that this list can be embraced best, perhaps, by green charter schools aiming to leave the world a better place. To read the full article by Professor Cronon:

Ghana Green Schools

November 22nd, 2008

Though individual classroom energy usage is usually limited to a single light bulb and a fan, schools in Accra, Ghana are enthusiastically embracing the Alliance’s Green Schools program. Working with the Green Schools program and the Ministry of Education, the Energy Foundation of Ghana identified 18 teachers from five schools who formed the Pilot for the Green Schools/Energy and Environmental Clubs (EECO) program.
Beginning in September, five private primary schools in Accra started offering an energy/environment after-school club using Green School’s hands-on activities to teach children about the role of energy in their lives and the connection between energy and the environment. Because the schools themselves use so little energy, the focus will be on teaching students ways to reduce energy usage at home. The Alliance-sponsored Energy Foundation will be implementing the program and working to expand it to more schools.
The pilot program will form the basis for a national roll out of the program at a later date. It is envisaged that material on energy conservation techniques will be included in primary and middle school curriculum to ensure that primary and middle school students nationwide gain access to energy efficiency knowledge and information. The Alliance can offer extensive experience in developing these materials.

Case Study Bonanza

November 4th, 2008

Anyone need something to get excited about? DesignShare case studies, one of our most popular features, are multiplying at the speed of light! Beginning December 1, 2008 we’ll be featuring two case studies per month. That means more innovative ideas, more images, more firm profiles and more buzz over school facility design than ever before.

Interested in having your firm’s latest and greatest school building profiled? You can email me at I aim to pull together information on schools in places that have never been featured before, as well as areas that continue to make headway in creative design. Pushing the envelope is what we do best, and we’re happy to support firms’ efforts to do the same. Stay tuned and look for the next two case studies in the December 2008 e-newsletter!


2008 DesignShare Awards Announced

September 8th, 2008

Schools all over the world are being reinvented to meet the needs of an ever-changing global economy. The world is shrinking; knowledge is no longer a commodity restricted to the privileged. Developing nations are accessing the information superhighway and have passed some of the super powers. Corporations are consolidating globally and outsourcing to locations with large skilled labor forces.

The goal of the DesignShare Awards is to find those learning environments that meet at the crossroads of innovative design and pioneering educational programs. Three Patterns of Innovation stick out this year: School as the Real-World, Community Involved in the Design Process, and Sustainable Design.

The 2008 winning projects include:
2 Honor Awards
8 Merit Awards
4 Citation Awards
14 Recognized Value Awards

Go to the homepage to see the award winners, commentary and review team for 2008.

Tiffany Green
Director of Communications


July 29th, 2008

Virginia Educational Facility Planners - 2009 Annual Conference
March 2-3, 2009
Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, Roanoke, Virginia

Virginia’s chapter of the Council of Educational Facility Planners, International (VEFP) is accepting proposals for its annual conference to be held March 2-3, 2009 in Roanoke, Virginia. The conference attracts a broad range of professionals dedicated to the design, construction, operation and funding of educational facilities including architects, engineers, builders, directors of facilities, directors of planning, superintendents, school board members and members of the community at large. Each year conference planners attempt to balance forward-thinking ideas and practical applications with an emphasis on tools and technology that will advance the dialogue. Past presenters include Ian Jukes, Ed Mazria, Stephen Kellert, and Mark Milliron.

Interested presenters should submit proposals based on one of the following suggested topics: policies/procedures, planning, project management/delivery, research, safety/security, school size, sustainable schools, teaching/learning styles, technology or another related focus.

Proposals should be submitted to the CEFPI’s on-line speakers’ database ( by Friday, September 12, 2008. First-time users will be asked to register (free of charge). When prompted, please indicate that your presentation is available for “Chapter Workshops/Meetings.” You will also be prompted to include the following information with your proposal:

  • Presentation Title
  • Program Issue
  • Presentation Abstract (approximately 400 words)
  • Names of Presenters - include a brief bio for each
  • Presentation Education Objectives
  • Need for Opposing View Presenter
  • Special Presentation Needs or Room Layout Preferences

All speakers must register for the conference and pay the regular conference fee. All speakers must provide a digital copy of their presentation seven days prior to the conference.

Questions? Please contact Bill Bradley ( or Tina Carr (

The mission of Virginia’s Chapter of the Council of Educational Facility Planners, International is to promote creative and responsible planning of school facilities, to foster professional development, and to exchange best practice knowledge of Virginia school facilities in order to provide the best possible learning environment for all students.

Classroom Design for Living and Learning with Autism

July 17th, 2008

Classroom Design for Living and Learning with Autism
by Clare L. Vogel, as published in the May/June 2008 issue of Autism Asperger’s Digest

Imagine taking an exam with someone turning the overhead lights on and off rapidly, construction workers drilling cement just outside the window, and acrobats tossing bowling pins around you in dizzying circles. Forget about the exam, right? A silent room with no distractions would seem like just the ticket. That is, until your own thoughts begin swimming around in your head, that gentle humming light bulb sounds like an army of howler monkeys, your skin suddenly itches, and the temperature seems hot. Uh – what exam?
Everyone experiences an uncomfortable classroom at some time or another. Thinking back to grade school, you can probably still remember a particular teacher’s noxious perfume, or the headache-inducing glare of shiny waxed floors on the first day back to school. These sensory assaults may be magnified beyond normal comprehension for someone living and learning with autism. While proactive schools nationwide are revamping their special education curricula to support increasing numbers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), one area not being as successfully revamped is the facility design to house these new programs.
If you talk to an architect or contractor you will discover they know little about this distinctive population and its needs. Contractors follow codes such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, but do not realize these codes only skim the surface of needs for many students. With limited design standards, is it even possible to build a classroom environment that fits the needs of such a diverse population as children with autism? A growing group of professionals say yes.
To follow are eight design standards and solutions gathered from interviews with people most directly affected by autism - parents, teachers, and therapists, as well as college students and adults with autism. While they are primarily intended for educational facilities, these strategies can be applied to bedrooms, family rooms and play spaces. By no means are these performance standards intended to limit a designer’s creativity; on the contrary, they open doors to more creative solutions than ever before.

1. Flexible & Adaptable
Flexibility, which can also be thought of as adjustability or adaptability, is the first and most widely agreed upon standard. It seems simple enough. However, defining flexibility in terms of design is more complex than one might imagine, especially since it means different things for different users. In the case of designs for children with autism, flexibility will not mean constant change, but rather being able to transform an environment on a moment’s notice.
Furnishings, spatial arrangements and lighting solutions are good places to start since they can contribute to a design that aids in adapting programs to changes in children’s needs. Students should have the option to rearrange and subdivide spaces. When offered flexible furnishings and open-ended materials, children engage in a range of activities that foster their development and learning, become more competent in their physical abilities, and develop self-confidence and independence (Curtis & Cramer, 2003). Rolling shelving units and furniture pieces that are easy to move and can serve multiple purposes are helpful. Look for shelving units that can act as storage spaces, blackboards, and screen partitions. Teachers and students can both benefit from the flexibility and spatial variety that portable screens or dividers offer, instantly creating smaller spaces within larger ones for group or individual work. Try risers or movable platforms that also allow children to create new arrangements.

2. Non-Threatening
For a physical space to be non-threatening the layout should feel welcoming and foster encounters, communication, and relationships. Settings should provide restful, restorative places and offer a sense of security.
Provide high perching spots (child balconies) and low, enclosed spaces (child caves) above and at floor level, shallow enough so a teacher can monitor children. Consider providing larger spaces for older children so groups can gather. However, those spaces should be flexible and temporarily divisible in case large-group work simply becomes overwhelming (Moore, G. et al, 1979). Use elements that are soft and can provide sensory input, such as beanbag chairs, stuffed couches, carpeting, swings, clay, and water. For children who tend to orbit as a way of maintaining control of their bodies, it is wise to avoid large open spaces, which can easily turn into dead space.

3. Non-Distracting
A non-distracting room will be free of clutter, relatively odor-free, and visually and aurally restorative. In other words, the room will decrease sensory overload. The classroom arrangement should contribute to the child’s grasp of order and space. A clean and distinct environment helps the child with autism focus his attention on learning instead of irrelevant stimuli. A woman with Asperger’s Syndrome commented, “Bodies can be drowned out by so much stuff.”
Eliminate nonessential visual materials such as posters and disorderly signage, and block out temporary distractions with screens and window shades. Inadequate storage space, a major gripe from most teachers, also makes a room look chaotic and cluttered. Develop storage space outside and inside that doubles as some other architectural feature or furniture element (Curtis & Carter, 2003). To avoid the flickering and humming from fluorescent lights, try reducing the intensity of lights by switching to fewer bulbs, natural light, and homier lamps for task lighting. Finally, block out mechanical noises from old heaters or fans with sound-absorbing carpeting, fabrics, and furnishings. One man with autism who has strong sensitivities to fluorescents and loud noises admitted his needs vary from day to day. “It boils down to how much I can tolerate on any given day.”

4. Predictable
Everyone prefers a building that is easy to navigate. Predictability is key, particularly for populations who need consistency and visual cueing. Because children with ASD tend to be visual learners, a frequent solution is pinning up bright schedules, picture boards and labels around the classroom. Teachers unintentionally run the risk of reversing their efforts to make a room less distracting. Instead, they should consider what makes classrooms truly imageable (Lynch, 1964) and legible (Weisman, 1981).
When urban planners decide how to arrange a city, various elements are thought to increase both recognition and legibility. These elements also apply to micro-environments like schools. Create evident paths (colored tape or painted footprints), activity pockets (pods of work spaces with various tasks), neighborhood-like districts (named hallways or color-coded zones), bold and memorable edges (murals, half walls or fences) and landmarks (a sculpture, indoor garden or aquarium). Use signs, numbering systems and clear views to build a sense of predictability. Provide users with environmental information through smell, sight, sound and touch, while being cognizant of strong distastes for certain things. Individuals with autism often have trouble multi-tasking. If they are listening intently to something, they might not be able to see, as if only one sense is turned on at once (Grandin, 2007). By offering multiple sensory cues, designers can come closer to insuring all users understand their design.

5. Controllable
Predictability is one step towards controllability (Sherrod & Cohen, 1978). When a child can understand his or her environment, emotional security rises and the child feels an increased sense of control.
Because children on the autism spectrum have specific social challenges, personal space may be more of a priority than for a typically developing child. Classrooms supporting these children must allow for varied social interactions and provide opportunities for choice-making. All people feel more comfortable and in control when they have a transition zone between private and public spaces. Just as a porch separates the house from the street, a transition space in the form of an alcove or differentiated hallway separates the classroom from the main corridor, providing important environment information from a safe, defensive position. Many adults with ASD reported that having a tight, contained space nearby (such as a closet, or even two vertical mattresses to wedge one’s body between) gave them a sense of control and release.

6. Sensory-Motor Attuned
Children tend to have puzzling sensory integration needs and challenges, often ignoring their visual environment. They may need help in directing their attention to sensory information that will allow them to interact more effectively (Ayres, 2005). Sensory-motor needs can fluctuate with age, from person to person, and from day to day in the same child, making it important to plan and fine-tune an environment that is most suitable.
Sensory gyms are wonderful for learning and playing, but schools must not stop here. Every environment a child enters at school should provide sensory opportunities for exploration. This also provides sensory experiences for neurotypical children, which as an autism consultant who also has Asperger’s stresses, is “extremely important for classroom inclusion.” An elementary school teacher in Madison, Wisconsin, described a school where she worked previously that did not have a sensory room. “You had to go outside to do swinging or to run. There’s not always that luxury (to go outside)…we used a wheelchair ramp that was in the school and we would move up and down the wheelchair ramp doing relay races. It’s much better to have a space designed for that because kids get more used to it.” A special education teacher in Hustisford, Wisconsin, built a calm room “where kids knew they could have their meltdowns.” Numerous sensory experiences exist that can be created and tailored with a variety of textures and flooring materials, sensory tables filled with interesting objects, scratchy surfaces or music.

7. Safe
For children with autism, creating a safe environment can be a challenge. Designers and teachers need to pay attention to both physical hazards (wiring, open stairways, unscreened windows, loose flooring, toxic paints, etc.) and emotional safety and security. Children with ASD are often prone to seizures and behaviors like tantrums or “stimming,” where injury to self and others can occur.
A Madison-based speech language pathologist thinks of safety “not in the sense of being sterile, but in being challenging but safe, eliminating, or at least reducing, the need for a lot of rules.” Transparency in windows and doorways is another method of easing transitions and making a child feel safe. For youngsters, this provides a place to wave goodbye to parents; for older students, transparency provides a sense of protection when they know others can see them. Soft surfaces can reduce the potential for injury; though beware of chemicals, odors and off-gassing in surfaces such as foam or carpeting. Lastly, small, enclosed spaces tend to enhance feelings of closeness, intimacy, and safety. An occupational therapist in Madison says “Some kids start off a lot better in smaller spaces like a tent, with as little in the space as possible, just a few choice items.” Individual and small-group workstations should provide a certain amount of privacy.

8. Non-Institutional
Feeling truly at home in their surroundings will allow children to relax and retain more information. Classrooms designed with catalog furniture are often sterile or the opposite - overstimulating. Such environments can also remind students all too much of the clinical settings at doctors’ offices.
Adding softer lighting and home furnishings, even for storage cabinets and other functional equipment, can offset this feeling. Colors suited for homes (warmer hues, skin tones and pastels), soft furnishings, interesting textures, thoughtfully placed works of art, and plants and objects from the natural world can turn a conventional classroom into a cozy, community gathering place. If a time-out center is needed, think of alternative environments such as a small tent or fort rather than a sterile office setting. Essentially, a non-institutional school embraces all seven of the other design performance standards previously listed.

There is no perfect design treatment for autism, just as there is no perfect set of dietary restrictions, medications or therapies. However, professional designers, school administrators, classroom teachers and parents can learn much from user experts in identifying attributes of a supportive, “least restrictive” environment. It is indeed both practical and hopeful to believe that good design for students with special needs is good design for all.

Ayres, A.J. (2005). (reprint) Sensory integration and the child: Understanding hidden sensory challenges. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.
Curtis, D., Carter, M. (2003). Designs for living and learning: Transforming early childhood environments. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
Grandin, T. (2007). Lecture PowerPoint Handouts, Milwaukee, WI.
Lynch, K. (1960). The image of the city. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press.
Merritt, E., Beaudin, J., Cassidy, C., Myler, P. (2005). Magnet and specialized schools of the future: A focus on change. Chapter 6. Lanham, Maryland: Fletcher-Thompson, Inc. and Scarecrow Education.
Moore, Cohen, Oertel, van Ryzin. (1979). Designing environments for handicapped children. (pp. 15-51). NY: Publishing Center for Cultural Resources.
Moore, G., Lane, C., Hill, A., Cohen, U., McGinty, T. (1979). Recommendations for child care centers. Children’s Environment Project, Center for Architecture and Urban Planning Research. University of WI – Milwaukee.
Sherrod & Cohen. (1978). When density matters: Environmental control as a determinant of crowding effects in laboratory and residential settings. Population & Environment. (pp. 189-202) Vol. 1, Number 3/September 1978.
Weisman, G. (1981). Evaluating architectural legibility – way finding in the built environment. Environment and Behavior.

AIA Schools in a Flat World Conference

June 19th, 2008

AIA Schools in a Flat World Conference
September 10-13, 2008

Helsinki, Finland

Globalization now affects every industry, as journalist Thomas L. Friedman illustrated in the bestseller, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century.

We invite you to attend “Schools in a Flat World,” a conference that will explore educational design solutions ranging from a small Arctic high school to a 100,000-student university in India. This gathering will attract architects, administrators, and school building professionals from six continents, who will share their unique challenges and design solutions.

Helsinki and its architectural treasures will form a memorable backdrop for meeting, learning from, and networking with education-facility architects from Europe, North America, Asia, Australia, and Africa. Best of all, “Schools in a Flat World” will deliver a program packed with sights, sessions, and stories that you will find nowhere else. Guided tours will visit Helsinki schools that show how design and construction can improve and enhance the learning environment.

Visit for more information or to register.

Problem and Project Based Learning Resources

June 5th, 2008


“The magic of our schools is that they kill curiosity and creativity. . . I’ve met lots of smart six year olds, but not one interesting sixteen year old.”

[Gore Vidal, in an interview on British Television shown on 18th May 2008]

The arguments for delivering 21st century skills to our students have been well made and are generally accepted by educators and parents alike. We are all determined - we have been since 1983 with the publication of A Nation at Risk - to ensure that things will change. The difficulties arise when we make an attempt to change what is actually going on in most of our classrooms on a day-to-day basis.

We know that the students who sit in our classrooms are markedly different from us, their parents. We know from daily experience that they learn differently, that we are teaching too slowly and linearly for this generation of tech savvy, multiple processors. We have research that tells us that collaborative learning is one of the answers for this generation. We increasingly use PBL in higher education, in medical, technology and business schools. The benefits of the approach are demonstrable. The interconnected global world we now inhabit requires us to learn how to work effectively in teams as well as on our own. The decisions we make, with the information we have access to, are now frequently too complex for one person to make on his or her own. We know that existing at the forefront of the World and being successful in the future that we are creating is about connectivity, innovation and speed.

We came to problem-based learning through a somewhat different door: discovering that creativity and innovation had all but disappeared from our children by the time they reached the third grade.

The shift from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ that takes place at this very young age exerts a pressure to look for the one RIGHT answer and forces children to stifle their innate curiosity and desire for exploration. It also begins the process of competitive independent work when what we increasingly know we need as a society is collaborative, interdependent learning that develops thinking, creativity and possibility. Our children are VERY smart! They understand the system and the stakes! They play the game we have invented for them!

As the authors of a successful pilot project focusing on introducing a problem-based curriculum into elementary schools, we have become very excited by the responses to and research results from our approach. We believe PBL should be first introduced at the elementary school level. Doing this will provide a model for learning and working which will enable students to learn at a faster, multi-sensory pace, begin the process of building all the 21st Century skills we are looking for in our future workforce and provide them relevant, stimulating environments that motivate them to become genuine lifelong learners.

We invite you to watch the video and join the discussion.

Isla Reddin and Sarah Frossell are partners in KiCubed.
Please contact the writers at


Minnesota New Country School - Student developed video with everything you need to know about Project Based Learning.
Minnesota New Country was the first Charter School in the United States.

Woorana Park Primary School, Australia - This video shows how the school was renovated to allow for more PBL. It also focuses on how the staff works together on Team Teaching.

PBL Online Management System…
Project Foundry is a proven online project based learning management system built by practitioners who understood the value of the pedagogy and inherent need for a streamlined tool that engages students and ensures meaningful academic results.

DesignShare in the News

April 29th, 2008

2007 DesignShare Winners featured in Edutopia Magazine
Forward Thinking: 2007 DesignShare Awards Honor the Best in School Design
Three exemplary schools reveal the shape of things to come

2002 Awards Winner recognized by Education Innovator; a US Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement monthly newsletter

From Chris Hazleton @ Harbor City to Randy Fielding:
Our theater project was featured in Today’s issue of the Education Innovator; a US Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement monthly newsletter that communicates innovative practices in education. They showcased 2 projects from the Minnesota Grant which is flattering to both the people behind the projects and the uniqueness of the Minnesota grant and it’s administrators. So today schools and districts across the country are reading about our little school and this great theater project – pretty cool if you stop to think about it.

Thanks for all of your hard work and support.


The link:

Architectural Designer Job Posting

April 18th, 2008

Internationally acclaimed consulting firm with a focus on creative learning environments seeks an equally creative architectural designer to join their team. Must have strong free-hand drawing skills, communication skills, and prior professional experience. Salary will be commensurate with experience. The ideal candidate will be both comfortable working independently and in multi-disciplinary teams, have a strong interest or background in learning environments, and should enjoy traveling. CAD and Adobe Creative Suite skills are a plus. When applying please provide samples of design work, including free hand drawings. Send resume and portfolio to

Prakash Nair’s Key Biscayne Presentation

April 12th, 2008

Watch Prakash Nair’s YouTube videos of his Keynote Presentation to Key Biscayne’s community stakeholders as they plan the first new Municipal Charter High School within this Island Paradise near Miami Beach.

Presentation is titled: Best Practices in Education and Facilities Design.

Part One: Part One
Part Two: Part Two
Part Three: Part Three
Part Four: Part Four
Part Five: Part Five
Part Six: Part Six

Summer Art and Architecture at Penn (PennDesign)

February 6th, 2008

Summer Art and Architecture at Penn (PennDesign): The Penn Summer Art & Architecture Studios offer opportunities for students who will be high school juniors or seniors in the fall of 2008. This is a rigorous, non-credit program consisting of intensive study and development of a portfolio of work in either architecture or fine art with concentrations in animation, drawing, filmmaking and photography. The program runs July 6 - August 2 with classes from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Cost is $3,045 for commuters and $5,105 for residents. Contact the Penn Summer High School Programs, (215) 746-6901, email or visit

Mango Lassi and Okonomiyaki for lunch!

February 5th, 2008

Serving up the new menu at Collingwood College
Shanaka Fernando (centre) helps staff at his new venture at Collingwood College. It’s an education process on both sides of the counter, he says. (Photo and caption source:

I found this article, from today’s Age, very exciting, since it combines two of the things I’m passionate about: great meals and humane schools.

The restaurant, Lentil as Anything (a play on the name of Australian band Mental as Anything), has three unique branches around Melbourne. One is in an old convent on the banks of the Yarra river, and that’s where I gathered my friends in 2006 for my birthday party. I also took Randy and Prakash to the branch in St Kilda when they were working here in Melbourne. I love this place!

So it’s great to see that they are setting up shop at Collingwood College, a K-12 school that was also the pioneering location for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Project.

Both of these initiatives provide authentic support to the universally lauded principles of student wellbeing, environmental sustainability, authentic learning and community connections. Impressive!

(Annalise Gehling)

North Carolina Design Camp!

February 5th, 2008

Dear Community Leader,

Attached is information about the annual summer design camps held at NC State College of Design. The purpose of these camps is to expose high school students to academic and professional pursuits in architecture, graphic design, landscape architecture, art + design and industrial design.
Camp projects developed by faculty of the College of Design challenge students to explore their creativity and critical-thinking skills while pushing them to try a range of techniques and media. In addition to studio projects, students will attend other supporting activities and events including lectures, films, and field trips. Design Camp is also a wonderful opportunity to meet students from all around the country who share similar interests.

Since its inception over 20 years ago, Design Camp has exposed more than 1,500 high school students to the exciting world of design. In 2007, Design Camp became an outreach program of CAM (Contemporary Art Museum). CAM joined the College of Design in February 2006, becoming the lead component in the college¹s Art + Design in the Community Initiative.

We need your help to reach students who would benefit from participating in this program. Please share this information with anyone who may be interested in participating. Please note that we can offer financial assistance to offset the cost of tuition based on financial need. I have included some materials that you may duplicate as needed.

Thank you for your assistance in promoting this opportunity. Registration for our 2008 camps will begin on February 18th. For more information please visit our website at .

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions about the camps.

Nicole Welch
+ + + +
Nicole Welch
Curator of Education
(CAM) Contemporary Art Museum
NC State College of Design
Campus Box 7701
Raleigh, NC 27695
t: 919.513.0946
f: 919.515.7330

CEFPI recently concluded their 84th Annual International Conference in Toronto, Canada

October 23rd, 2007

For more than 80 years, The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) has been engaged in the vital work of improving the places where children learn. CEFPI embraces all stakeholders who are committed to building healthy, safe, high performing school facilities and stronger communities. Healthy, high performing, safe and sustainable school building enhance student performance and support culture and community vitality.

The conference included a Trade Show, Exhibition of School Planning and Architecture, School Site Tours, Awards Luncheon, Impact on Learning Awards, Annual Banquet, A golf tournament for the CEFPI Foundation and a Final Celebration at the Academy of Spherical Arts.

Randy Fielding was awarded the 2007 International Planner of the Year.

Award acceptance and thanks by Randy Fielding, October 9, 2007:

“Thank you all for serving as my mentors.

I love CEFPI, because you have shared hundreds of great ideas with me and allowed me to share them with others in 23 countries around the world.

I’m going to continue to need your group genius with the projects ahead.

Ten days ago I spent the week in Saskatchewan, in a school district that has been described by the Canadian press as the worst neighborhood in Canada. In a primarily First Nations community, the graduation rate is under 5%. The neighborhood is characterized by boarded up houses, empty needles, and child prostitutes.

We began a community engagement process with student workshops, sharing different kinds of music, and learning about student’s hopes and fears. After three days of workshops with kids, health care providers, the school board, police department, community elders, and social services, a student named Jesse said to me: will you come back to us?

It was a poignant moment. We realized that Jesse was speaking for a whole community of children that had been abandoned.

The next day, I received an urgent communication from one of the school leaders: “We have to bring you back! We’ve built up their hopes, and it’s time to deliver.”

I promise you that I will be back, and that I will continue to leverage all of your great ideas at CEFPI to transform Jesse’s neighborhood into a center for life long learning, where each student can realize their own dreams.”

V/S American Days - Part I: History of the Chair

October 5th, 2007

Posted by Jen (October 4, 2007)

dscn5164 An interesting idea of how to create “movement” in the classroom! These photos were taken at V/S Headquarters in Germany in a beautiful countryside town of Tauberbischofsheim (Try saying that one fast three times! Took me three days just to figure out how to say it!) where Tiffany and myself were invited - along with some 100 US architects, designers, and dealers - to tour their manufacturing plant and listen to interesting lectures from visiting speakers.It was an invigorating experience! dscn5320 From winery tours to an enthusiastic lecture by Dr. Dieter Breithecker to meeting other like-minded individuals whose goal is to improve the physical world of schools to suit the children of tomorrow. One of the more interesting events of the visit was a tour of their on-site museum which features an exhibition titled, “The Classroom – School Furniture in the 20th Century.” Lucky for us, it had just been completed before our arrival. The exhibit took you through the ages of how furniture and school design has evolved. It is an “examination of school furniture and its direct impact on the wellbeing of the child. The museum presents an international cross-section of the history and development of school furniture from the beginning of the 20th century up to the present day. Educational, ergonomic and above all historic-cultural aspects are also included in the exhibition. Pioneering school buildings of the past century are presented in parallel.” ( Below is a “snapshot” of school chairs that have been used throughout the years - a lot of them should be recognizable.


It was amazing to learn that even in the early 1900s, they were even thinking about ergonomics and height adjustment for school furniture.



The museum had a great collection of sketches, models, and photographs to tell the story of not just school furniture design - but also of school design - and how each influenced the other. Going through the museum, I couldn’t think of how the past also influences the future - and it is important to know where we have come from in order to move forward in to make educated decisions and choices. It is not surprising that a company like V/S would realize the influence of designers and researchers on the evolution of school furniture design - with such great products as the PantoSwing chair.

A few days later, Dr. Briethecker spoke to use presenting a lecture titled “School Dynamics.” If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend it. “Dr. D,” a Sports and Physical Scientist, is the manager of the ‘Active School Movement’ in Germany and is Europe’s expert on the relationship between school furniture ergonomics and the physical development of school children. He is a promoter of keeping children active while learning - and has the research to back it up.

panto swing

One of his main arguments was that after conducting a passive exercise, like doing math problems, there should be a physical learning exercise, like counting to 50 while jumping up and down (for example). In addition, chairs should allow for flexibility and movement that is natural to children’s bodies. The PantoSwing chair, especially the one on casters, really supports the need for children (and adults) to move while carrying out “sitting” tasks. In his study “The Educational Workplace: What the ‘classroom of the future’ will look like,” he concludes the following: “Sitting in a static/passive educational environment impedes a student’s postural development in their adolescent development years. ” In addition, the test group that received furniture and teaching methods that allowed for movement and “motile physical behavior” showed “considered increases” in concentration performance. For more information about his work, please view this article titled “Beware the Sitting Trap.”
The research on how movement stimulates and supports brain function seems so obvious but still some believe that kids need to sit still in order to listen and to behave. But as research defines design, and design defines research, the ergonomic-movement-flexible chair continue to evolve……who knows what the future will hold?????


Organic School Garden Awards

September 20th, 2007

The Rodale Institute, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, was founded in the late 1930s by J.I. Rodale. When he moved to Pennsylvania in the ’30s, he learned about organic food growing methods. It became clear to him that in order to preserve and improve our health we must restore and protect the natural health of the soil - in other words - “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People®.” Rodale created this institute to spread his message and to educate others. Since then the organization has grown and continues to provide opportunities and solutions to “regenerate” environmental and human health worldwide.

The Institute also has a focus on kids and schools. Click here to check out the Regen Kids website. Its full of great ideas, fun projects, recipes, nutrition and exercise tips. Every year they have an Organic School Garden Awards. The deadline to submit your schools garden is October 31, 2007. So if you have a project or know of a project that should be submitted, go to the website and get the details. Below are some pictures posted on the website of past winners.

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1st Place Organic Gold Award (2004)
Wilson Elementary School
Wilson, WY

Gardening is a great way to get kids involved in learning about nutrition and provides them with a solid knowledge base of where food comes from, how long it takes to grow it, how much work goes into tending to a garden. It gives them a sense of pride in their work - to actually grow a carrot and then eat it!! Something so simple, but gets lost in this world of McDonald’s french fries and Burger King Whoppers. Organic gardening is a great approach - since it’s more than just about growing some veggies - but about the quality of the soil and teaches the children to respect the environment.

Jennifer Lamar, Contributing Designer

Greetings! I’m thinking about time and space management…

September 13th, 2007

G’day to the DS community! I’m Annalise and here’s my first post. (You can find out more about me on the FNI website under ‘Resumes’ if you’re interested in my background in school design).

Recently, Jeff and I have been discussing the issue of scheduling, or timetabling, in new-paradigm schools.

You have, or are planning to have, a great new school, or a great small learning community. There is space for all sorts of different learning modalities, and of course it’s humane and comfortable. But — how do you work out who goes where at what time? It’s so easy to work out in an old-paradigm school with those standard units of measurement: classrooms and classes. New-paradigm schools are different though. The unit of measurement is not a class — it’s a human. And with all sorts of different sized spaces, that have different qualities, we need to think differently about where the people in it are going to spend their time, and what they’re going to do there.

In a school like Minnesota New Country School, the timetable is very simple. All students spend all day working on individual or group projects, and having occasional meetings with advisers. Occasionally there’s a ‘town meeting’, and at the end of the day, time set aside for writing up. Basically, most students spend most of the day working at their desk, like in an office. I think even lunch time is a fairly casual affair with flexible start/finish times.

At the other end of the spectrum is a traditional high school timetable, in which during every minute of the day the student falls under the active supervision and ‘control’ of a teacher. The teachers change and the rooms change but that’s it. The time period is uniform and the space is uniform for most subjects.

We’re working on a range of timetabling scenarios that fit along this spectrum, and mapping them onto some of our designs. The scenarios are less prescriptive than a traditional HS timetable, but they should ease the concerns of teachers thinking that working with students in 21st century learning environments will be like herding cats in a forest!

Ergo for Kiddos

September 10th, 2007

A New Zealand based furniture company - Furnware - developed “one-size-does-not-fit-all” ergonomic seating - Bodyfurn. Their philosophy is that students should be afforded the same ergonomic benefits that adults have in the office workplace while at the same time fulfilling to two most important factors that school facility management request: Cost and Durability.

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The chairs have been around for a few years now. In 2005, the company was awarded the Lexus Design in Business Awards
Recognition of their achievement was mainly due to the company’s forward-thinking philosophies and the behind-the-scenes research.

The company measured 20,000 children across New Zealand before developing the Bodyfurn chair. They discovered that a one-size-fits-all solution would not support the broad range of ethnicities, sizes, and heights of the children and “in fact, they would need six sizes to meet the needs of all students, and that meant developing a measurement system that client schools could use to match students appropriately with desks and chairs” (”Finding the right fit,” Pro Design, Aug/Sept 2005).

Don’t rock back in your chair! Sit still! Pay attention! We all remember these phrases from our childhood and may have be guilty of repeating these orders to a squirmy child recently. Bodyfurn recognized the need of children needing to move - fidget and squirm. Let’s face it! Children have a lot of energy and it’s difficult for most to sit still for more than 5 minutes. It’s hard for me to sit still for 5 minutes! Bodyfurn’s chair design allows for flexibility - it organically moves with the students while they lean back to listen to a lecture or lean forward to take a test.

Quite impressive is Bodyfurn’s dedication to research. For three years, the company conducted studies, built prototypes, and surveyed users. CEO Hamish Whyte was quoted in ProDesign - “We blew by our first year’s budget in the first three months. This year, we were double our total sales of school furniture, so we’ve probably seen about a 35 to 40 percent increase in turnover.” Bodyfurn’s success is attributed to the having a product that was developed with in-depth research and is truly a user-based design.

Next week: A direct report from the V/S factory in Germany! We’ll see what they’ve been cooking up….

Jennifer Lamar, Contributing Designer

Fabbing Pre-Fab for Schools

September 4th, 2007

The other day I was exploring the world of pre-fab homes…getting lost and distracted I started to search for what new innovative pre-fab designs are out there for schools because we are all too familiar with the regular-old-boring modular building. According to he Modular Building Institute, a trade association in Charlottesville, Virginia “there are about 350,000 portable classrooms, and that number grows by 20 percent annually.” ( I thought for sure that there must be more new and exciting pre-fab designs for schools out there.

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Awhile back, we posted a blog about Project Frog - “high performance environments engineered for learning” - designed by MKThink. The units are customizable while at the same time offering an “energy efficient” environmentally friendly structure that is quick to deploy onto any K-12 or higher-ed campus. The design offers plenty of natural light to penetrate the interior, high ceilings with acoustical tile, and “configurable window walls.” Project Frog is now being set up in some schools across the country — curious how the students and teachers will receive their new learning environments.

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Jennifer Siegal of Office of Mobile Design also has an unique approach to pre-fabbing our schools with her ECO LAB. This mobile unit, which was fabricated out of donated tracker trailer and from “cast-offs” from Hollywood film sets, travels to schools in the LA area with the intention of teaching kids about the importance of protecting our planet and saving our environment.

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Another pre-fab design by Siegal’s office was for The Country School in Valley Village, California. Sustainable components and healthy environments seem to be at the top of the list for this project, as well as the expansion of the learning environment to the outdoors. The plan for the school campus is to construct three steel-frame prefab buildings which will be surrounded by a vegetable garden, a frog pond, butterfly garden, plus an outdoor science lab and an outside theater space. The smaller building houses offices and the library. A 2400 sf building contains three classrooms, the language lab, lockers and toilet rooms. The 1930 sf building houses the science lab and art studio, which is open to the community after hours to serve as a multi-purpose room. The pre-fab structures will be composed of eco-friendly materials such as, “Expanko and bamboo flooring, biocomposite panel cabinetry and homasote wall cladding.”

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Jennifer Lamar, Contributing Designer

What made you want to design schools?

September 3rd, 2007

How did you get involved in designing schools? If it’s your livelihood, I’m sure there is an interesting chain of events much like Tiffany’s story below. For someone like me, who is early into her design career, it may seem odd that I have chosen to “specialize” so early. So, since we are on the topic of telling our stories, I would like to share mine as it is also a way to introduce myself to the DesignShare community…..

For me it was not something that I actively sought out - it just happened, with a little bit of fate thrown in. My first internship happened to be with a mid-size architectural firm whose work mainly focused on educational facilities. I spent most of the summer designing floor patterns and color palettes - and of course, the dreaded job of organizing the materials library. It was my first experience with an architectural firm and I was bright-eyed and eager to soak in as much information as possible. I learned the basics of construction documents, about specifying furniture, and where to look for lockers and science lab tables. Normal intern stuff. But one thing I noticed was that the actual design of the schools were, well, boring. Just basic school design with hallways and lockers and square classrooms. I could not help thinking that more could be done to make these spaces more interesting, more engaging, more comfortable.

The school year started and, by coincidence, one of our projects that fall semester was to design new classrooms and offices for our university’s honors program. During the programming stage, we researched ideal learning environments, interviewed the students and staff, and shared information with one another in the studio. A Learning Environments Symposium was held on our campus with visiting designers and architects and Herman Miller representatives. It was a day-long event where professors and students were invited to share ideas about what makes an ideal learning environment - What are the components? How can furniture, lighting, layout, architectural elements support the goals? I was exposed to a whole new world of educational design where the goal was to create spaces that satisfied students and teachers, enhancing learning with design, backed by research! I was getting intrigued. Then, I remember speaking with an architect after the meeting and relaying my experiences that I had over the summer. And he gave me great advice - “Designers get bored very easily, it is a common problem. But it is our job to continually stay interested and to never stop learning.”

So I kept learning. I worked at other firms, gaining more experience and knowledge in other commercial design arenas, but my interest in educational design never really went away — which one of my professor’s notice (Thank you, Dr. Hasell) and she encouraged me to follow that passion. Which eventually lead me to picking my topic for my thesis research, which combined my interest with learning environments and the use of action research techniques in the process of programming and designing spaces. Through my research I discovered Jeff Lackney and his articles about action research and school design. Through him I discovered Fielding Nair, International and was instantly drawn to their portfolio of work and design philosophies. Searching the FNI website, I saw that they had an office in Tampa, which was where I was living. It seemed too good to be true…or was this fate once again coming into play! I contacted Prakash Nair, we met, then I met Randy Fielding and Tiffany Green…I liked their style and their zeal and intellect…and they must have liked something about me because now I am working as a consultant with FNI, contributing to their creative process to build the best schools as possible. I will also be blogging on DesignShare sharing design ideas, sustainable products, and current trends (I welcome any comments or ideas!); plus, my personal experiences working with FNI. Being involved in the DesignShare network, I hope to meet more like-minded individuals who are committed to creating great schools and willing to share ideas!
And please feel free to share your stories…

Jennifer Lamar, Contributing Designer

How DesignShare changed my world

August 31st, 2007

The Back Story…
When all this transpired, I had been living in Minnesota for about 3 years. I was doing fine professionally but was seeking more adventure and challenge and wanted to work on what I was most passionate about. I started a chapter of a national nonprofit, Black Alliance for Educational Options, which really put me into the thick of educational policy change and community engagement. I was also the Policy Aide to Minneapolis City Council Vice President, Robert Lilligren. I always loved design so when the opportunity came to sit on the design committee for the Midtown Safety Center in Minneapolis (Corner of Chicago and Lake), I jumped at it. They needed someone to pick paint colors. Can you see me jumping out my seat to get that task? I turned that task into my first design project (I worked with the contractor on build out, selected all the furnishings and of course picked the paint colors.) That was November 2005. For a year after I thought about what next? And every time Winter came around, I was like “why do I live in Minnesota?” And that’s no disrespect to my wonderful fiancee who often asks the same question. Previously, I lived in Nashville TN for 9 years.

It was a blistery October day 2006. Sitting at home on the computer, still trying to figure out how to integrate design into my professional life. My passion for education and my already large pile of student loans accumulated through undergrad and grad school at Vanderbilt (sorry VU, I love you but you know you’re expensive) kept me from taking the full leap into a Masters program in Interior Design. I also knew that I learned great study skills throughout my education so I figured I could teach myself just about anything. I thought that if I could merge both loves…design and education, I would be fulfilled and challenged. Was there anyone or anyplace I could go to learn about School Design? Where else to start but a google search….school design. After a couple of misdirected sites about design schools, I found DesignShare and the whole world of school design opened up for me. I spent a couple of weeks reading articles, blog posts and the newsletter. All of this wet my appetite for more. Could I make a career move into school design? I read all the contacts and was struck that DesignShare’s Founder, Mr. Randall Fielding lived in Minneapolis. It felt as though the heavens opened up and I had found the answer to “Why I live in Minnesota?”

What now? I believe that people are people so I crafted an email to Randy and sent it to him hoping he would reply but with no expectation that I would actually hear back from one of the world’s champions of innovative school design. Well guess what? He emailed me back within a few hours. Luckily, he was in town that week and my email made an impression so we met for lunch and toured one of his latest projects, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School (which just so happened to be in the Ward of the Council member I was working for. Coincidence? I think not!). We had a great meeting and soon agreed to move forward and see what projects I could work on in the meantime. They were not ready to bring me on full time and I had some loose ends at the City Council so that worked out fine. By mid April 2007, I came on board full-time and the rest is her-story.

Now, I am the working on DesignShare and I’m an Educational Planner with Fielding Nair International. There are a couple of lessons I learned through this experience that hopefully will resonate throughout the DesignShare Network. What I discovered intuitively actually existed. And I found other people at DesignShare with the same passion to impact the learning process through the design of educational facilities. It always said, “it’s not what you know but who you know that’s will get you places” but in order to positively impact the world of school design both of those statements must be true…who you know and what you know. DesignShare strives to merge these paradigms and offer everyone the benefit of each other’s network and knowledge base with the goal of positively impacting learning through school design. I was able to expand both my knowledge base and network via DesignShare. My goal is to continue to grow this effort and utilize this blog to keep you informed of my journey and to share stories from DesignShare’s network as well as other cool happenings and products in the world of school design. Thanks for reading and stay tuned……

Tiffany Green, Director of Communications

Bubble Wrap Competition

June 28th, 2007

For the second year, the Sealed Air Corporation is sponsoring the Bubble Wrap® Competition for students grades 5-8.

Deadline for entries is 6 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 1, 2007

Demonstrate your creativity and ingenuity by creating an invention that incorporates the use of Bubble Wrap® cushioning.

Grand Prize – $10,000 Savings Bond
2nd Place – $5,000 Savings Bond
3rd Place – $3,000 Savings Bond

Fifteen (15) Semi-Finalist Winners Each Receive a $500 Savings Bond

The three (3) top winners also win a spectacular trip to New York City on January 25-28 to celebrate Bubble Wrap® Appreciation Day

Previous entrants, who were selected as finalists may not re-enter.

Semi-finalists may enter again with a new invention.

Entrants, who were not selected as winners for 2006-7, may re-enter with the same invention, an improvement on that invention, or a new invention if they are in 5-8th grades.

The Competition is sponsored by Sealed Air Corporation and administered by The National Museum of Education.

Web site:


The National Museum of Education applauds Sealed Air Corporation for its
unique vision to invest in America’s youth and for understanding that by
inspiring innovation and creativity we can keep America thinking.


When Innovation Doesn’t Matter As Much as a Roof and Running Water

June 11th, 2007

The video should catch your attention, anyway, but towards the end when one of the school construction project leads mentions that the school could have been designed in a much nicer fashion…we’re reminded what really matters at the end of the day. For your consideration:


Up from just 48 percent in 1999, about 86 percent of Tanzania’s children now attend primary school. With funds from the Annenberg Foundation, the African Wildlife Fund has built a pristine new boarding school to help ensure that those numbers keep rising. The new school has running water, additional housing, and represents a giant leap forward in the education of the Manyara Ranch region’s Maasai children.

Playgrounds Given the Frank Gehry Touch

June 6th, 2007

Are playgrounds the new (architectural) black?

Apparently its not a daydream or even the result of a kid’s wild imagination. Frank Gehry is indeed being hired to design a playground in New York City’s Battery Park.

Guess his MIT campus project wasn’t enough. Fascinating.

When Every Surface Goes Digital and Intuitively Interactive

June 1st, 2007

Imagine every surface in your classroom — every desktop — is an intuitively interactive digital interface.  Heck, imagine just ONE such desktop somewhere in your school.  A minor opportunity for transformation?  Bueller?  Bueller?

Check out this "Surface" video which comes from Popular Mechanics (note: image is not a live link; click here to view:

Behind the scenes with the coffee table that will change the world.; Microsoft Surface; computers; microsoft; touch computing;

Curious. How would such technology — at $5,000-10,000 a table — help transform your new school design?

While you’re at it, check out the “photosynthing” demo at the recent TED Conference. Mind-boggling. Hard to imagine ‘just’ chairs and desks and blackboards (or even Smart Boards) for much longer:

Source:  Blaise Aguera y Arcas’ TED Talk on his Photosynthing tool.

Another reminder that the very foundations of what we mean by ‘learning environment’ is shifting beneath our feet. Are we ready? Are we?

Thinkering Spaces: An Experiment in Exploratory Learning (and Spaces)

June 1st, 2007

Many of you may have heard creative rumblings from the MacArthur Foundation over the last year. “Rumblings” of $50million over 5 years to explore how digital natives are building and using new media/technology. Connections to school design beyond the curriculum and a few ‘conceptuals’ to kick around in design conversations?

Consider looking into “Thinkering Spaces”, started by the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Design in 2006, a project funded in part by the MacArthur Foundation’s aforementioned initiatives. The focus:

The ThinkeringSpace project focus is on developing preliminary criteria for the design of kids’ informal, exploratory spaces situated in libraries. The outcomes from this research are design principles for installations, including criteria for spaces, affordances and interactions that can guide the planning, design, specification and installation of a full scale system prototype.

In other words, it’s about discovery and learning through interactive spaces:

ThinkeringSpaces are interactive environments that encourage school age children to tinker with things, both physical and virtual, reflect upon what they discover, and elaborate their ideas in ways they can share with others.

In particular, library spaces appear to be the money-spot for innovation. From the MacArthur Foundation’s blog:

A year later the Institute of Design has established a new website and intriguing model of a new space in libraries where young people can tinker at their leisure. In hands-on activities kids have traditionally tinkered with bicycles, recipes, science experiments, etc. In the digital space what might tinkering look like and what kinds of problem-solving might it require? Faculty at the Institute of Design have dubbed this combined activity of tinkering and problem-solving “thinkering” and believe the library may be just the right location for a “thinkering space.”

Curious. How many of us as school planners/designers/architects (and stakeholders of all varieties) are keeping tabs on programs like this? And how many of us are noticing a trend of organizations/professionals/researchers that are outside the field of ‘architecture’ (per se) that are beginning to pursue the design of learning environments in similar ways?

Worth a discussion? Or just a minor trend easily ignored?

Norway: How Can You Rebuild A School Without Touching A Brick?

May 24th, 2007

If you spend much time in the educational halls of Scotland — especially if you have a focus on technology and the evolution of schools — you are probably well acquainted with Ewan McIntosh. Hoping that in the years to come, he’ll be a voice you’ll hear at school design oriented conferences. Someone who really sees where the future of learning is headed. His blog is a wonderful place to begin if you have never heard about him.

Recently, he posted a piece entitled “Rebuilding a School without Touching a Brick”. His focus? A school in Norway that was struggling to just survive…but has managed to become a true school of choice. All by re-thinking the very premise of ‘campus’ by any means necessary. Ewan writes:

Stovner Upper Secondary is a school in Norway which has come from the brink of kids running away, not appearing or being disruptive, and is now the school local parents fight to have their children attend.

A little back-story:

Five years ago Stovner was the unpopular school, with 50% of students coming from a minority language background, most of the pupils coming from a working class background. Moreover, the money from the government for running schools doesn’t go to the school - it follows the students. So if a student decides to leave the school, the school could in effect become bankrupt. Schools might be unhappy, but politicians are happy at getting rid of a ‘problem school’.

The aim of the school?

* To become the most popular school in that part of Oslo, regardless of social prejudice regarding the student groups who attended;
* To offer teaching that students will not find boring (they asked the kids, and they did find it boring, even though the teachers thought they were doing alright);
* To improve academic results;
* To make teachers’ work more rewarding.

Ewan takes us beyond the mission/goals and discusses the re-think of physical spaces, as well. We think you’ll appreciate the following:

Changing shapes of rooms: The shape of the classroom was to change, too. Students were given their own space, their own desk, their own computer. They could decorate their space, the mini booth that they now spend half their school day, if they want to, researching, working, preparing, collaborating. It is theirs. No-one else uses it.

Worth reading Ewan’s entire post. Every conceivable icon of the traditional school model was re-imagined. To amazing outcomes!

Questions for the 2007 Awards Jury

May 22nd, 2007

The annual DesignShare Awards program (focused on the design of “innovative learning environments” found around the world) kicks off the jury review process in a week.

Going into this year’s jury review process, we have a chance to push on the underlying issues that make the design of learning environments about something deeper than just the ‘look’ of the building/campus.

To that end, we’ve asked all the jurors to share their answers to the following questions to remind us what the awards program is really about at the end of the day:

1. Why does ’school design’ matter TO YOU in terms of its impact on learning and communities?
2. What trend (or trends) are catching your eye today in terms of the creation of ‘learning environments’? What trend(s) do you think will matter most in the coming 5-10 years once new designs are up and running?
3. What is one thing that you’d like to learn more about this summer by virtue of collaborating with this group of professional/international jurors? Why?
4. Share one thing about your own experience as a child/student in school spaces that made an impact on your current adult/professional life. If you’d like, you may also add a quick experience that impacted the adult lives of one of your children/siblings/friends as well.

We thought we’d ask you how you’d answer these as well. And what impact they might have on your own projects:

  • How would you answer these — whether you have an architectural mind or not — with an eye on fostering a deeper conversation about the future of learning?
  • And how would you want a design professional hired by your school or district to answer these, given the influence they will have on students, teachers and the community?
  • *****

    Note: Photos are of the 2006 Honor Winners (clockwise from upper left): Nus High School of Mathematics & Science (Singapore); Kindergarten #911 (Argentina); Feather River Academy (California); Chugach Optional Elementary School (Alaska)

    In case you’re just learning about the annual Awards program, here’s a little back-story on how everyone works together even though they are living/working around the world all summer:

    We use a private Wiki tool so that each jury member can add to the on-going conversation throughout the months of June and July. This includes first impressions based on small teams, debates across all projects, and ultimately making decisions as to which projects deserve attention for excellence for the impact of design on learning and community.

    Check out the jury members here. Some of them you’ll definitely recognize. Some will be new, but well worth keeping on your radar. A pretty amazing group to be working with and learning from this summer and beyond.

    Note: To read more about the 4 projects shown above, and the other award-winning projects from 2006, check out the following links. They include:

    1. Edutopia magazine article and slide-show video
    2. School Construction News magazine article
    3. SchoolsforLife magazine (UK)
    4. the DesignShare commentary itself

    Curious. How Would You Design a School to Live Up To These Students’ Wish?

    May 12th, 2007

    Thanks to a blog post by one of DesignShare’s Awards jury members, Chris Lehmann, we were given a head’s up to an amazing and humbling anti-bullying video created by a couple of college students in an effort to speak out on behalf of kids all around the globe who often have no voice.

    Curious, if you had a chance to design a school for the kids in the videos — the ones holding up the signs — how would you go about it? What would your design sensibilities suggest? Your heart? What would your ‘educational facility’ standards be? What new questions would you ask? Why does it matter? And how would you know that the kids were convinced you had listened?

    Worth watching:

    DesignShare Welcomes New Teammate

    May 10th, 2007

    The DesignShare team is thrilled to welcome Tiffany Green to our team. Tiffany will serve as our Chief Operating Officer to support a wide range of programs in the year ahead.

    DesignShare will draw on Tiffany’s diverse experiences in design, sales, community outreach, parental engagement, policy development, project management, and creating collaborative partnerships. While you can read this in full on her BIO page, here is a quick snippet of a few things that have shaped Tiffany’s career and passion for the future of school design:

    • Tiffany earned a Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1998 from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. She received a Masters in Education and Technology from the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University in 2002.
    • Tiffany’s natural talent for design was uncovered while working alongside ASID Interior Designers in Nashville. Growing up in Chicago, IL also spurred Tiffany’s love of architecture.
    • Tiffany has a broad understanding of educational literature and high efficacy for technology. As an advocate for School Choice, Tiffany sees School Design as the next frontier. “Aesthetic variety within schools is equally as important as having one’s choice of schools.”
    • Tiffany was formerly the Policy Aide to Minneapolis City Council Vice President, Robert Lilligren. Tiffany is a founder and co-Project Manager for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) in Minnesota.
    • Tiffany serves on the board of Community Action of Minneapolis and Resources for Child Caring. Tiffany is a member of BAEO, Toastmasters International, and the Minnesota Citizens League.
    • Finally, Tiffany serves as an educational planner for FNI.

    Exploring Comfort in Schools: Nair/Fielding Edutopia Article

    May 8th, 2007

    Pleased to see that DesignShare members Prakash Nair and Randy Fielding have published yet another provocative article in Edutopia this month.

    In “A Comfortable Truth: Kids don’t have to squirm to learn”, the two school planners discuss why schools continue to put the students’ physical comfort on the back-burner while continuing to support industrial era education models and designs. And why it matters for all of our futures.

    A snippet from the beginning of the article:

    If we were to assemble a list of adjectives to describe school, comfortable would not make the cut. Many of the places where vital teaching occurs, if not designed expressly for physical torment, are infamously uninviting. The classic model for schools, where mentors must compete with discomfort, can be traced back hundreds of years to the “reading” and “writing” schools designed to give children the skills to access God’s word in the Bible. Little wonder that the school benches from those days resembled church pews and that sterility and rigor were the order of the day.

    Taking it a step further:

    Though the industrial model was solidly in place as the educational standard, however, a parallel, progressive movement arose in the early 1900s that sought to humanize and personalize education. This philosophy survives and has gathered dedicated adherents along the way, but most mainstream educators at the time it was developed were unconvinced that change was needed, and schools remained much as they had always been. Even after almost a century, John Dewey’s 1915 exhortation that “nature has not adapted the young animal to the narrow desk, the crowded curriculum, the silent absorption of complicated facts” remains largely unheard.

    What is the rationale for justifying the lack of creature comfort in today’s schools? Nothing more defensible than the old dodge “We’ve always done it that way.” But schools wear out and are renovated or replaced by new structures. And architects know far more about how people live and work than they once did. So the factory model is slowly relegated to history, like the dinosaur it is. But questions of comfort and rigor remain unresolved. Should schools be comfortable, and if so, why? What follows are eight truths that can go a long way toward settling an argument that probably should have been arbitrated long ago.

    While the article goes into much more detail in each of these design considerations, here is the list of 8 design revelations to bring comfort, ergonomics, and ‘human’ spaces into schools to support learners:

    • Comfort Matters
    • Some Pain, No Gain
    • The Breathing and Learning Connection
    • Louder is Not Better
    • Cozy and Cheerful Wins Hearts and Minds
    • Cafes are Not Just for Grown-ups
    • Comfort is for Outside, Too
    • Emotions Count in Comfort

    A great article to provoke and tap into our best instincts.

    Also, might be worth re-reading Dr. Dieter Breithecker’s “Beware of the Sitting Trap in Learning and Schooling” article where he speaks out on the decisive nature of “Ergo-dynamic” design concepts.

    Also, thanks to recent email from Judy Marks at NCEF (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities), we were reminded of 2 additional resources:

    • The website of the International Ergonomics Association, Ergonomics for Children in Educational Environments Technical Committee is titled: Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments. This features guidelines, research, information for teachers, links, and more on such topics as school furniture, child and adolescent computer use, backpacks, products for children, and fitness.
    • Another very substantive and informative British website is “Ergonomics 4 Schools”

    Exploring the Heart of Safe Schools

    May 8th, 2007

    A recent conversation at the education-centered Leader Talk blog by Greg Farr speaks to the underlying opportunities to foster truly safe - and welcoming - school environments.

    Might be worth a consideration. Especially if you agree with the power of eye contact in greeting ‘visitors’ and honoring all community members in an age of reactive ‘bunker’ mentalities that fuel school design solutions. A snippet from the blog post:

    Watch Get out of the office and watch your students. Please don’t do this with a “prison guard” stance and attitude; focus on individuals and clusters even as you “sheppard the whole flock”. I try to watch my students whenever they gather in groups – before and after school, in the Commons Area during passing periods, and especially at lunch. I make it a point to watch for students who always eat alone, stand off from the crowds, and appear to avoid others. I try to “gravitate” toward them and say hello and ask how their day is going.

    Listen As you walk the campus and spend time with your students, listen – really listen - to them. Establish personal relationships with as many of your students as you can. It doesn’t have to be extended periods of time, but it MUST BE SINCERE. Also establish ways that your students can communicate with campus authorities anonymously (i.e. Crime Stoppers, Safe-To-Tell programs, etc.).

    Be a Friend / Mentor / Brother / Sister Yes, I know we need to maintain a “professional distance”. No, I’m not saying to become their BMF…I don’t “pal around” with the kids, but they are friends as well as students. As one young lady said, “Sheesh, Mr. Farr is just like a dad!”

    Be Visible This is related to “Watching”. While I’m out watching the students, you can rest assured they are watching me. And the kids themselves have told me how much they appreciate seeing me in the halls, outside in the parking lot, in the cafeteria, etc. And I am willing to bet that most principals have heard this same thing from their teachers: “When you’re here, the kids just behave better…they definitely know when you’re out of the building.”

    Encourage As you spend time with your students offer encouragement. Be a cheerleader. Congratulate kids for accomplishments, find reasons to praise or say something positive to every student.

    Prevent Bullying Make it a firm and consistent rule that no bullying or harassment will be tolerated. This is such an important issue on my campus that we include it on our daily campus dashboard within the Campus Safety indicator. We also have posters in the halls. We have had student focus groups discuss it. It is an issue that receives regular attention and is closely monitored.

    Learn Student Names and Interests I knew we were on the right track with this issue when the senior class from a few years ago voted on this slogan for that year’s Senior T-Shirt, “Shannon – Where Everyone Knows My Name”. I am convinced that this ONE THING is the MOST IMPORTANT thing on this list. I have seen the most withdrawn students respond with enthusiasm when I’ve sat down next to them at breakfast and asked them how their weekend was, or stopped them in the hall and asked them a question about their hobby.

    Be Available The proverbial open door. I just asked my secretary how many students come by to see me on average every day – just to say ‘hi’, or show me their work, or tell me some news…her response was, “at least 10 – 15.” I hear about their plans for the weekend, how the prom went, how their boyfriend is doing, how a sick parent is recovering, etc. I also hear about who might be holding, who got high over the weekend, who has a new warrant…It all adds up to feeling the pulse of the school.

    Tune In Related closely to watching, listening, and being available, but with a subtle difference. As I discussed in a recent posting, iPod, Do You?, it’s important to be relevant. You can’t fake it, and I am not talking about moving to the same level of students in actions, language, or fashions, etc. No, this is more about being aware of their culture enough that students don’t regard me as disinterested or downright “stupid” when it comes to knowledge of new trends. I won’t disrespect a student by laughing at a new fashion, but I sure won’t follow it either. I may “get” why they don’t, but I will always wear my baseball caps with the bill facing forward.

    Be Involved Finally, be there for them. At games, dances, events, etc. I make hospital and home visits. Show you care by being involved enough to show up when and where you should.

    In this day and age, it is tempting to buck the ’small learning community’ or ‘kid-scale’ design solution for ‘fortresses’ filled with ‘gates’, ‘video cameras’, airline-quality ’security gates’, and scanning technologies that make schools seem like ’safe prisons’ to those who call them home.

    Teacher-Inspired Questions Lead to School Design Video

    May 8th, 2007

    And it is not only school architects/planners getting into the ‘YouTube for school design’ game, thanks to this image/imagine video put out recently by a public middle school teacher in Oregon — and ESL Technology blogger — who wanted to help his colleagues daydream about new possibilities for learning environments. 

    Matt Horne used a wide range of DesignShare Award-winning project images to help fuel the eye’s wonderings. And while this is only one way to spark a new series of questions, it does show the potential. Wonderful that teachers and clients are taking it upon themselves to create such tools, too!

    Imagine if 1000’s of such videos — by students, teachers, designers, and other stakeholders — begin to hit the YouTube (and beyond) universe, all geared to showing the gap between our ideals for learning and what most ’schools’ look like (even the very expensive ‘new’ ones that pledge to be 21st century campuses — oy!).  What would happen? Especially if these video stories/questions can be used in concert with each other to help community members, design/planning partners, foundations, and even national governments embrace new questions to inspired designs truly centered on the future of learning.

    One video and school design project that does this brilliantly on all levels?  which we’ve mentioned it before, but a perfect time to re-tip the hat towards the Klipp Architecture team who designed the award-winning Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST), and this video put out by the American Architectural Foundation who sponsors the "Great Schools By Design" initiatives.  See the shortened version below (but you can order/save the full video by following the link here).  Oh, and as much as the architecture itself beautifully stands out, the way the kids/teachers ‘own’ the building and describe it in powerful terms is what is most impressive…and instructive to all of us:

    N0te: an upcoming interview with DSST designer, Sam Miller, from Klipp Architecture will be published in the coming weeks here at DesignShare.

    Vallas Heads to New Orleans to Re-Build Schools!

    May 8th, 2007

    Rumor mills over the last few months have been gently (or not-so-gently) whispering that Philadelphia Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas would be taking on new challenges as the city becomes further challenged by funding issues, even as 4 new innovative high schools open to great acclaim nationally and internationally.

    Note: DS awarded one of these schools a “Recognized Value” Award in 2007 and has also published the design/pedagogy story by the founding principal of another new Philly school, so we’ve been keeping an eye on the city’s efforts to reinvigorate the design of learning environments and programs along the way.

    Where is Vallas going?

    Louisiana education superintendent Paul Pastorek announced Friday that Philadelphia Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas would become superintendent of the state’s Recovery School District, which oversees most of the schools in New Orleans.

    Vallas, who consulted for Louisiana last winter, is just one of a series of consultants the state has tapped since Katrina as it tries to rebuild a school system that, even before the storm, was among the nation’s most troubled. Advocates consider the rebuilding of the New Orleans school system a chance to showcase the private sector’s potential in urban school reform. Private groups are helping finance charter schools and are supporting non-profits that are recruiting badly needed teachers and principals.

    Given the enormous state of challenge and opportunity, one can easily see why bringing Vallas on to lead this recovery process would be a critical decision. Hopefully the ‘design’ of new learning environments for New Orleans and surrounding communities will speak to the future of learning in the process.

    And one can imagine that any potential book that Vallas will write in the coming years that speaks to the leadership/innovation question for urban public schools in the future — given his roles leading Chicago, Philly, and now this re-building program as well — will be worth keeping an eye open for.

    When Laptops Can Shift the Needle of our Thinking Forward

    April 30th, 2007

    There is much talk about the ’school of the future’ in the world of school design. Much of it here at DesignShare, to be truthful. But can you actually ’see’ it? Really SEE it?

    After reading this recent CNET photo-essay (thanks to a link from Chris Lehmann’s recent blog post), we’d like to suggest that it may look like this (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):

    And perhaps the students, much like these young men and women, are the care-takers of the ’school of the future’, sitting on the cusp of remarkable changes ahead (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):

    Perhaps, this is their community, their parents, their history (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):

    And maybe, just maybe, with the simple arrival of ‘the future’, a community, a school, a generation of students (and all that guide them) are forever transformed (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah):

    If you’ve been paying attention to education/technology conversations in the last year or two, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the MIT-driven ‘dream’ to provide a $100 laptop to students in developing nations around the world, computers that not only allow them to jump the digital divide, but to also do so intuitively, do so regardless of power-sources, do so in a networked alliance that is so often taken for granted in many parts of the technology-leading world.

    Recently, a small Nigerian school was the world’s first recipient of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) prototype (photo credit: Khaled Hassounah)::

    A little recent history:

    Khaled Hassounah, director of Nicholas Negroponte’s [OLPC] program in Africa and the Middle East, has spent the last year touring schools in Nigeria. He and his team chose a school 10 miles outside Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to deploy the company’s first child-friendly laptops in the region.

    These 10- and 11-year-old students are lucky to share three books per academic subject, a clock, bell, wall calendar, and science equipment consisting of a lever. Students in less fortunate schools might share three books total. With the XO Children’s Machine, OLPC hopes young students will have the tools to shape their own education.

    Perhaps we can see the future. Perhaps it lies somewhere within our grasp. Perhaps it lies just outside of the normal equation, the normal assumptions, the normal answers. And perhaps designing, planning, and construction the ’school of the future’ doesn’t require tens of millions of dollars to fund the vision.

    We highly recommend learning more about the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) program when time allows. And asking yourself — regardless of your role within the school design community — what impact we can have in ways we never imagined, both in developing nations around the world and communities just around the corner.

    Recognizing “Schools as Centers of Community”

    April 26th, 2007

    Whether or not one sees it as a rigorous architectural solution or a state-of-mind, we are all better served when schools serve as hubs for life in the larger community. To that end, we wanted to call attention to 2007 Richard Riley Award to recognized outstanding “schools as centers of community”:

    The American Architectural Foundation, in partnership with KnowledgeWorks Foundation, is pleased to announce the 2007 Richard Riley Award. This annual award recognizes design and educational excellence in “schools as centers of community.” Sometimes referred to as “community learning centers,” schools that serve as centers of community provide a rich array of social, civic, recreational and artistic opportunities to the broader community and to students, often clustering educational and municipal buildings together. These additional services and opportunities can improve student achievement and help maximize local tax dollars.

    To learn more, visit or download the press release here.


    The winning school will receive a $10,000 prize and representatives will be invited to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony where former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley will present the award to the winning school. All public schools, new and old, including charter schools, are eligible to submit entries for the award.


    Entries will be accepted online from April 2, 2007 to July 9, 2007.

    “Spread the word!” We agree with the spirit of the organizing team’s recent email message. Get involved and nominate schools that are truly making a difference as hubs within their communities.

    For questions about the contest, please contact Joyce Tsepas at

    2007 Awards Registration Deadline Extended to May 4th

    April 20th, 2007

    Thanks to wonderful feedback from design teams around the world, we are extending the Registration Deadline for the 2007 Awards program to May 4th.

    This new date gives all interested teams 2 additional weeks to register their projects and begin uploading project content and images.


    Registration & Fees | Eligibility | Principles | Submittal Requirements

    Benefits | Review Team Jury Members | Media Partners | Support


    Alternative Learning Centers | Early Childhood Programs

    Elementary Schools | Middle Schools | High Schools | Higher Education

    Contact with any questions.

    DesignShare Contributor and Awards Judge Featured in New Edutopia Article

    April 3rd, 2007

    Very pleased to see that the recent rumor of an upcoming Edutopia (George Lucas Educational Foundation’s remarkable education-oriented magazine) article focusing on Chris Lehmann’s school, the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, is now a reality.

    Called “My School, MEET MySpace”, this is a wonderful companion piece to the article that Chris wrote recently for DesignShare called, “Designing School 2.0: A Study of Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy” this past month.

    An excerpt from the Edutopia article:

    Classes focus less on facts to be memorized and more on skills and knowledge for students to master independently and incorporate into their lives. Students rarely take tests; they write reflections and do “culminating” projects. Learning doesn’t merely cross disciplines — it shatters outdated departmental divisions. Recently, for instance, kids studied atomic weights in biochemistry (itself a homegrown interdisciplinary course), did mole calculations in algebra, and created Dalton models (diagrams that illustrate molecular structures) in art.

    Such integration and pragmatism are not novel, of course. This is Dewey for the digital age, old-fashioned progressive education with a technological twist. But that twist is all important. Although Lehmann says technology is merely a tool, not the engine of the school, computers and networking are central to learning at, and shaping the culture of, SLA.

    We love the idea of “Dewey for the digital age”, uniting extraordinary traditions and new ways of imagining the future of learning.

    BTW, Chris has recently joined the DesignShare 2007 Awards jury, too.

    A wonderful chance to team up world-class educators with world-class school designers in the review of innovative school designs from around the globe. Can’t wait for the debates and conversations to kick-off this June!

    DesignShare Contributor and “Room to Read” Founder on Oprah Today

    April 3rd, 2007

    John Wood, the founder and CEO of Room to Read, will be Oprah’s guest today!

    A great chance for him to further share the extraordinary story of the creation of well over 3,000 schools and libraries in developing nations around the world. Definitely worth watching or taping!

    You may recall that John was gracious enough to sit down and be interviewed by DesignShare a few months ago. You can read what he had to say at this link: “The Impact of Room to Read: John Wood Interview”.

    We’d also recommend that if you haven’t already read his book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children, this is a great opportunity to grab a copy. Truly an inspired read! And a great chance to get involved in helping to fund the creation of schools and libraries around the world where it matters most.

    Get involved:

    Want to get involved in helping to fund the creation of a school or library, or help fund a student’s scholarship?

    Or maybe you’d prefer to get involved at the scale of a single book and still help spark tens of thousands of libraries world-wide?

    Room to Read’s mission is to ensure that every child receives the lifelong gift of education. With the help of the “Oprah Winfrey Show”® we can dream big and reach our goal of establishing 20,000 bilingual libraries by the year 2020.

    You can help change the world by donating today. Every dollar donated equals one book donated - $100 dollars equals 100 books - and an opportunity to change the lives of some of the 770 million illiterate people in the world.

    Congratulations to John and the entire Room to Read team on today’s Oprah segment…and everything they’ve done up to this point in helping kids around the world learn to read! There is no doubt that once his story is shared through the Oprah network that even bigger things will be coming their way in the days/years to come! And best of all? Kids and communities around the world will be the real beneficiaries!

    Bruce Jilk: “Schools Have Old Stuff”

    March 22nd, 2007

    Bruce Jilk is regarded by many in the field of school planning/design as one of the truly inspired minds, especially in terms of creating inspired learning environments around the world.

    Going back to a series of 1998 conversations between Bruce and Randy Fielding, we found the following ‘timely’ gem that seems to be more and more true today, even if our design examples sadly remain limited on the most part. Here’s a snippet that could easily be said today without much effort at all:

    For the present, many educational systems require that we build and maintain separate school facilities. If we have to segregate learning in school buildings, the most cohesive approach includes a small school, accommodating a broad range of ages, closely linked to the local community.

    In 25 years, learning will be interspersed with the businesses, homes, and institutions that make up their communities, making schools as we know them obsolete. In terms of quality and timeliness, businesses have more knowledge than schools. Schools have old stuff. If you want the new stuff, you go to labs, businesses and the internet.

    Whether or not we’re actually taking his ideas to heart as a design/education community nearly a decade later is entirely a different matter…but it doesn’t make his words back in 1998 an less true.

    Read the entire conversation here. And then ask yourself where we’re getting it right today.

    Announcing the 2007 DesignShare Awards Jury

    March 21st, 2007

    We are proud to announce what is arguably the most talented, experienced, diverse, and passionate jury team of any school design awards program in the world.

    2007 Review Team

    New to the team in 2007:

    • Daniel Pink ** special “Guest Juror” ** Best-selling author of A Whole New Mind, contributing editor Wired Magazine, international speaker, board member of The Big Picture Company. His articles on business and technology have also appeared in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and other publications.
    • Alan November ** special “Guest Juror” ** Senior Partner of November Learning and founder of the international Building Learning Communities summer conference, best-selling author of Empowering Students with Technology, International educational technology leader and keynote speaker, co-founder of the Stanford Institute for Educational Leadership Through Technology, and elected as one of the original five national Christa McAuliffe Educators.
    • Stephen Heppell - formerly ran UK’s famed ULTRALAB, described by Microsoft and the Guardian as “Europe’s leading on-line education guru”, leading consultant for the Building Schools for the Future programme, international speaker and writer on technology, education, and school design, and lifelong educator.
    • John Weekes, AIA - Principal of DOWA (Dull Olson Weekes Architects), Jury Chair for 2007 AIA CAE Awards program.
    • Peter Brown, AIA, LEED AP - Principal, Director of K-12 Practice, Perkins+Will.
    • Judy Marks, Hon. AIA - Associate Director, NCEF (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities).
    • Beth Hebert - education/curriculum author, former Principal of the Crow Island Elementary School (recognized architectural landmark for school design), passionate school design advocate.
    • Tim Dufault, AIA - President of Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A.
    • Ron Bogle - President & CEO, American Architectural Foundation and the Great Schools By Design initiative, jury member of the 2007 AIA CAE Awards program.
    • Ana Ines Bajcura - architect, winner of 2006 DesignShare Honor Award for an innovative kindergarten in Moreno, Argentina.
    • Chris Lehmann, founding Principal, Science Leadership Academy, named as one of “20 [Educators] to Watch” by the National School Boards Association in 2006.
    • Christian Long - President & CEO, DesignShare.

    Returning to the team from the past:

    • Dr. Jeff Lackney, AIA, REFP - author of “Thirty-three Educational Design Principles for Schools and Community Learning” (NCEF), Partner, Fielding/Nair International.
    • Dr. Susan Wolff - author of “Design Features for Project-Based Learning”, Dean of Instruction at Columbia Gorge Community College.
    • Jeff Phillips - Principal Consultant for Research and Development in Facility Planning for the Department of Education and Training in Western Australia; President of Australasia Region of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI).
    • Dr. Frank Locker, AIA, REFP - CEFPI Planner of the Year (1999), principal with Frank Locker Inc, (educational planners), senior planning consultant with Fielding Nair International, principal of DeJONG-LOCKER.
    • Dr. Pablo Campos - Architect, campus planner, professor of Architecture in the Universidad San Pablo-C.E.U. (Spain)
    • Bobbie Hill - Partner, Director of Planning, Concordia Architecture & Planning.
    • Ulla Kjaervang - educational facility planning consultant, formally with the Danish Centre of Educational Environment (Denmark).
    • Amy Yurko, AIA - Founder of BrainSpaces, leader in the design of innovative learning environments.

    Ex-Officio advisory team:

    • Prakash Nair, REFP - Managing Editor of DesignShare, Partner and President of Fielding/Nair International, CEFPI MacConnell Award winner.
    • Randy Fielding, AIA - Founder of DesignShare, Chairman and founding Principal of Fielding/Nair International.

    In-depth biographical information for each jury member will be provided in the near future as they prepare to review projects from around the world this summer. Additionally, we’ll be publishing podcasts, editorials, trend debates, and additional articles by this team later this spring and into the summer. An amazing opportunity to learn with some of the very best in the world!

    Join the conversation: If you have any questions you’d like to ask them, please feel free to send an email so we can share your thoughts with the team.

    Does New Urbanism Bring Community Back to Schools?

    March 13th, 2007

    Thanks to Kristen and ArchNewsNow for the story link.


    Sadly, the trend towards investing in huge ‘green field’ campuses, with the school footprint being dropped dead center on a massive multi-acre site, has been almost compulsive in many developing parts of the United States in the last few decades. Streetscapes where school and community crossed paths were hardly embraced in such design solutions. Instead, the ‘community’ would be kept as far away from the learning experience as possible. Parking lots tended to dominate anything that might resemble the possibility of ‘interaction’ when outsiders attempted to approach the school.

    Thank goodness for buses. And epic turn-around lanes.

    This is hardly a ’school’ only phenomenon, to be fair. US citizens have been rapidly building gated communities at every possible turn. Safety and separation were investments proudly touted in marketing literature. Sadly, communities and legitimate interactions were tossed over the edge of good intention, unless you call predictable subdivision layouts and possibly a pool for planned play to suggest neighborly relations. Not too surprising, then, that many communities would design their schools the same way their developers planned their streets and cul-de-sacs.

    The Denver Post’s recent article, “Americans are Leaving Gated Communities: Neighborly interaction tops list for desirable homes” suggests a potential positive consequence for schools as well:

    The report deemed “New Urban” communities such as Prospect, Colo., the most desirable areas in which to buy homes because they monitor sprawl, foster walkable amenities, and strike a development balance between homes, schools and businesses. The re-emergence of front-porch socializing, main streets and corner stores are key to America’s most popular neighborhoods.

    “The scenes here really do revolve around a feeling of belonging, being joined by a common interest, being part of something bigger,” Enders says.

    A small section of the article considers the need to “strike a development balance between homes, schools and business.” Nothing shocking. Nothing earth-shattering. Nothing that will re-map the entire discussion of school design in the US and around the world.

    But it does strike at something pretty primal that may underlie what we’re really talking about when we design schools as centers of community. Not just ‘allowing’ for a the design of a ‘community partner’ room somewhere in the administrative suite or along a generic corridor that can easily have a nameplate changed when deemed necessary. Instead, it might suggest that true partnerships, true community investment in the school, demands that the school itself be part of the community.

    One streetscape at a time.

    Congratulations to the School Building Expo Team for Inspiring Passionate Conversations

    March 12th, 2007

    You’d be hard pressed to have been in Florida this past week as a participant at School Building Expo to say that it’s a ’start-up’ with only 1 previous year under its belt. Simply too many reasons to assume it’s been around for decades. And certainly suggestive, in our opinion, that School Building Expo will become one of the must-attend events for school planners/builders and their partners in the years to come.

    Also appreciated seeing that the AIA CAE (Committee on Architecture for Education) leadership team made the decision to have one of their 2 annual national conferences at the Expo. Everyone that was in attendance were also given the opportunity to see this year’s winners of the annual CAE School Design Awards as well. Some truly inspired projects in story, project intentions, and images! Hopefully we’ll see CAE teaming up again with Expo in 2008 in Chicago.

    But given the wide array of school planning/design/construction conferences that each of us considers attending, sponsoring, or speaking at here in the US, time only allows so many choices. And you have to applaud the planning team of this very relative ‘upstart’ event for putting on a show that so successfully gathered such a large and diverse audience of professional leaders from around the school design planet for 3 days of pushing hard on the key questions in our industry. Looking around the keynotes, the workshop sessions, and the trade show floor, it was hard to find any of the key leaders not represented on some level.

    Besides the quality of the participants, DesignShare was intrigued by the Expo’s ability to bring together passionate manufacturers as well as key design thought leaders, while most conferences tend to lean one way or the other. Scott Goldman and team have a knack for being entrepreneurial and inspired. It’s no wonder so many folks made the trip down to Florida to take part. As with so many things in life, passion comes from individuals who have vision and a knack for bringing together a very diverse set of stakeholders.

    We were also interested in playing a role ourselves when Scott began to suggest that there was a way to re-design how conversations could take place at conferences. And how a traditional trade show floor could become ground zero for passionate thought leaders coming together after keynotes and workshops to push harder on key topics/questions. When they asked if we’d be willing to add our name to the idea of an “Expert Bar”, it was a no-brainer because Scott and the entire Expo team understood that people will talk openly if they have a place to relax and get comfortable first. You certainly have to appreciate the decision to invite a talented cellist to set a tone for all those who stopped by for conversation. And the coffee, too!

    Even better when the majority of key speakers were given specific time slots to meet at the “Expert Bar” to meet audience members who were equally passionate about the topics/presentations, including (to name only a few who stopped by during the Expo):

    • Dr Catherine Burke BA, M.ED, PhD (Senior Lecturer, The University of Leeds, author of The School I’d Like which brings student/kid voices back into the discussion)
    • Lindsay Baker (US Green Building Council) and Robert Kobet, AIA (US Green Building Coucil LEED for Schools Committee)
    • Dr. Dieter Breithecker (Germany-based and internationally renowned Sport & Movement Scientist)
    • Jim Dyck (passionate advocate for Montessori designs and President, The Architectural Partnership)
    • Dr. Jeff Lackney (author of 33 Principles of Educational Design, planner/architect at Fielding/Nair International)
    • Kirk Meyer (Executive Director, Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative)

    Looking forward to next year’s School Building Expo in Chicago and seeing who will stop by the “DesignShare Expert Bar” in the spirit of fueling passionate and innovative school design conversation.

    Want to get involved yourself? Send Scott Goldman an email ( or call his Expo team (800.746.9646 ) if you’re interested in participating, sponsoring, or getting involved in a variety of ways in 2008.

    Ready For Big Questions and Bold Interaction: KnowledgeWorks Map of the Future

    March 12th, 2007

    Did you hear that KnowledgeWorks interactive “Map of the Future” (created for them by incredible minds at The Institute for the Future) has finally been turned on and made available for all who stop by to use their virtual tools? Here’s the back-story of the map’s creation, FYI. A quick summary of what you’ll find:

    It could be video games. Bioengineering. Or health care. All of these forces and more are explored on the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and Institute for the Future 2006-2016 Map of Future Forces Affecting Education.

    Look around the map. Explore it. While we’d never suggest that this map contains all of the answers and perfectly predicts the future, it does offer a clear point of view based on countless hours of research, analysis and expert opinion. Think of the map as a provocative tool, as the beginning of a movement, or, at the very least, part of a good conversation. Join in. And help us shape the future.

    Why do we suggest this?

    We often smile at the good-natured use of “School of the Future” or “21st Century School” in our current school design conversations. It’s the latest gold-rush in the school planning world. And it’s the minimum skin-on-the-table, so to speak, when you want to suggest a forward-thinking approach to learning environments that will adequately serve and engage our kids/communities in the decades to come. Really getting one’s head wrapped around what is actually meant by such phrases, however, is a bit of a challenge. Marketing, aside.

    So, let’s put the following premise on the table. You want to design a school that will adequately serve future students, educators, and communities. And you want to be ahead-of-the-curve. Maybe even win an award in the process (or at least look shyly humble when it comes your way).

    Minimum expectations today?

    • You want to embrace technology (the no-brainer part of the question), of course. If you’re not yet considering entirely WiFi-based projects, you’re probably still embracing buggy-whips with one hand and trying to still argue the need for computer labs at the end of the double-loaded classroom corridors with the other hand as forward-thinking solutions (minor sarcasm, but not too far off the chart).
    • You want to show how the building will serve demographers’ research (and not have to come back with ‘portables’ to house the extra kids who suddenly show up and mar the look of the future-thinking campus in the process).
    • You want to certainly demonstrate the use of ‘flexible’ design strategies (hard to throw a rock in the air and not hit a manufacturer to designer who isn’t touting their latest project/product as being ‘flexible’ suddenly).
    • You want to demonstrate fiscal and maintenance-based [read: life cycle costs] stewardship (at the bare minimum, that means creating a building the will be ‘of use’ at least 1 day longer than the bond/loan that helped pay for it’s construction).
    • You want grandmothers/fathers and community elders to be comfortable with the design (must resemble how they ‘went to school) and you need kids to like it, too (must not resemble how their grandmothers/fathers and community elders ‘went to school’)
    • You want the school to suggest customized, just-in-time, response-able, multi-collaborative space design thinking (and call every ‘classroom’ something else to suggest a radical re-thinking of the teacher/student relationship).

    So, where do you begin?

    Besides showing yet another hard-to-read Excel Spreadsheet of years, inflation-based budgets, student counts, square footage predictions, and room capacity projections in yet another hard-to-stay-awake-for PowerPoint presentation to the school board and community, perhaps we might be better served by asking more provocative ‘future-think’ questions and adding innovative new tools to our arsenal.

    Nothing wrong with a calculator and spreadsheet. Just not sure the future is going to be friendly to design teams and communities who only look at left-brained and linear tools. Might need to step back a bit further and ask the harder questions about what our world will look like in 10 or 25 or 50 years. Might be a good thing to get out of the business of just cost-projecting the school structure and begin to ask who the building will even serve in the coming decades and what other regional, national and global trends will impact our lives, society, and everything we believe will support/challenge ‘learning’ in the first place.

    If you agree with us, perhaps it’s worth taking a spin around the “Map of the Future” at KnowledgeWorks (created by The Institute for the Future) that was recently released as a truly interactive future-strategy tool. Demands the willingness to ask big questions and look for a symphony of patterns forming. Not so ideal for rigidly left-brained participants. But if you believe in what Daniel Pink (in A Whole New Mind) offers as right-brained skills begin to become more valuable lenses for the future, you’ll begin to see the magic of the “Map of the Future” just as we did.

    School Designers: Are Virtual Schools the Proverbial Elephant in the Corner of the Room?

    March 12th, 2007

    Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow for the link tip of the hat on this story.


    If someone said the following to you, “Try NOT to think of a white elephant sitting in the corner of your room for the next 1 minute,” you’d be hard pressed to ignore the imaginary pacaderm. No matter how hard you tried. Same with the following offered in a recent virtual copy of “District Administration” magazine:

    …virtual schools could be the hottest trend in U.S. education today. Twenty-four states offer virtual school programs, which account for more than 500,000 courses, according to the D.C.-based North American Council for Online Learning’s latest report. And statistics show a steady 30 percent enrollment growth annually, according to NACOL president and CEO Susan Patrick.

    The question that begs to be asked seems to read: If you’re a school planner/designer, what is YOUR ROLE in researching and helping to facilitate the rising tide of ‘virtual’ schools (and programs) for your clients and communities?

    • Quickly spirit your marketing team into a frenzy of describing your computer ‘labs’ in ‘innovative’ ways?
    • Ignore it at all costs. After all, we only deal with brick-n-mortar ‘tangible’ schools. And if they have computers, they can do whatever they want with the ‘virtual’ components.
    • Begin to radically transform your role/expertise in designing the conceptual gray area that lies between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ schools as the educational delivery market begins to question the ‘need’ for buildings of any variety. Or at least the re-use of school facilities for both real-time and just-in-time ways.

    From the previous article, the following might capture your attention:

    “Across the board you have without a doubt a technological movement in this country,” says John G. Flores, CEO of the United States Distance Learning Association in Boston. “Distance learning is not only impacting education reform and education change, but more importantly it’s giving students new options they’ve never had before.”

    Patrick claims only 30 percent of chemistry teachers have all the qualifications to teach in their field, and there aren’t enough foreign language teachers to go around.

    Online learning allows students anywhere to access teachers who are out of their zip code, and it also opens up course work to the homeschool crowd. Some administrators say students enroll because their families want to travel, and virtual school education becomes the means to enable this. Virtual schools also offer advanced courses that are not available in the brick-and-mortar buildings in some districts.

    Just a curriculum issue or something that will begin to boldly sneak into the school design conversation as well?

    Design Like You Give a Damn: X-Prize for Technology Labs in Developing Nations

    March 12th, 2007

    Design Like You Give a Damn…to say the very least!

    Anything that combines mention of Architecture for Humanity, an X-Prize for the design of a forward-thinking technology lab that can have a positive impact on developing nations around the world, and the TED Conference is going to get our attention. Quicker than you can say Jiminy Cricket!

    As one of the rare winners of the coveted TED Prize, 2006 winner Cameron Sinclair (co-founder of Architecture for Humanity) recently announced that $250,000 has been made available to help conceive/build a “an off-the-grid, multi-use tech center in a yet-to-be-determined developing nation.” From Wired Magazine, this story caught our eye:

    The Open Architecture Prize will get under way this summer, in partnership with tech company AMD’s 50×15 initiative, which has the stated goal of connecting 50 percent of the world to the internet by 2015. An international panel of judges, including experts in sustainable building and electrical engineering, will evaluate entries though the Open Architecture Network, which launched earlier this week.

    “The reality is you cannot have social entrepreneurship if there is not a baseline of technology for connecting ideas and potential businesses,” said Cameron Sinclair, who cofounded Architecture for Humanity with Kate Stohr eight years ago.

    Contestants will post their blueprints and entries using special tools on the network. But anyone can track the work of wannabe winners online throughout the contest. After the judging ends, visitors to the Open Architecture Network can critique the works on the site.

    Even better? The technology center will have dramatic impact as an educational ‘tool’ as well. And hopefully will inspire other ’school design’ stakeholders in developing nations (and the rest of the world) to re-think the way a ‘learning environment’ can radically transform the way entire communities can ‘connect’ to the rest of the world:

    The purpose of the technology center is to serve as both a school and a meeting place for an entire community. But this is no Oprah dream academy. While classes will be taught and entrepreneurs will conduct business from the center, the site will also be used to generate income in order to make the project sustainable. It could house, for example, a cell-phone charging center, or an internet cafe, or a health-care clinic. The building’s functions will be determined based on the winning design.

    When you think of the ‘future of learning’, ’school design’, and ‘making a difference’, perhaps we need to use such an X-Prize — both as an enabler and a model — to inspire bigger investments in the larger world around us. It’s one thing to use the language of a ’21st century school’ or community center to suggest a forward-thinking school design project. It’s another thing to re-invent the entire purpose of such a learning environment, especially as a change agent leverage point for parts of the world so often overlooked.

    When worlds are connected, lives change. Period.

    And when you take on the same attitude of ‘action’ over ‘ideas’ as Cameron suggests, there is no limit to what is possible:

    This contest is the first in a series of architecture prizes to be hosted on the Open Architecture Network. Each prize will address a different social need. Architecture for Humanity will oversee implementation of the winning designs.

    “Idea competitions are a waste of time,” said Sinclair. “We are a profession that builds. Competitions should be about implementing innovative solutions.”

    Student Contest: Redesign Your School

    March 2nd, 2007

    Love to find out that a great rumor leads to an even better reality!

    Such is the case with the launch of the “ReDesign Your School” Contest sponsored by the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and Target that “aims to generate innovative ideas for 21st century learning spaces”:

    Grade 9-12 students are invited to create the ideal 21st century learning space, with a chance to win up to $10,000 in scholarship money.

    See for more information.

    A couple of quick links for all students (and teachers/parents) to get you started:

    Considering Parker Palmer’s 6 Paradoxes for School Design

    February 22nd, 2007

    Often, the most inspired learning environments embrace the ‘tension of opposites’ in the design process. For example, creating quiet spaces for thoughtful reflection while also allowing a great deal of transparency to permeate the spaces, or allowing spaces to be traditional enough for the teacher to be in charge but also to allow for student-driven learning to take place at the same time. When done well, they are not only support ‘architectural’ tensions, but more importantly they support ‘human’ tensions and varying relationships/needs over time.

    This brings us to a wonderful book that is often used in ‘teaching’ circles only. But we think it has much to tell us as a school designing community.

    While we’re not sure how widely read Parker Palmer’s classic book The Courage to Teach is within the school design community, we can guarantee that it is a widely embraced book within the educator’s camp. Much of the book — to give a very quick overview — discusses the tension faced by teachers in terms of their public vs. private lives. Needless to say, given the state of education throughout the world and the challenge of keeping teachers in the profession, we may be well served to consider more often the ‘human’ experience of those who spend their day living/working in school buildings.

    There is a point in Palmer’s book (pp. 73-77) when he discusses a series of 6 paradoxes that define learning spaces. We were reminded of this again recently while reading the “Higher Edison” blog in which the following was highlighted:

  • The space should be bounded and open. Without limits it is difficult to see how learning can occur. Explorations need a focus. However, spaces need to be open as well - open to the many paths down which discovery may take us. ‘If boundaries remind us that our journey has a destination, openness reminds us that there are many ways to reach that end’. More than that, openness allows us to find other destinations.
  • The space should be hospitable and “charged”. We may find the experience of space strange and fear that we may get lost. Learning spaces need to be hospitable - ‘inviting as well as open, safe and trustworthy as well as free’. When exploring we need places to rest and find nourishment. But if we feel too safe, then we may stay on the surface of things. Space needs to be charged so that we may know the risks involved in looking at the deeper things of life.
  • The space should invite the voice of the individual and the voice of the group. Learning spaces should invite people to speak truly and honestly. People need to be able to express their thoughts and feelings. This involves building environments both so that individuals can speak and where groups can gather and give voice to their concerns and passions.
  • The space should honour the “little” stories of those involved and the “big” stories of the disciplines and tradition. Learning spaces should honour people’s experiences, give room to stories about everyday life. At the same time, we need to connect these stories with the larger picture. We need to be able to explore how our personal experiences fit in with those of others; and how they may relate to more general ’stories’ and understandings about life.
  • The space should support solitude and surround it with the resources of community. Learning demands both solitude and community. People need time alone to reflect and absorb. Their experiences and struggles need to be respected. At the same time, they need to be able to call upon and be with others. We need conversations in which our ideas are tested and biases challenged.
  • The space should welcome both silence and speech. Silence gives us the chance to reflect on things. It can be a sort of speech ‘emerging from the deepest part of ourselves, of others, of the world’. At the same time we need to be able to put things into words so that we gain a greater understanding and to make concrete what we may share in silence.
  • What does such a space look like?

    What does this suggest for us as we consider our role as designers for the future of learning?

    And how do we keep on the table the ‘human’ experience throughout the design process?

    Your thoughts?

    Optimism In Spite of Challenge: What Advice Would You Give to New Orleans Leaders in Rebuilding Their Schools?

    February 21st, 2007

    As if the challenges weren’t great enough, recent reports nationally and internationally suggest that New Orleans continues to face extraordinary uphill battles in re-building their schools (and hiring teachers, although TeachNOLA seems to be offering an innovative program to draw passionate teachers and teachers-to-be down to the city).

    From a recent eSchool News story:

    A year and a half after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, destroying schools and displacing students, school leaders are still struggling to rebuild damaged facilities and technology infrastructures.

    In January, members of the Hurricane Education Leadership Program (HELP) Team–a coalition of ed-tech companies and organizations that is helping to rebuild Gulf Coast schools as 21st-century learning facilities–took a tour of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and were surprised by what they saw.

    “[We were] stunned at the lack of progress in getting recovery to these folks,” said Terry Smithson, education strategist for Intel Corp. and leader of the HELP Team. “In some places, it still looks like a bomb has gone off.”

    Note: Check out this video of Terry Smithson talking about the efforts of HELP, and then watch Part 2 and Part 3, as well. Also thought we’d highlight an eSchool News special supplement highlighting the HELP team’s efforts — also worth checking out.

    Having had the opportunity to connect with Terry in the past, and hearing him discuss his decision to commit to helping New Orleans’ schools rebuild through the HELP (Hurricane Education Leadership Project) team, I am pleased to see that they are keeping an eye on his perspective. He’s a remarkably visionary/optimistic leader in the field, so if he’s stunned…it’s not an over-exaggeration.

    Fortunately, teams like Steven Bingler/Bobbie Hill’s Concordia Architecture and Planning are also involved in helping to not only ‘rebuild’ the city, but to also ensure that the city’s learning environments remain community-based and innovative.

    DesignShare is happy to be publishing an upcoming article by Steven centered on the idea of the community “Nexus” that will certainly offer some striking ideas for all of us concerned with the city’s future. And also how community learning centers as a “nexus” of learning resources can be integrated in cities/towns far and wide.

    Jeff Lackney’s School Design Research Studio Launches a Blog

    February 21st, 2007

    Jeff Lackney shared with us a few weeks back that he had launched a new school design oriented blog to support the School Design Research Studio.

    Been wonderful to see it gain momentum since his first post in January. A couple of his blog posts that particularly caught our attention include:

    Definitely check out Jeff’s blogging on behalf of the School Design Research Studio. If you like, you can even subscribe to his regular blog entries.

    John Sole (PBL Master Teacher) Shares Film of 4th Graders Exploring School Design

    February 21st, 2007

    One can’t help but love the sight and sounds of young kids becoming ’school designers’ under the tutelage of passionate architects. The following video was recently released by John Sole at his Guerrilla Educators blog, a new venture he’s put together that is focused entirely on Project-Based Learning (PBL) programs and connecting with school designers/architects to develop truly hands-on learning environments. The following video offers a wonderful summary of a 10-week program involving 4th graders at an inner-city school in Philadelphia:


    Over the last few years, we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing John Sole — master service teacher and Project-Based Learning (PBL) expert — to discuss the connection between PBL and school design:

    In addition to being fortunate enough to team up with John in giving leading workshops with a wide array of educators and architects, we consider the work he’s beginning to share through his blog to be a great asset in supporting the passions everyone in the DesignShare community shares. Check it out when you have time! We definitely think you’re going to like what you find.

    And if you’re interested in having John connect with your educational and/or architectural team to help develop hands-on learning environments, let us know. He’s beginning to develop a series of DesignShare workshops for 2007 and beyond that look really exciting!

    What Would You Ask Daniel Pink?

    February 20th, 2007

    In preparation for our conversation this week with Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, we thought we’d ask others to offer questions they’d ask him in light of how the shift from the information age to the conceptual age will impact the future of school design.

    What would you ask him if y0u had a chance to sit down with him and explore the ideas in his book?

    How would you challenge him to explain his “six high-concept, high-touch senses” of the Conceptual Age as a spark for the design of future learning environments? FYI, the 6 senses that define A Whole New Mind:

    • Not just function but also DESIGN
    • Not just argument but also STORY
    • Not just focus but also SYMPHONY
    • Not just logic but also EMPATHY
    • Not just seriousness but also PLAY
    • Not just accumulation but also MEANING

    On a side note, we were delighted to learn that Alan November, one of the leading a experts in the world on the future of education and technology, had recently connected with Daniel on a similar set of ’school design’ related questions. Talk about great timing on an otherwise niche topic.

    Apparently there will be a multi-part series of podcasts between the 2 of them, but you can listen to the first segment right away at this link here. Well worth a listen in advance of what we’ll be able to share in the coming weeks based on our conversation with Daniel.

    A Teachers View of Weaving Technology Into the Design of a School

    February 20th, 2007

    Like many of you, we’re spending more and more time keeping an eye on the education bloggers, many of which talk about ’school design’ in some pretty passionate/unique ways. Whether for routine research or for tapping into specific design issues, ‘edu-bloggers’ from around the world are really developing some powerful conversations as of late.

    One conversation in particular can be found in a recent post called “Extreme Makeover: School Edition” on the “Ed Tech Journeys” blog, written by Peter Reilly. On a side note, Peter’s blog won the highly respected 2006 EduBlogs Award for “Best Newcomer” not too long ago.

    While we wouldn’t suggest that TV’s “Extreme Makeover” is demonstrative of innovative architecture/design, the language offers a starting point for educators like Peter to explore the relationship between learning, technology, and school design that is vital. Here’s what Peter wrote:

    At what point do we as educational leaders begin to take technology as seriously as the other components of our school infrastructure?

    Wince every time you hear of untrained custodians, or well-meaning students wiring buildings on the cheap. Would a Superintendent of schools or Board of Education ever allow students and community volunteers to install the heating system of the school? How about the electrical system? Alarms and security?

    Keep your eyes closed tight if you know of schools that have substantial numbers of six or seven year old computers running Windows 95 or Windows 98.

    Cringe when you hear of corporations dumping old and obsolete computers on schools; computers that will cost the school more in maintenance than if the school had bought a new machine. Many high schools resemble technological archeological sites…if you dig deep enough you are bound to find every model of computer since the Apple IIE.

    Shake your head when you see a school district with more than 100 infrastructure support people: custodians, drivers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, etc.; and (4) network technicians to maintain thousands of computers in sixteen buildings.

    Pray when you hear of a school district that has no security budget, hasn’t audited its greatest vulnerabilities, has not updated the anti-spyware on its workstations, has not had time to apply the latest anti-virus signatures, or the latest Microsoft patches.

    Pray harder if they aren’t taking daily, rotating backups (even in the summer when some staff are on vacation) and keeping them off-site; and if they haven’t a plan on how or where to restore them in case of a flood, fire, catastrophic hardware failure, or Katrina-like disaster.

    It’s time to stop wincing, cringing, praying, and closing our eyes to the sorry state of much of the educational technology in this country. It’s time to put technology on the same footing as the rest of the school infrastructure. Technology should be current, ubiquitous, and well maintained.

    Of course this will take money; and leadership. Where we spend our money is merely a reflection of what we value. I know we value our children. At the very least our job as leaders is to insure that the 21st Century classroom in America is competitive with the 21st century living rooms of our students.

    At best, we could rethink our school structures and embark on an Extreme Makeover: School Edition.

    Your thoughts as to how we begin to integrate the technology/infrastructure issues earlier into the design process?

    Time for the 2007 Awards Program to Begin!

    February 15th, 2007


    Or, to Fax or Mail your registration, DOWNLOAD the:

    Will You Be at the “Schools for the 21st Century” Symposium In New Orleans on March 1st?

    February 9th, 2007

    Undoubtedly by now, you’ve seen the striking Architectural Record suplement issue entitled “Schools of the 21st Century” that has inspired a similarly entitled web site (co-presented by the American Architectural Foundation and Edutopia). Their vision?

    Share the “Latest thinking and Best Ideas on the Planning and Design of K-12 School Buildings.”

    This will give you a sense of some of what you’ll find at the site:

  • “A” is for Architecture: There are plenty of reasons to believe the next generation of schools will be the best ever designed.
  • Little Green Schoolhouses: The massive schools construction program currently underway provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create buildings that will influence the lives of students for decades to come.
  • Education, Unplugged: In some cases, the difficulties of hardwiring old schools can be eased by portable devices and digitally based curricula.
  • National School Design Institute: Teams of architects and school district representatives gathered to take on tough school design problems.
  • Case Studies: A look at six great U.S. Schools including: Montessori Children’s Center, San Francisco, Mark Horton/Architecture; Blythewood High School, Columbia, South Carolina, Perkins+Will, Boudreaux Group; Detroit School of Arts, Detroit, Hamilton Anderson Associates; Denver School of Science & Technology, Denver, klipp; Alpine School District Prototype Middle Schools, Alpine and Lehi, Utah, VCBO Architecture; and Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, Kirkland, Washington, Mahlum Architects
  • Needless to say, we love the work they’re doing and the ideas they’re undoubtedly going to inspire in the process.

    In addition to this vital resource for school planners and their stakeholders, if you have a chance to be down in New Orleans the week of March 1st, they’re also throwing a free all-day symposium to bring to life the very ideas found in the magazine/web site. Here’s a bit of what you’ll find if you can make it down there for the event:

    The event, conveniently co-located at the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) conference, will include such sessions as:

  • The Head of Their Class: Case studies of innovative school buildings from across the U.S.
  • High-Performance School Buildings: An examination of environmentally friendly, inexpensive-to-operate buildings and advice on how to build one.
  • Discussions about new school construction materials and techniques that not only make schools more attractive, safer, and healthier, but also improve learning and lower operating costs.
  • A recap of the latest research conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics on school spending trends and “green” school construction.
  • Hope to see you there!

    No Longer Theory: Building Virtual College Classrooms in Second Life

    February 9th, 2007

    Fascinating conversations taking place in San Francisco this week about the growing trend of higher education campuses building classroom space in the virtual world of Second Life. Why the trend? Interestingly, higher education leaders are looking for innovative alternatives as they sense over-crowded classrooms and a rising trend in telecommuting students:

    If you want to know what higher education will look like in a few years, you might ask Charles Reed, chancellor of the largest four-year university system in the United States.

    As head of the California State University system–with 23 campuses, 46,000 employees and more than 400,000 students–Reed says he’s worried about classroom space in the future because of, among other reasons, expanding enrollment.

    Consequently, Reed said he envisions students becoming more like telecommuters. They might meet with faculty and peers one day a week on campus, and then use simulations, virtual worlds and downloaded information the rest of the week to complete coursework.

    “It’s not an either-or thing. We need the ‘high touch,’ but we need the high tech at the same time,” Reed said Tuesday at Sun Microsystem’s Worldwide Education and Research Conference here.

    BTW, are you familiar with how many universities/colleges have already created a virtual presence in Second Life? You might be stunned:

    Virtual worlds are already beginning to change higher education, according to several educators.

    For example, more than 70 universities have built island campuses in Second Life, according to Stuart Sim, CTO and chief architect of Moodlerooms, which builds structures in virtual worlds and offers course management software. Sim said his company is currently developing tools to help universities better manage students and courses delivered in Second Life. That way, universities can have an application to control adding or removing a student avatar to the island campus, he said. The project is dubbed

    Why are they making such an investment? Just to seem cutting-edge?

    Gerri Sinclair, executive director of the master’s degree program for digital media at the Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver, Canada, said her group is building a Second Life virtual campus alongside its physical one. “Our students are digital natives, and they don’t want to be reached in traditional ways. So we’re creating a virtual campus as we’re building our real campus,” Sinclair said.

    Seems like we’ve only begun to see the potential in this profound merger of F2F classrooms and their virtual siblings. Your thoughts?

    If you’re unfamiliar with Second Life and its potential role for education (especially higher education), you may want to consider a Second Life for Higher Education wiki-tutorial that is provided by a group of educators who are integrating the virtual and real teaching spaces. And obviously this may be a great chance to look more closely at the Harvard Law course entitled “Cyber One” that exists simultaneously as a real course with a virtual component of every detail in Second Life as well.

    What Can We Learn from “Voices from the New American Schoolhouse” Project?

    February 7th, 2007

    Certainly not the most traditional model of ’school’ we safely offer, but you can’t help but wonder with a fair amount of imagination at the ideas proposed in the “Voices of the New American Schoolhouse.”

    But what can be learned by a school built upon the foundation of discovery? A school built upon the premise that kids learn at the pace of their own learning? Possible more than once? Or is this school utterly unique? And is there a middle ground for the rest of the educational system to consider?

    Watch the video trailor. A great 10 minute teaser that can’t help but spark a reaction — one way or another — and ideas for re-imaging learning in the future.

    Following Up on a Chairless School

    February 7th, 2007

    We had previously blogged about the remarkable ‘chair-less’ school in Rochester, Minnesota (US) that is embracing technology and health education on a remarkable level on 2 occasions: link 1 and link 2.

    This came back to mind recently, thanks to Jon Benton of OWP, who sent us an update on the school’s unique program (although the article runs back to March of 06). The following design elements that continued to grab our attention again:


    “When I was approached I realized that this has to be the face of the future not only for education but also for the health of American children,” said Jerry Williams, superintendent of Rochester Public Schools. “If the concepts are proven, Rochester will consider expanding such an experimental environment in one of our elementary schools.”

    Thirty fourth and fifth graders spent a week having all their school activity measured in their traditional classroom. This week (week of March 13th) they are moving to the “school of the future.” They will be given several days to settle in. The children’s activity will be monitored in the new school environment and educational testing will be performed. The Mayo team will collect data on their movements using specialized telemetry called Posture and Activity Detectors (PADs). Each child will wear a PAD on his or her leg. The PADs will measure the time spent standing and walking.

    Technology that inspires a new way of learning and moving:

    Dr. Levine developed the school’s concepts during two decades of international research. They will be integrated into the children’s learning experience. Some of the innovations include:

    € Video-streamed “pod-casting” as a teaching aid
    € “Learn ‘n Move” bays — a step beyond traditional learning stations
    € Wireless technology
    € Personalized laptop computers
    € A novel earpiece that measures physical activity of the student
    € Vertical magnetic work spaces that double as projection screens
    € Innovative telemetry that collects data for scientific comparison
    € Personalized white boards (instead of one large blackboard for a room)
    € “Standing” desks — where the children will stand and work, rather than sit

    What began to unfold that suggests that this goes well beyond technology per se:

    The most amazing advance, according to Dr. Levine, is giving children the chance to move at school. “Children are so amazing,” he said. “They are adaptable and actually love to learn, we just have to let them move naturally.”

    “We hope that the novel aspect of the technology will interest them so they choose to stand and move, rather than look for a place to sit,” says Dr. Lanningham-Foster. “Kids will stand at a video arcade; why not at a computerized learning center?”

    Your thoughts?

    Rural Colleges Seeking Urban Design Edge

    February 7th, 2007

    For generations, rural colleges have sought to be different from their city-based peers. In essence, the ‘look’ and feel of a rural college or university was seen as a unique strength and cultural norm.

    Today, however, there appears to be a trend to reverse course as rural colleges and universities - such as Hendrix College in southern Arkansas (US) - seek to add a contemporary urban edge to their campus designs. According to a recent NYTimes article:

    For decades, colleges like Hendrix in rural areas of the country embraced a pastoral ideal, presenting themselves as oases of scholarship surrounded by nothing more distracting than lush farmland and rolling hills. But many officials at such institutions have decided that students today want something completely different: urban buzz. “You can’t market yourself as bucolic,” J. Timothy Cloyd, the Hendrix president, said.

    At the same time, officials have realized that a more urbanized version of the ideal campus could attract a population well past its college years — working people and retiring baby boomers — if there is housing to suit them. And so a new concept of the college campus is taking root: a small city in the country that is not reserved for only the young.

    Clearly these evolving campus design strategies are growing out of a pretty bottom-line need: will the students come?

    “It’s part of a pattern of colleges and universities realizing that they have elements that are appealing to a population far broader than 18- to 25-year-olds,” said Ralph J. Hexter, president of Hampshire College. “It’s often said of a college education, ‘It’s a shame it’s wasted on the young.’ ”The distinctive marks of many of these campuses are shops, restaurants, offices and housing that, together, create a destination. The idea is to produce street life and to promote social interaction.

    Nearly all of these developments are being built by institutions with vast tracts of unused land; officials hope to take advantage of that asset to help build endowments. Generally, these are also institutions that are not looking to expand significantly the size of their student bodies.

    Students graduating from high school these days seem particularly attracted to urban settings, said Dr. Cloyd, the Hendrix president. Many come from the suburbs, he said.

    “I think students crave the kind of vitality you have in an urban space,” Dr. Cloyd said. “The images that reveal an active social life are urban-based.”

    Has the global concept reached a tipping point?

    “When you picture a global university, you picture urban,” said Amy Gutmann, the Penn president. “You picture restaurants, art galleries, you picture day and night, taking in movies, live performances.”

    What are your thoughts? Are the bucolic university settings of the past complete anachronisms? Or is this merely a trend gaining momentum based on short-term marketing efforts? And does this mean a great range of design solutions or a vanilla-standard being fostered?

    Building Libraries on the Pillars of Web 2.0

    February 6th, 2007

    If you had to pick a single space in a school that is wrestling with the future of learning more than others, you’d be hard pressed to ignore the evolution of the library space. In particular, we are drawn to those who are giving voice to the concept of Library 2.0.

    To this end, we’d like point you to a recent article we discovered that looks at a re-imagination of the design of a library web site as a model for what we’re all trying to do in the design of entire schools and campuses. What caught our attention in particular were the 6 pillars that challenge the way we not only share and interact with information, but perhaps how we conceive of a learning space in the first place. They write:

    1. Radical decentralization
    2. Small pieces loosely joined
    3. Perpetual beta
    4. Remixable content
    5. User as contributor
    6. Rich user experience

    If you were to embrace one or all of these pillars, how would they impact the way you conceived of designs that truly empowered the future of learning?

    How Do You Take a Fairly “Typical” School And Move It Into the 21st Century?

    February 3rd, 2007

    Will Richardson, one of the guiding voices in the evolution of schools working today, offers the following post in his blog yesterday in a piece entitled: “Moving Schools Forward — A School 2.0 Project”:

    So here is one of the burning questions in my brain these days:

    How do you take a fairly “typical” school that is currently steeped in a 20th Century model of teaching and successfully move it forward in a systemic way toward a more relevant 21st Century, or, if you will, School 2.0 model that fully takes advantage of a more connected, collaborative, creative world?

    For most of the folks he works with — students, teachers, administrators, technology experts, vendors, board members — this is a technology-meets-education question.

    We offer it to you because we believe that in the process of designing a new school or renovating an existing campus, he offers the million-dollar question.

    What are your thoughts?

    If you’re keeping an eye on folks working passionately to push on the future of learning question, we’d suggest that you add Will Richardson’s blog to your reading list. We can promise you that your educational clients are certainly beginning to.

    Creating Spaces for Passionate Learners

    February 3rd, 2007

    Sitting in the front row in the ‘School Design’ conversation sits the ‘user’. Call it a student or a teacher or a community member — today or tomorrow — but for speed we’ll simply say ‘user’ to make the larger point. They’re paying attention. They’re raising their hands. And they’re putting enormous trust in all of us who are invited into this vital projects.

    Are they a first-person collaborator in your project? Or are they given a third-person designation as the building and budget and experts take over?

    One of the non-architecture, non-education blogs we keep an eye on is one called “Creating Passionate Users”. Without offering a poorly derived back-history on Kathy Sierra (and team), this widely respected and popular blog reminds technologists to keep the user experience in mind 24/7 as they create the tools that make the world go round. Not as an after-thought. Not as a marketing tool. Not out of guilt. But as a fundamental law of the universe.

    Kathy is not only a skilled writer and presenter, but she comes out of the inner chambers of technology where its easy to talk about the engineering and ‘cool tool’ factor alone, where its easy to defend the value of a project based on the technical expertise and scientific factors alone, where its easy to see the ‘user’ as a marketing or warranty after-the-fact. This is hardly unique to Silicon Valley or any part of the world where computing experts collect and do really cool things. It is, in our opinion, something equally shared in the world of school design where projects are launched with a table full of experts who bring immense technical skills to the conversation.

    On the other hand, the ‘user’ is often spoken about from a distance. Yes, we want ‘kids’ to be safe and empowered, teachers to want to work in these space, communities to proudly point to the schoolhouse in the distance. But too often these folks are spoken about in the third person or only brought in ’strategically’ in easy-to-manage moments along the way. Even worse, they are used as convenient marketing tools and photo ops to suggest that kids/teachers/community are a vital part of the design project. Even more ironically, when the ‘voters’ are needed to pass critical bond elections/levies (for example), they are vitally important. Once the money is in hand, however, these users lose their first-person status and begin to be referred to from a distance.

    Similarly, the user’s goals, needs, passions, and vision are often rationalized as an after-thought once the technical ’school’ building or campus is defined. Sure, there may be an Ed Spec, there may be an early design charrette with kids/teachers offering their ideas in a short-hit, there may be a series of public community meetings where individuals/groups can contribute ideas, questions…and even disagree.

    But ultimately, the building and budget and experts are honored more in real-time along the way, with the end-user taking on a 3rd person role more and more through the process. Whether its done respectfully or not, consciously or not, this may suggest an opportunity to re-imagine our collective role in supporting the user’s goals…and the user’s experience from the beginning of the conceptual project through deep into the life-cycle reality itself.

    Back to “Creating Passionate Users” for a bit. Not necessarily about technology, but offered as a reminder of the folks who will one day live in, breathe in, learn in, and be significantly impacted in the schools we design and build. Good intentions or not.

    Imagine if a school were built upon the premise of creating passionate learners. Not just global workers. Not just 21st century students. But passionate learners.

    What would that school look like?

    And likewise, what would such a place look like if you were invited to help design a school that started with this core invitation: “We will design a educational facility, campus, learning environment, classroom, and everything else imaginable that supports the creation of passionate learners. Everything else will follow in this spirit.”

    In the spirit of an evolving learning process and conversation, we highly recommend that you keep an eye on the “Creating Passionate Users” blog as a mirror for asking the underlying questions that truly matter when it comes to the honor of co-creating schools that will support the learners and community users of the future.

    What are your thoughts?

    Schools Putting Roofs Over the Heads of Homeless Students

    February 2nd, 2007

    It is an intriguing premise to imagine that schools may one day soon consider helping their students with the ‘rest of their life needs’ as a basic offering. There are obvious connections to extra-curricular activities, offering additional meals, and so much more already, but how often is ‘housing’ part of the equation when a school tries to help their students succeed?

    And what about the opportunity to help homeless students find a roof to put over their head so that they stand a fighting chance of having a foundation to work from as they simultaneously try to succeed in school? Possible? Outside of the school’s responsibility?

    We wonder if the school district outside of St. Louis, MO is doing something that will only impact 4 students or if it will inspire school communities much further away to consider the facility needs of students beyond the campus itself. Known as “Joe’s House”, the district has provided housing for 4 homeless students. Why?

    Officially, it’s known as Joe’s Place. But one of its first residents has dubbed the cheerful yellow house “Big Bird.” It opened recently with enough space for four homeless boys who attend high school in the Maplewood Richmond Heights (MRH) district, near St. Louis.

    The result of a collaboration between school officials, local churches, and scores of volunteers, Joe’s Place appears to be a first-of-its-kind endeavor in the United States.

    “The thing that makes this unique is that the school district actually put up the money for the housing,” says Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

    The small district should be applauded for taking such direct action to meet a need, Ms. Duffield says, but it’s also important for people to keep in mind that “the overall problem [nationwide] is there is not adequate attention to the needs of families and youth on the housing and shelter front.”

    As the article states, this is the first-of-its-kind project happening in the US. Will it be the last?

    And do you know of any similar efforts unfolding around the world?

    Will Yale Become the World’s Greenest Campus?

    February 2nd, 2007

    How green is your university? How green is your university design?

    Interesting snippet from a recent Newsweek article where the President of Yale University suggests that large organizations can no longer wait to make this move:

    Global warming is one of the most-talked-about topics in Davos this year. But for many gathered in the Swiss mountain town for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, mere talk isn’t enough. “We cannot wait for our governments to act,” Yale President Richard Levin told delegates on Thursday. “Large organizations with the power to act independently should take matters into their own hands and begin to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions now.”

    A tipping point or not?


    Thanks to Kristin and ArchNewsNow for this original link.

    What the Amish Can Teach Us About School Design Priorities

    January 25th, 2007

    It would be a gross over-statement to suggest that the school-based tragedy that befell the Pennsylvania Amish community in the last few months should by itself lead to a post on school design.

    Innocent lives were lost. A community was hit hardest where it counts most. And there is no short-cut to recovery or understanding.

    What struck us, however, was that as the world was gathering to interview the community for late-breaking news stories, argue in editorial pages about ratcheting up school safety and security measures, and in general use the shootings as an example of how our schools and kids need to be locked down further, the Amish community who experienced it first-hand quietly razed the school house to the ground in a matter of hours while the rest of us were scurrying for talking points.

    They left nothing of the original schoolhouse but the very ground the building originally stood upon. Tore it down within days. And began the healing process that would ultimately best serve their kids, families, and neighbors, so they could re-build and begin moving forward as a community. Instead of turning the tragedy into a device for dividing their community and ‘walling’ off their students from the real world, they opted for dignity and re-birth.

    The community is in the process of re-building a one-room schoolhouse next to the site of the tragedy. Most interestingly — and powerfully — they have declined offers of increased ’security’ measures:

    The new school will have doors that can be locked, as the previous building did, but will have no additional security measures, said Herman Bontrager, spokesman for a committee set up to receive donations following the massacre.

    The reasons they offered are nothing short of profound, reminders to us all communities and the health of our students require level-headed reactions rather than over-reactive calls for gates and cameras:

    While some members of the Amish community argued for increased security in the new school, most believe that the Nickel Mines massacre was an isolated incident caused by a troubled individual and that it is neither feasible nor desirable to install increased security, Bontrager said.

    “Human beings are meant to live together in peace and one of the most important human traits is to be trustworthy,” Bontrager said.

    We do not offer this reflection lightly. We do not suggest that schools should avoid common sense security measures to ensure the safety and well-being of their kids and community.

    But we also believe that a small Amish community who has faced an unspeakable horror has much to teach every school design stakeholder about maintaining the priority of fostering ‘healthy’ communities above a ‘walled’ compounds.

    Your thoughts?

    North Carolina: Will $2 Billion in School Construction Create the Schools We Need?

    January 25th, 2007

    What’s sparking citizens to approach the North Carolina state legislature to argue for a massive increase in school construction funding?

    The speakers said their schools are crumbling, packed with too many students and using computers that are 10 to 15 years old.

    “More than half of our schools are 40 years old or older,” said Shirley Prince, the superintendent of Scotland County schools. “We are really in dire straits.”

    Will it make a difference? Possibly yes. Possibly no. But clearly even $2 billion won’t cover the real needs in this state (which probably is representative of most states, with obvious fluctuations in the relative costs):

    State officials estimate that school districts need $9.8 billion in new construction and repairs over the next five years. But if the bond is approved, local governments would have to raise the remaining $7.8 billion, said Ed Dunlap, the executive director of the North Carolina School Boards Association, one of the members of the Everybody’s Business Coalition.

    While funding is so critical in the process, one wonders if the design of learning environments best suited for the evolving needs of the future is being held simultaneously. Yes, we struggle to find the resources to simply offer ‘adequate’ school facilities. But the future of learning will require more than simply ensuring their are roofs and rows of seats.

    Your thoughts?

    NYC: Can $1 Billion Inspire Smaller Classes?

    January 24th, 2007

    Whether your a proponent of the small schools movement or not, most stakeholders who focus on kids, teachers and learning - as well as the ‘feel’ and ’security’ of a school community - would opt for the least # of students in a classroom possible.

    New York City appears to be offering up a pretty healthy call-to-arms in shape of a $1 billion dollar promise to reduce class sizes in city schools:

    The head of New York City’s teachers’ union implored state lawmakers on Tuesday to reserve at least $1 billion of new state education spending to reduce class sizes.

    The call, by Randi Weingarten, president of the 140,000-member United Federation of Teachers, was the opening salvo in the battle over how to finance city schools after the state’s highest court ruled last year that Albany must give those schools at least $2 billion in additional aid.

    “We need this more than anything else — the only reform that has never been tried systemically in New York City, and that is a real lowering of class size,” Ms. Weingarten said at a breakfast with state lawmakers. Reducing class size would require hiring hundreds if not thousands of teachers.

    Will the state support this? Recommend - sort of - may be a better way to describe their reaction to this brave and provocative proposal:

    A spokeswoman for Gov. Eliot Spitzer said that in his budget message next week, he would propose overhauling the state’s school aid formula, greatly increasing the dollars available for city schools, and would allow school districts to use the money to reduce class size but not require it.

    If they can get the funding, why will it matter?

    Ms. Weingarten said the $1 billion she called for to reduce the size of classes in city schools was what class size advocates said it would cost to bring city class sizes in line with the state average.

    “It would take a billion to make class sizes in New York City the same size as class sizes in the rest of New York State,” she said. “It would make us similar to the rest of the state, where class sizes are smaller and graduation rates are higher.”

    Your thoughts? And can funding that aims to lower class sizes and hire more teachers lead to better school design?

    California School Construction Funding: Terminator or Motivator?

    January 24th, 2007

    If you’re involved in public school construction on any level in California, you’re fairly familiar with the way the state and local authorities ’split the costs’ for facility projects.

    Well, if Governor Schwarzenegger has his way, this balanced funding relationship is on its way out:

    Tucked deep in the budget plan he released earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to dramatically change how public school construction is financed in California, shifting hundreds of millions — perhaps billions — of dollars in costs from the state to local government.

    For almost a decade, the state and local districts have split the costs of building new schools 50-50. But the governor has proposed changing that formula to require that locals now cough up 60 percent of the costs.

    Outcries are already mounting:

    “It means either there is going to be fewer schools or the schools that are built will not have adequate facilities,” said Tom Duffy, legislative director for the Coalition for Adequate Student Housing, an umbrella group representing both schools and builders. “Districts are already not receiving the 50 percent they are promised and now you are saying you want to cut it back to 40 percent?”

    We found this an interesting comment by the Governor that doesn’t quite match his new proposal:

    “That small child with the sticky hands starting the first day in kindergarten is the foundation of California’s economic power and leadership,” he said.

    If a state isn’t willing to fund the very creation and maintenance of the spaces that very kindergarten student goes to to learn, this offers a bit of irony if you’re really looking at the relationship between funding and foundations.

    What do you think?

    Libraries: The Front Line of Emerging Technologies & Participation?

    January 23rd, 2007

    Fascinating discussion being held in libraries around the world. Especially anytime you see the phrase “Library 2.0″ uttered.

    Take this article from District Administration magazine for example that picks up on the 2.0 “buzz” and asks how libraries — and schools (we smiled, of course) — are being re-imagined, re-invented, and re-purposed

    With all the buzz about “Web 2.0 technologies” and the implications that new social Web tools such as Weblogs, wikis and the like have for education and information literacy, it’s no wonder that school libraries are suddenly on the front lines of change.

    We greatly appreciated this series of questions:

    • But what exactly does a “School Library 2.0″ look like, and how does your library stack up? (No pun intended.)
    • Is your library a “24/7 digital workspace,” a “learning-centered laboratory,” and/or a “participatory, social, user-centered space”?


    They are all descriptions that came from the recent School Library 2.0 Summit sponsored by School Library Journal. Libraries were also described as places where “librarians are connectors,” where there is a “community of trust emphasizing personal responsibility,” and a place for “interactive learning and collaboration with others.” In other words, today’s libraries are much different from how they were in the past.

    Fascinating to hear the increasing focus on ‘interaction’ and ‘connectors’ rather than holding tight to the traditional bastion of quiet reading. It appears that the future of library design is a much more active/dynamic/discovery space than a tome for books and shelves.

    Check out the article for examples of how the library is changing at a school near you!

    Florida Campus Design: Why Build Out When the Sky Calls?

    January 22nd, 2007

    We tend to believe that land comes first, then a 2nd or 3rd story when absolutely necessary. What if we reversed the idea and looked up first, rather than a larger foot print on the ground? Sounds like many urban school projects — think NYC for one — that do not grow weak at the knees when they have to teach students beyond the 3rd floor.

    From Florida recently comes a new way of design-thinking based on saving construction costs. The ‘rest’ is yet to be determined:

    Orange County school officials think they can stretch their $3.9 billion school-building budget by shrinking dozens of future schools.

    But that plan could mean fewer parking spaces, no stadiums at new high schools, smaller campuses and taller buildings.

    What does ’soar’ really mean? Is it simply an issue of relativity? And does a ’small’ learning community just mean less square footage but the same old educational program?

    So officials are beginning to look at using smaller spaces efficiently. Herron cautioned, however, that building compact schools would not be the sole solution to Orange’s budget woes.

    Plenty of factors — many of them mandatory — can still drive up costs, including state class-size restrictions, the need to create equivalent practice fields for male and female students and building parking garages, he said.

    “It’s good, but to a point,” Herron said. “But we’ve got a lot of opportunity to try innovative things.”

    That could include recommending that most schools rise taller — high schools could soar three stories or more.

    If this simply grows out of a desire to save money and has no underlying design or learning heart driving it forward, then perhaps we may fail in the end in spite of what our cash flow statement reads.

    What Does Your Principal Think of Their School Building and Campus?

    January 22nd, 2007

    Thanks to Judy at NCEF for pointing our eyes/minds to this fascinating report entitled “Public School Principals Report on Their School Facilities, Fall 2005″ put out by the National Center for Educational Statistics. While a bit ‘dated’ in terms of the data collected (most research needs to use historical data that takes time to analyze well), the report is hot-hot-hot-off-the-presses (just released today!) and is a fantastic resource that not only offers a comprehensive analysis but also does so ‘in the voices’ of educational leaders.


    This report provides information about principals’ satisfaction with various environmental factors in their schools, and the extent to which they perceive those factors as interfering with the ability of the school to deliver instruction. The report also describes the extent of the match between the enrollment and the capacity of the school buildings, approaches for coping with overcrowding, the ways in which schools use portable (temporary) buildings and reasons for using them, and the availability of dedicated rooms or facilities for particular subjects (such as science labs or music rooms) and the extent to which these facilities are perceived to support instruction.

    Major findings include:

    More than half of the principals reported that their school had fewer students than the school’s design capacity: 21 percent said their school was underenrolled by more than 25 percent, and 38 percent said their school was underenrolled by between 6 and 25 percent. The remaining schools included those that had enrollments within 5 percent of their capacity (22 percent) and those that were overenrolled (10 percent were overenrolled by between 6 to 25 percent above their capacity, and 8 percent by more than 25 percent of their design capacity). Those schools that principals described as overcrowded used a variety of approaches to deal with the overcrowding: using portable classrooms (78 percent), converting non-classroom space into classrooms (53 percent), increasing class sizes (44 percent), building new permanent buildings or additions to existing buildings (35 percent), using off-site instructional facilities (5 percent), or other approaches (12 percent).

    When Schools Go Chairless to Promote Healthy Students

    January 19th, 2007

    Thanks to Judy at NCEF for this article link.


    While there is no official rule that a school needs chairs, the iconic value of the chair and desk makes it hard to imagine a learning environment without them.

    Unless you are visiting Elton Hills Elementary School in Rochester, Minnesota where children not only are encouraged not to use chairs, but they are also:

    …encouraged to stretch, stand, kneel, and even bounce.


    The idea is to keep students on the move, make them comfortable while they learn, and motivate them to burn calories, fighting childhood obesity.

    What most intrigues us is the underlying research principles that support a re-imagination of the physicality associated with classroom design and learning. Apparently, a relationship with the famed Mayo Clinic created a new set of health-based strategies supported by the “chairless classroom”:

    James Levine, director of the Active Life research team at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, invented the first “chairless classroom.” It is outfitted with Apple laptops, video iPods, personalized whiteboards, adjustable podiums, and exercise balls in the place of chairs. Thirty students in the fourth and fifth grades are participating in the experiment.

    Groups of students work on different activities during a single class. Some kids take a spelling test while walking, and others listen to an audio file of their teacher, Phil Rynearson, reading a book. While students learn, Levine measures how many calories the children burn, using sensors attached to their legs.

    Needless to say, an intriguing blend of technology, creative teaching strategies, and looking for innovative ways to support healthy student development in mind and body.

    NYCity: Can the Playground Be Designed to Teach Kids to Play?

    January 19th, 2007

    We imagine that most of you have heard about the recent NYTimes article highlighting new trends in public playground design with a focus on ‘teaching’ kids how to play:

    City officials unveiled plans last week for a new kind of playground, outfitted with ponds, pulleys and bulky foam blocks intended to engage the imagination, and “play workers” to help guide fantasy play….

    The experiment, if it inspires other cities, would mark the first significant change in playground design in decades, since municipalities began replacing steel monkey bars and slides with the boxy, plastic equipment common in many urban areas today.

    While we are struck curious about new designs, we more importantly appreciate the essential question tied to what it means to ‘teach’ a child to ‘play’ in the first place:

    It already raises fundamental questions about childhood.

    How much help do children need to do what should come naturally? And to what extent does expert guidance - embodied by the so-called play workers - represent adults’ expectations of children, rather than what the youngsters themselves want or need?

    Which leads the article to ask whether a new design philosophy for playgrounds is focused on the kids…or the parents’ need for a particularly ‘guided’ way of play:

    “My first impression is that this is more evidence that we don’t trust kids to play by themselves,” said Peter Stearns, provost of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and author of “Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Childrearing in America.” “And I think it’s fair to ask: Is this really for parents, to make them feel their kids are being properly guided while playing?”

    In a day and age where play is a ‘value-added’ proposition for many schools getting rid of recess in lieu of test prep and concerns of injury liability and public nuisances, perhaps a change in cultural philosophy makes sense.

    Or does it?

    On the surface, a managed playground is a natural extension of a culture that increasingly parcels childhood into schedules. Many children in urban areas from Boston to Houston no longer run out the front door to find their friends; their parents make play dates instead. And youngsters who once might have played on a sandlot or a backyard ice rink now enter organized leagues by first grade.

    Pickup games are still around, but they have migrated from the street to computers, where friends gather online at sites like Neopets and Club Penguin.

    Cultural critics have warned of the dangers of replacing spontaneous play with organized activities since the 1930s, when the historian Johan Huizinga published his classic, “Homo Ludens,” about the importance of spontaneous and unstructured play to the health of societies.

    Children chasing, creeping, diving into alleyways and bushes may look somehow suspect, even dangerous. But experts say the free-for-all has a point: children develop independent judgment, and a sense of risk, privacy and invention all their own when they create play worlds that exclude parents and other adults. Forcing a children’s game to have some goal, as many parents have the urge to do, in effect installs a hall monitor in the game room.

    What do you think? Is play an imaginative free-for-all or something that design needs to dictate?

    And what are the take-aways for the larger goals of designing learning environments against similar questions of what it means to be a life-long learner or to support the customized learning goals of each learner?

    Note: related article by the NYTimes: “New York Tries to Think Outside the Sandbox” (1.10.07)

    AIA 2006 Honor Award Winner: University of Iowa’s Art and Art History Building

    January 19th, 2007

    Thanks to Kristin and ArchNewsNow for this article link.


    Seems that the AIA has awarded the new Stephen Holl designed Art and Art History building at the University of Iowa with the prestigious Honor Award this year

    Against a backdrop of “look at me” campus architecture, Steven Holl’s new art and art history building at the University of Iowa is that rare thing: A strong design that overwhelms neither its site nor its users.

    Dedicated last September and named a winner Friday of a national Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects, the $21.5 million building floats serenely over an old quarry pond next to a limestone bluff. It’s on the west side of the hilly Iowa campus, part of a not-so-graceful cluster of art buildings. But Holl’s design, achieved with associate architects Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck of Des Moines, uplifts this mediocre ensemble. The reason: You appreciate the building by moving through it, not just looking at it

    An interesting daylighting challenge:

    While some of the students had quibbles, complaining that they must cover windows that look from corridors into the studios to protect nude models’ privacy, they appeared quite happy with the building.

    Most importantly:

    It’s isn’t just an object; it’s a place — precisely what campus architecture (actually, all architecture) should be.

    US College Campus Design: To Icon or Not to Icon?

    January 19th, 2007

    Thanks to Kristin and ArchNewsNow for this story link.


    Regardless of how much energy one puts into aligning the underlying learning goals of a college campus, many US universities are rushing into the land of the high-design architect to create landmark icons that happen to serve academic ends as well.

    A recent Chicago Tribune article gives attention to this “To Icon or Not To Icon” debate on college campuses around the US:

    With colleges and universities spending billions of dollars to upgrade facilities and attract students in a hypercompetitive academic marketplace, the pressure to produce iconic, “look at me” architecture is more intense than ever. Yet there is no guarantee that a sexy, signature building will successfully fuse form and function.

    As the article asks, should Stephen Holl’s MIT residence hall be applauded for its world-renowned visual innovation or critiqued for the fact that it takes students 5 minutes to close the blinds in their dorm room?

    And should campus leaders pick one over the other, or find a way to live within the ‘tension’ of the two extremes?

    In each case, campus planners are acutely aware of the conflict between attention-getting forms and the prospect that such designs will turn out to be functional flops and isolated objects that fail to connect to their surroundings.

    “We don’t want one of those at all,” said Alicia Berg, the former Chicago planning commissioner and now Columbia’s vice president of campus environment.

    “I would say we’re trying to find a way to use that tension productively,” said David Thompson, the U. of C.’s associate dean for planning and programs in the humanities.

    Your opinion?

    Future-Proof Library Design: Stacks of Books vs. a Search-Engine Culture

    January 19th, 2007

    The tradition of business, pop culture, and just about everything in society focused on the ‘head of the tail’, where the ‘hits’ or most popular ideas/solutions existed.

    In today’s world of infinite information and infinite niche audiences, something profound is changing…and it forces us to consider the impact of the ‘long tail’ (consisting of many small niches into an aggregated whole) and what it might have to do with the future of school design.

    One of the must-read business books on many shelves today is Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More which grew out of a series of articles and presentations he created as Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine. Along with Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century and Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, we believe that there are vital ideas related to the aggregation of ‘long tail’ concepts and models that will not only have an impact on what we mean by education in the future, but obviously how we orient learning on campuses and in ’schools’, too.

    One part of Anderson’s book that looks at a unique long tail concept is in his comparison of library design and organization. In essence, he asks us to consider the power of the Dewey Decimal System as an organizing and design principle vs. how it fits into today’s hyper-fast information gathering world within the Net:

    “…the physical books were still stacked on the shelves according to the Dewey Decimal System. This meant that although you could now locate the book you wanted…, you might not find much relevance in the books stacked around it…books are still vulnerable to the physics of materiality.”

    He continues to point us to the world of the Internet where books are often ‘tagged’ by keywords determined by a wide range of readers that break free from the traditions of the Dewey Decimal System, as well as allow them to be found outside of their physical limits.

    What does this have to do with the design of libraries specifically or the general design of school environments in the future?

    Anderson continues on by describing the design of the Seattle Public Library (by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA) to be a “model for the twenty-first century”:

    “[Koolhaas] faced the challenge of making stacks of books fit into a search-engine culture. Realizing that the relative balance between computers and books was changing and would probably continue to change, Koolhaas didn’t make too many assumptions about how books should be shelved. He arranged the stacks on rails in a spiral, which could expand or contract as demand dictated.”

    This part grabbed our attention in particular:

    “A future-proof library makes no assumptions about he information landscape of tomorrow.”

    Your thoughts: How do you design a library in a search-engine culture that is future-proof and flexible?

    Edutopia: “Building the Global Best” Named as one of 5 Editor’s Picks

    January 19th, 2007

    We were quite pleased to see recently that on the Edutopia home page that “Building the Global Best” article that highlighted the 2006 DesignShare Awards was called out as one of the “Top 5 Editors Picks”.

    That says a lot about the quality of the design teams and school communities who share their projects with us each year.

    New projects will be submitted this February for the 2007 Awards program. We can’t wait to see what comes in this year!

    Multi-Touch Sensory Computing: Impact on the Design of Learning Spaces?

    January 19th, 2007

    If you’re aware of the TED (Technology. Entertainment. Design.) Conference held once a year in California, you realize how difficult it is to get a ticket to this expensive but much-sought-after idea-sharing conference. Thankfully, you’re probably already aware that each of the idea-sparking presentations given by some of the most exciting innovators in the world is available by video for free.

    We’ve talked about Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity before
    . Still highly recommend that for anyone really looking at the future of learning and how to design spaces that will support such.

    We’d also like to point to Jeff Han’s TED video showcasing a wildly intuitive, interface-free, multi-touch sensory computing screen. See below for the video that you can play — approximately 9 minutes in total.

    In his talk, he discusses the fact that technology should make physical boundaries and limits no longer valid, so that each learner receives a customized connection:

    “NO reason we should conform to a physical device….These interfaces should start conforming to us.”

    Clearly, there are take-away’s for the design of learning spaces, as well. Likewise, as we continue to think of the desktops and walls in our classrooms, as well as the very existence of computing labs, Jeff’s innovation invites to us to imagine the implications for our design solutions in the future. As well as what we mean by intuitive learning experiences.

    And then begin to wonder how we’d respond when our clients ask us how to be ready.

    UK: Is the Building Schools for the Future Programme Losing Steam?

    January 19th, 2007

    Judy, thanks for pointing our attention to this evolving and potentially disheartening story from the UK school design world.

    If you’ve been paying attention to the world of school design over the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly been keeping an eye on the UK-based “Building Schools for the Future” programme that has set out to repair, update, and modernize 3,500 secondary schools. Additionally, they’ve worked doggedly with high level designers to greatly re-imagine what a 21st century secondary school can be.

    But it appears that trouble seems to be looming on the horizon now that government reports are being released:

    Hundreds of thousands of pupils will be taught in dilapidated classrooms because the Government is abandoning its targets for a £45 billion schools rebuilding programme.

    The plans, heralded by Gordon Brown in successive budget speeches, have become mired in red tape, forcing the Government to admit that three years after promising to rebuild all 3,500 secondary schools before 2020 not a single project has been completed. It expects to open just 14 of the 100 new schools it had planned to by the end of this year, according to official Department for Education and Skills figures, The Times has learnt.

    A little history:

    When it launched the programme in 2004, the Government promised to spend £3 billion a year rebuilding or refurbishing every secondary school in the country over the next 15 years, in what it said was the biggest schools investment programme in Britain ever. It said that the first 100 building contracts would be signed in 2006, and the first 100 new schools would open in 2007.

    Clearly this will lead to more and more criticism, as well as disappointment:

    Steve Sinnett, the general-secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the mess was “absolutely unforgiveable” and that there was no doubt that it was affecting education. “We have a building stock that is not fit for purpose. Some schools are little better than slums,” he said.

    Is the programme a unique and evolving failure, or is the realistic result of any national program that promises to radically alter the very platform of education and school design in spite of the obvious reality checks it will face within existing systems and governmental/social structures?

    Or is the government’s response (rebuttal to the previous article) a more accurate assessment of how this will play out

    Schools minister Jim Knight was forced to defend the government’s troubled schools rebuilding programme after it emerged that the scheme was years behind schedule. He assured teachers, pupils and parents that contrary to reports, the programme is on track and will be delivered.

    “Let me be clear what we are doing with Building Schools for the Future. We inherited a school network that was crowded, crumbling and not fit for purpose. But this is not just about spending money. It is about improving the quality of education for all our children. It is an investment in our nation’s future. I make no apologies for making sure we get this right, because these schools must be built to last. The process of planning, financing, designing and building is complex and can’t be completed overnight - it will take time.”

    American Federation of Teachers: “It’s time for the nation to commit itself to repairing its aging and deteriorating schools.”

    January 19th, 2007

    No doubt that any article about school construction that begins this way will catch attention:

    Stories of vermin, mold, asbestos, and water in classrooms have become all too common in the U.S., according to a report from the American Federation of Teachers. It’s time for the nation to commit itself to repairing its aging and deteriorating schools.

    What is striking is the source that is calling for action. Not shocking, but striking. And most importantly, they are publishing key research to demand increased attention around the reality of the school buildings in many US communities:

    These are conditions reported by more than 1,000 U.S. school employees to a survey on the physical environment at their schools conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The responses, which came from urban, rural, and suburban teachers, are part of the AFT report, Building Minds, Minding Buildings: Turning Crumbling Schools into Environments for Learning.

    Definitely worth a look:

    In the report, the AFT said that repairing the deplorable conditions in many U.S. public schools should be a national priority. Problems such as mold, poor air quality, fluctuating temperatures and other factors lead to more illnesses among students and staff members, higher absenteeism, and make it more difficult for children to learn, according to the report.

    Now this part definitely grabbed our attention:

    “This is a health issue, a safety issue and an educational issue,” said Antonia Cortese, AFT executive vice president, in an AFT press release. “In the world’s richest nation, every child is entitled to learn in clean, well-maintained classrooms. As we try to build young minds, we also have to mind school buildings.”

    Your opinion: can the ATF make a difference?

    Maryland Governor Seeks to Reduce “Temporary Learning Shacks”

    January 19th, 2007

    With a proposed $400 million on the line, the Governor of Maryland is seeking to dramatically reduce the number of what he calls “temporary learning shacks.” Not that anyone hasn’t seen discussions of mobile classrooms arise in their community or state, but when the governor calls them “shacks” the political game has just risen a degree or two.

    Do you think that a change in language can spur a change in funding, design, and construction? Or is this just political posturing by a newly elected governor around a subject that will have more supporters than detractors, but no guarantees of success? Or is this a vital change in a must-watched state?

    No givens, however:

    O’Malley’s announcement on school construction was not a foregone conclusion, given a tough budget year ahead and recent warnings that he might not be able to fully fund his education priorities in his first year.

    Ohio: Does Proposed State Ammendment Have Potential Impact for School Construction Funding?

    January 19th, 2007

    A unique development in one state or something that will be seen nation-wide in the near future?

    Out of Ohio, “the Alliance for Adequate School Funding announced a proposed state constitutional amendment to remedy the property tax burden on homeowners in high valuation school districts.”

    What are the implications for school construction and renovation?

    MIT’s Simmons Hall: Student Opinions of “The Sponge” Dorm Design

    January 9th, 2007

    This is hardly the first (a small understatement) link to Holl’s infamous Simmons Hall dormitory design at MIT, otherwise known as “The Sponge” by students. But we were intrigued by the student perspective of what made them want to liver there, what frustrated them, and how they ultimately ‘made piece’ with the unique design constraints of this celebrity of a building.

    From the very well written “Sponge Life” (and the MIT Technology Review), a few things that caught our attention:

    Compelling Draw:

    This year’s new students had plenty of reasons for choosing the dorm that’s also called the Space Waffle: a love of modern architecture, carpet allergies (it’s nearly carpetless), a sense of adventure. “I first heard Simmons described as ‘the giant metal thing that looks like it’s going to eat the football field,’” says freshman Katrina Ellison. “[But] by the time I got to campus, I was excited about the prospect of living there.”

    Love and More Hate Relationship:

    Still, Ellison did a double take when she saw the geometry of her ninth-floor room: a curving wall from the adjacent lounge took up half her floor space. She and her roommate measured the walls to try to “squeeze in a chair or something,” she says. Instead, her bed got shoved wall-ward, and Ellison now performs a nightly acrobatics routine to reach it. “I have to crawl into it from the end,” she says. “For the first few days, I really hated it.”

    Creative Students Tackle Unusual Space Layouts:

    Other freshmen strove to achieve pleasing configurations of their furniture. The pieces, all designed by Holl, include beds and drawers that stack like Lego bricks–or would, if they weren’t too heavy to lift. Movers hired by MIT helped freshmen settle in; eventually an underground trade developed in wrenches to unbolt the furniture. Senior Aron Zingman doled them out with a warning: “The beds weigh 250 pounds. You can get crushed to death by them.” Many freshmen made their first handful of friends while hoisting beds.

    Making Lemonade Out of Lemons and Dreaming Big:

    Ratti understands that the function of a dorm is more important to most students than its form. So when Simmons housemasters Ellen and John Essigmann asked him to design some functional improvements for the building in 2004, he got the idea to launch a student contest called “Drill a Hole in Simmons Hall.” Students’ sketches envisioned chalkboards in the hallways and paint for the mono-color walls. The winning design poked outright fun at Holl. It suggested erecting a second Simmons, a “diversional clone,” across Vassar Street for admiring architects to tour. In the spirit of the impractical, it called for a cloud-shaped zeppelin to fly over Simmons to shuttle students to class. One contest judge, Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA) director Mirko Zardini, was so impressed with the intelligence (and humor) of the entries that he showcased the design boards in a CCA exhibit on Simmons this fall.

    To learn more about the “Drill a Hole in Simmons Hall” contest, try this link.

    Contest for College Students: What Should the High-Tech Dorm Room of the Future Look Like?

    January 9th, 2007

    In addition to fulfilling the human need for shelter and social companionship, the college dorm room is also a key part of a university’s ‘brand’ in the ever-increasing marketing wars to capture the competitive enrollment numbers that allow campuses
    to continue to grow and thrive.

    With that in mind, if you were working with a group of higher education facility/campus leaders, trying to wrestle with the expectations and needs for future college students, here are a few questions for you:

    • What do you think is a bare-bones requirement for the dorm room of the future?
    • What will set your dormitory spaces and experience apart from the other colleges/universities your applicants are considering?
    • Just how hi-tech should your default design specs be to respond adequately to the future?

    It might be worth reading a recent piece by eSchool News that looks at this very concept through the eyes of a company sponsoring a very intriguing contest for college students. “Digital College Dorm Rooms of the Future: High School & College Students Weigh In On What Dorms Should Look Like in 2020″ offers the following (for starters):

    No Creative Limits:

    “We want to bring back the notion that American colleges and high schools are important breeding grounds of technological innovation and cultural creativity,” says Spencer Sakata, Gradware’s 31-year old CEO at the company’s D.C. office. “This is a chance for creative, forward-thinking students to brainstorm the coolest gadgets they can think of. No rules, no limits–we’re really looking for some crazy ideas here& Technology can be very cool when it enhances campus life.”

    The related contest for college students:

    The 2007 Gradware National College Essay Scholarship: “The Digital Dorm Room of the Future” is open to all undergraduates and college-bound high school juniors and seniors in the U.S. The scholarship contest details are available on the Gradware website from now to the competition deadline, March 16th, 2007.

    There are no need-based or GPA requirements to enter. Multiple scholarship awards: $1,000, $500, $250. Essay applicants must be 28 or under on the scholarship deadline: March. 16th, 2007. Students must submit an essay no longer than 750 words describing the digital dorm room in the year 2020, and what campus life should be like with the power of emerging and future (not yet invented) technologies.

    To enter, visit the 2007 Gradware Scholarship page for full application details.

    So, what do you think will make the college dorm room of the future truly innovative and high-tech enough for your campus’ future applicants?

    Rise of “Modular” Campuses in New Orleans

    January 9th, 2007

    An interesting article out of New Orleans about the continuing challenges to fully house all of the returning students coming back to the Recovery District. This section on the use of modular schools in particular caught our eyes:

    One 600-student modular campus is under construction. At least 10 more modular schools, designed to house 7,200 additional students, are expected to be open in the fall. Four of them are slated for Planning District 9 in eastern New Orleans. The site of severe flooding after Hurricane Katrina has just one open Recovery District school now.

    Construction on another 600-seat modular school began in December.

    Two west bank campuses — Rosenwald Elementary, capacity 400, and L.B. Landry High School, capacity 800 — are repaired but unoccupied. “Most of our needs are on the east bank,” Jarvis said.

    Jarvis said that as many as 11 other buildings under construction could be ready later this spring and summer. Still more planned restoration projects are under review because of increased construction costs and discovery of additional damage, Jarvis said. That will likely lead the district to ask FEMA for full rebuilding grants for some campuses that originally qualified only for refurbishing, she said.

    In the meantime, Jarvis said the Recovery District and the Orleans Parish school district are in the fledgling stages of crafting a long-term master plan for facilities. She said it will be joint plan designed for when the districts are again combined as one Orleans system, as existed before the state took over most of the parish’s public schools because of poor performance.

    A couple of interesting stats from the article, as well:

    • The Recovery District’s 19 open schools are at 93 percent of their combined capacity, she said, not including a continuing influx of enrollees since the new year.
    • The latest tally put the parish’s 17 open charter schools at 97 percent capacity.
    • Total enrollment for the Recovery District and charter schools was 16,159.

    Controversy: Cell Phone Lockers in NYC

    January 8th, 2007

    When the story first hit our attention, it raised eyebrows and seemed to be hard to fully appreciate. But the controversy over the proposed ‘cell phone’ lockers to be placed outside of New York City high schools seems to be still gaining momentum in the news circles:

    New York City school officials are taking some heat for a proposed solution to the city’s controversial ban on student cell phones in schools.

    The proposal would have students leave their cell phones in special lockers outside their schools, and students likely would pay 25 or 50 cents to use the lockers each day. Critics of the plan say they don’t see how schools will be able to accommodate the lockers–and they balk at the idea of charging students for their use.

    From a practical design point of view, do you sense that such a trend could help off-set the reluctance school administrators have in letting cell phones in the school while still appeasing parent expectations? Or is this simply a solution destined to be reversed for its logistical and design weaknesses, as well as the obvious political debate?

    Your thoughts?

    What Can You Learn from Edu-Bloggers?

    January 5th, 2007

    There are 2 theories for understanding how to design a school for the future. [Note: slightly exaggerated to illustrate a point]

    • One, simply be a very talented professional architect and/or planner who focuses on the literal realities of the ‘building envelope’ (et al) and internal systems (et al) and materials/costs (et al) and building schedules (et al), while leaving the learning theory and space-usage to the clients.
    • Two, become a rigorous explorer in the land of education, taking note of what is really going on in the ever-changing landscape of what we mean by ‘learning’ and asking yourself what impact that may have on the way we conceive, design, plan, build, and maintain a building called ’school’ so that it best serves the future, not the past.

    The first option could easily require a lifetime of professional practice and study and portfolio development. And there are plenty of clients who will be happy with this silo of expertise approach. The second option only matters if you think something is beginning to change on the educational facility landscape due to the evolution of learning, teaching, and what we mean by schooling.

    If you are game for the second option, perhaps beginning to explore the key voices that are making up the edu-blogosphere might be worth your time. Let us give you an example:

    Will Richardson, one of the most well known and respected bloggers and advocates for the creation of School 2.0 (i.e. learning happens in all directions, is anytime/anywhere, and is 2-way), offers the following ’school design’ provocation in a recent blog post of his:

    And so I often wonder how long it will take before our traditional concepts of schooling will be also be significantly challenged by the shifts that a more co-operative rather than competitive Web environment is delivering. One obvious place where the disruption is especially transparent is the explosion of “open content” educational materials that are coming online every day. While the most obvious is the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, which is providing the materials for over 1,600 courses free online, there are literally millions of pieces of valuable, solid content online that cobbled together could do a great job of replacing much of what we currently teach in schools.

    In a presentation last fall, Todd Richmond, a fellow at the USC Annenberg Center and the Center for Creative Technologies at USC, said that because of technologies that allow students to view powerful content online and then remix or reflect on that material by publishing their own reactions back to the world, “the previously strictly hierarchical relationships between teacher and learner are changing.”

    He goes on to quote from District Administration publisher Dan Kinnaman the following impact-on-school-design point in his “School 2.0: It’s Time for Radical Innovations in Schooling” post in the magazine’s blog:

    An alarming reality for K12: Despite the radical transformation of data storage and information access, there has been no associated transformation of K12 education. Alarmingly, there may be no sector of society where technology has had less impact.

    That’s because K12 education persists in operating on the premise that to have school, you must physically co-locate teachers, students and curriculum materials. Teachers and students are assigned to stand-alone, self-contained school buildings that house paltry collections of mostly outdated curriculum materials. With rare exceptions, digital technologies and interactive communications are still largely peripheral to the primary activities of the typical school day.

    The premise that co-location is required is invalid, and we need to stop spending inordinate amounts of time, energy and money to maintain it as our fundamental operational structure.

    “Co-location.” Things seem to be getting interesting when you really analyze that from a future of learning perspective, mmm?

    What we find intriguing is that more and more educators and technology experts and librarians are having ’school design’ conversations in the edu-blogosphere.

    The question remains: are any school designers listening to this realm of your client’s conversation? After all, if you had access to the larger dialogue between enlightened educational leaders, wouldn’t you want to listen, learn and respond?

    Our recommendations for exploring a few of the leading voices in the edu-blogosphere are (but not limited to):

    As we said, this is only a partial list…but it’ll get you going. Contact us anytime at if you want additional recommendations. And happy edu-blog linking!

    Article: “Do Facilities Play Key Role in Learning?”

    January 4th, 2007

    Pleased to see long-time DesignShare friend and colleague Jeff Lackney quoted extensively in a recent article entitled: “Do Facilities Play a Key Role in Learning?” (News Sentinel, Ft. Wayne, IN, 1.4.07):

    Jeff Lackney, an educational planner and architect for Wisconsin-based Fielding Nair International, studied the link between the quality of education and older buildings. “If I was to generalize, there is usually a 5 percent lower test score in buildings with lower quality ratings.”

    Locally, the numbers support his findings. Standardized test scores in FWCS, whose 53 buildings average 52 years old, fall 10 percent below the state average. The average age of school buildings in the United States is 40 years old, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

    “It is clear that a clean, orderly, uncrowded, well-maintained environment matters greatly,” Lackney said. “There is much research over the past 30 years that bears out the influence of the school environment on student and teacher morale and satisfaction.”

    And as George Jackson, spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers, was quoted at the top of the article:

    “When we talk about improving public education, the learning environment is something that needs to be part of the dialogue.”

    Diversifying Libraries from Centers of Wisdom to Social Communities

    January 4th, 2007

    Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow for pointing us to this Business Week article called “Libraries for the Internet Age” which considers the evolution of public libraries from “centers of wisdom” to something that fuels social interaction:

    Many of these libraries have also experienced record attendance. While some people come to take in the often dramatic architecture, much of the increase can be explained by something else: a sense of community. As it happens, a library is about more than books, and forward-thinking architects and designers have emphasized the library’s social role.

    And obviously one can’t talk about libraries in this day and age without considering the potential anachronism vs. technology debate:

    In these determinedly digital times, the idea of a library almost strikes one as quaint. Imagine: a collection of paper and books stored in one building to, well, gather dust.

    If your local municipal library does happen to own a copy of a book you actually need (itself not a given in these underfunded times), it’s only too likely that it will be checked out anyway. Wouldn’t it just be easier to hop online and go to that great library in the sky?

    Quite. Except that—like paper itself—the library has not been vanquished by the Internet yet. According to Library Journal, the number of public library projects (160) completed in the U.S. between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006 was low, but still robust. Libraries haven’t become anachronisms after all.

    In fact, many new and renovated libraries are remarkably high-tech, and we aren’t just talking WiFi. The William F Ekstron Library in Louisville, Ky., boasts a so-called Robotic Retrieval System, a roaming crane that will find your book among the 1.2 million volumes in the stacks and deliver it to the circulation desk within minutes.

    Note: We wrote about the robotic library a few weeks ago. Here’s the link.

    New Orleans School Embraces SmartBoards

    January 4th, 2007

    In a potentially telling story out of the re-building of New Orleans, one school has aggressively been adding SmartBoard technologies to its classrooms as they develop an exciting strategy for the future of learning:

    Workers are installing the first phase of a high-tech multimedia program at St. John the Baptist Parish’s two west bank schools that’s aimed at improving academic performance and introducing new job skills to students at the small, mostly rural schools.

    The St. John School Board voted to spend up to $1 million on the project, which was proposed by a grass-roots committee of educators and community leaders.

    This is occurring in 3 stages.

    Stage 1:

    Computer consultant Terri Lawrence of Detel said work began over the Christmas holiday with the installation of 11 “interactive white boards,” or SmartBoards, at each of the schools. The installation is scheduled to be completed by the end of January.

    The 22 white boards are accompanied by a laptop computer for each teacher and an ELMO brand digital document camera. Teachers can use the boards in a variety of ways, Lawrence said.

    The large white screens can be used as a class-size monitor for a computer, a touch-sensitive electronic blackboard or to display projected images from a digital document camera, such as pages of books, microscopic images and images of actual objects.

    Stage 2:

    In the second phase of the project, each school will get a mobile computer lab equipped with 30 laptop computers for the high school, and 24 laptop computers for the elementary school. Each mobile lab will provide wireless access to the Internet to the class using it.

    The labs, called “computers on wheels,” or “cows,” allow teachers to lead a lesson on the Internet in the classroom. Every student can have a laptop to use.

    Each school also will get a complete video conferencing cart, Lawrence said. The mobile setup includes a camera and microphone for two-way real-time communication via the Internet between students and a distant source.

    Stage 3:

    The third phase of the project will be the creation of media labs where students will learn video production and editing and newspaper publishing.

    Whether existing computer labs will be used or a new lab created in each school for the program hasn’t been decided, but every teacher will be trained in how to use the media production software.

    What impact do you think such an investment in future technologies will have on the rebuilding of New Orleans’ schools? Is it possible that what would have been an ‘extra’ in the past will be seen as mission critical as the city’s educational culture rebuilds?

    Students Taught Historic Preservation

    January 3rd, 2007

    Occasionally one runs into a story where students are invited to consider the refurbishment of a historic school they currently use. But an entire academic program geared towards historic preservation?

    In Brooklyn, where the mystique of the 123-year-old Brooklyn Bridge looms, high school students learn about caring for the bridge and other historic landmarks in their own backyard.

    Brooklyn High School of the Arts’ students are immersed in the country’s first and only preservation arts curriculum, which teaches the art and science of maintaining and restoring historic landmarks. Their education ranges from reading about preservation to hands-on work at historic sites in Brooklyn and New Orleans, where students recently helped stabilize a house foundation built in 1896.

    Dome-inant Design

    January 3rd, 2007

    While we missed the “Dome, Sweet Dome” story back in May, 2006 when District Administration first published it, but it definitely caught our attention nonetheless.

    When a school design project attracts teachers or administrators, something good must be going on. Clearly echoes what many say in terms of retention, as well.

    What caught our attention about one school in particular was that it was a dome — not an athletic structure, either — that attracted a Superintendent to apply for a new position:

    Joseph Brown Sr. applied for the superintendent’s position at Grand Meadow (Minn.) School District #495 because the one-campus school building boasts a monolithic dome structure.

    As a high school principal 30 miles to the west, he had heard his predecessor talk extensively about this new construction. When Brown read about the opening in the newspaper, he called the sitting superintendent on the spot to apply, and landed the position five days later. “Honestly, I never would have considered coming here had it not been for the dome school,” Brown says today. “I am a social studies guy and I was intrigued with the idea of circles. A lot of anthropology studies are about the importance of the fire pit and people working together in a community.”

    While domes have a significant history in architecture, there are few examples of rigorous dome designs for academic settings. Because the cost of dome technology has dropped, a few US-based firms continue to seek school communities that see the potential:

    In ancient days, they were the premier construction option and “dome and cheap were never in the same sentence,” South notes. The technology took a huge leap forward in the 1970s when engineers puzzled out how to inflate a fabric balloon within a circular foundation, then spray a layer of urethane foam to the interior and place reinforcing steel rods via a special hangar system. Finally, the outside is coated in a thin-shell concrete. That process has stood for three decades.

    “It’s pretty hard to improve on an egg,” says South. “So we’re learning to make them look nicer.” Today’s monolithic domes usually sport planters around the base, with concrete shelves that jut out to make an inviting entry into the facility. In the education market, where bottom-line budgets rule, most school districts save the esthetic investments for the interiors.

    Talk about inspiring a community to go the distance:

    The idea so captured the imagination of the 1,000 people living in Grand Meadow, they passed a bond issue to build the entire K-12 campus as a series of five connected domes to house its 360 students and 34 full-time teachers.

    But a trend of larger proportions?

    By that same token, Hall can’t declare monolithic domes a trend in the education world. “It’s an option for solving a certain set of problems in a certain environment, but to me a trend is something that everyone gets involved in because it is applicable everywhere,” he notes.

    To learn more about school dome construction, consider visiting the Monolithic Dome Institute out of Texas.

    Futuristic UK School Design: “The only limit to what they can learn is their own imagination.”

    January 2nd, 2007

    What does a school look like and offer if they claim “to have one of the most technologically advanced classrooms in [England]”?

    Student voice:

    Year six pupil Jacob Buswell said he feels like one of the “luckiest children in Europe. I just love working here,” he said.

    Teacher voice:

    Mr Hicks said: “The envelope of learning is being pushed hard once again here at Broadclyst Community Primary School with what we believe is the most technologically advanced classroom in the country.”

    NCEF: “12 Trends Shaping School Design in 2007″

    January 2nd, 2007

    Worth a look at that National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities: “Educational Trends Shaping School Planning and Design: 2007″, a collection written by Kenneth Stevenson, Dept. of Educational Leadership and Policy, University of South Carolina.

    The 12 trends:

    • Trend One: “School Choice” and “Equity” Redirect Facilities Planning”
    • Trend Two: Small May Trump Large
    • Trend Three: Reduced Class Sizes? Maybe.
    • Trend Four: Technology Goes Big Time
    • Trend Five: The Mission May Change
    • Trend Six: Classrooms are Being Reconfigured
    • Trend Seven: Schools Go 24/7
    • Trend Eight: Paper is Disappearing
    • Trend Nine: Grade Spans are Changing
    • Trend Ten: Special Education Has Gone Mainstream
    • Trend Eleven: Early Childhood Programs? Plan on Them
    • Trend Twelve: School is Where the Hearth Is

    As Stevenson says at the end of his piece, “These twelve trends have the potential for making schooling in America unrecognizable within a few decades, so it behooves educators and planners to ask continually”:

    • What is emerging in educational practice that affects the ways we think about schools?
    • How is the demographic composition of our community changing the way education should be delivered?
    • What will future taxpayers be willing to support?
    • Can education be delivered in a more efficient, effective manner?

    Your thoughts on these specific trends? The essential questions that Stevenson closes his piece with?

    UK’s “Futurelab” — School Design Presentations Worth Noticing

    January 2nd, 2007

    Thanks to a tip from DK at UK-based MediaSnackers, we were given a chance to peruse a dynamite collection of presentations called “Spaces, Places and Future Learning” geared toward the future of school design sponsored by Futurelab. These took place in the beginning of November, 2006.

    Here are a few things that caught our eye:

    Steve Thompson offers ideas on using innovative technology and practice to re-imagine learning spaces in “Extending the Learning Community”:

    “I’m going to talk about digital villages. It’s a term I’ve heard and it could apply to many different things but I use the term to refer to a learning space that is the entire community. So what is a digital village?” Read the full transcript or download the PPt.

    Ian Pearhouse
    considers how mobile technology will inform and challenge our perceptions of learning spaces in “Mobile Technologies and Learning Spaces - Where Next?”:

    “…have a look at some of the more defined learning spaces that we already know about, school, colleges and university. So, we’ve got the classrooms and the labs, but already we’re looking at learning spaces that go outside of that, the playground, the sports field, the social areas, the cafes and dining rooms. Of course, we’ve got this huge opportunity with BSF to actually incorporate technology into the building that will aid learning in those spaces, be they formal or informal spaces. We’ve got learning in the home. There’s learning in the bedroom and the study, learning in the lounge, we’re learning in the kitchen. We can learn in the garden and in the street. Whatever hobbies we’re doing, talking to the neighbours or whatever, we’re learning all the time. In the wider community, parks, places of religious worship, in cafes and bars. So, out into the community, either in part or in whole.” Read the full transcript or download the PPt.

    Anthony Bravo gives an educator’s view of starting a school and the accompanying design/planning implications in “World Class Buildings for World Class Education”:

    “Basically, what I’m going to try and share with you is the experiences I’ve been through in regards to building Crossways Academy, and to give you what I wish I’d had three years ago when I started the process. This is an idiot’s guide to making sure you get a world-class building and institution.” Read the full transcript or download the PPt.

    Alastair Clark considers e-learning’s impact on the way learning will unfold in the future in “Hang Out Your Learning”:

    “…take lessons from the way that e-learning’s been adopted in adult and community learning environments, where learners often only attend class for less than 4% of their waking week.” Read the full transcript or download the PPt.

    We also noticed the past DesignShare contributor Bruce Jilk also participated in the 2-day event. Great to see that!

    Note: this barely scratches the surface of the presentations offered by Futurelab here. Well worth exploring them in their entirety.

    If anyone from Futurelab wants to share some insights as to their work, we’d welcome that! Contact us at

    Rate of Change: Comparing ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’ of School

    January 2nd, 2007

    Consider John Pederson’s recent blog post graph of the “Rate of Change” disparity between schools and the real world.

    While this is not a specific issue to school architecture, it does offer our community a chance to consider how the campus designs we support and construct help to foster such a disconnect. And ultimately, we are challenged to ask ourselves whether school designers should help ‘lead’ their educational clients/partners in the direction of new ways of thinking, or merely support what they are asking for from day one? And ultimately how wide a net we should cast to make an argument for what we really mean by a ’21st century school’?

    What do you think?

    Schools as Museums of Learning

    January 2nd, 2007

    Looking into the near and distant future, do you see school design creating more ‘citadels of learning’ or ‘museums of learning’? David Warlick might have an idea or two for you.

    In the rising tide of education-bloggers and podcasters, David Warlick quickly races to the front of anyone’s list of recommendations. And more and more schools are bringing David in to help them wrestle with how to take advantage of the amazing array of technology and web 2.0 tools that can truly transform classrooms into dynamic learning environments.

    He’s been writing recently about what he sees as an emerging renaissance of ‘learning’ taking place in schools. This is a list of key change-agent components he sees beginning to take shape:

    I’d like to spend a little more of your time exploring just a few ideas of what an education renaissance might look like.

    • Students actively pursue learning — Our children’s intrinsic curiosity does not go away by middle school. Instead it is refined, because we come to understand that curiosity is a potent source of energy to be harnessed for education. Further more, we empower learners with access to content and tools to work the content in order to satisfy their curiosity and the other needs of growing children and young adults.
    • Teachers become learning consultants - managers and modelers of learning — Regardless of what that introduction implies, teachers stop looking like managers and start to become partners in their classrooms. They are consultants who help their students learn to teach themselves (It’s the best thing they can learn to do today). Teachers can do this, because they too become empowered with access to content and the tools to work the content, and are connected to dynamic networks of professional collaboration. Teachers explore, experiment, and discover along with their students, even if they already know the material. They always learn something new and celebrate it with their students.
    • Classrooms become learning engines — We stop relying on laws of physics — mass & momentum — to drive learning, and instead, cultivate our classrooms into learning engines. I believe that we are going to learn a lot about this as we start to pay attention to video games. We will learn what it is about highly interactive games that make children (and adults) want to learn, and begin to infect our classrooms with these same elements of need.
    • Schools become museums of learning — School will cease to be citadels of learning. Instead, they will turn themselves inside-out and become an integral part of their communities. They will come to mirror their communities as the communities come to mirror them. People will see not only the raw data of the traditional assessments of their children’s most basic information skills, but also the relics that result from the real learning that happens afterward, the learning that happens as students begin to lay the tracks to their future.

    Given David’s observations, what do you see as the potential impact in the world of school design? And how are you and your clients beginning to wrestle with this underlying platonic shifts in the way you imagine the layout of your school/campus?

    Your thoughts?

    TED Talk: Sir Ken Robinson on the Importance of Creativity in Education

    December 29th, 2006

    For those of you familiar with the remarkable treasure trove of ideas coming out of the annual TED Conference — and how hard it is to come by one of the 1000 seats — you’ve probably already come across the recently released set of TED videos. If this is entirely new to you, TED stands for “Technology. Entertainment. Design.” To put it bluntly, it may be the most impressive multi-day collection of thinkers, doers, and creators on the planet each year. Period.

    One talk in particular seems to resonate when it comes to thinking about the ‘future of learning’: Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on the connection between creativity and education in Feburary, 2006. From the TED site:

    Sir Ken Robinson is author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, and a leading expert on innovation and human resources. In this talk, he makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it.

    If you’ve never seen it, make it a priority as you kick off the new year as a way to spark new ideas and to remind yourself what the work we all do is really about. And if you have had the pleasure of seeing Sir Ken Robinson’s talk, perhaps it’s time to pass it on to a colleague, design partner, or client.

    Or just watch it again with a smile and nod of your own!

    BTW — have you seen the list of presenters coming to TED2007 “Icons. Geniuses. Mavericks.” Conference? My, oh my!

    Have You Visited the International Association of Learning Alternatives Blog?

    December 29th, 2006

    wayne jenningsWayne Jennings offers up a short-n-sweet overview of the IALA (International Association of Learning Alternatives) Blog recently.

    Not only a great overview of the organization and his role as the blog administrator and a board member, but a nice overview of what makes the IALA stand out in the world of learning and education:

    The mission of IALA is to lead, promote and support learning alternatives in education.

    Our goal for parents and learners is to have choices to meet their needs, interests, learning styles and intelligences. We believe that a one-size education program does not fit everyone and that learning is best served by having choices.

    Note: The DesignShare team greatly appreciates the opportunity to both know and learn from Wayne.

    You may be interested in re-visiting a wonderful piece on community learning spaces that Wayne wrote (and we published). You can either go to our original article link or the actual PDF of the article itself.

    He also offereda dynamite DS blog post back in February that takes a look at the iconic ‘value’ of classrooms when people think of schools. Here’s an excerpt:

    The first thing people think about schools is classrooms.

    I suppose there should be a few classrooms or seminar rooms for group learning and discussion. However, classrooms convey an image of rows of desks with the teacher at the front of the room and group-paced instruction. While familiar, I hope that image fades from practice. It violates modern principles of learning and sabotages individual talents. I like to think of learning adventure areas or theaters of learning, places where students as individuals or small groups are deeply engaged in a wide variety of learning activities.

    Why can’t elementary and secondary schools have a greenhouse, animal area and a garden?

    If you have time, consider giving Wayne and the IALA team a visit one day soon! And as he offers, share your comments at their blog as well! Oh, and keep in mind you can easily subscribe to the daily/weekly blog entries so that they’ll come automatically to your email doorstep each morning.

    MacArthur Foundation Considers the Links Between 21st Century Learning and School Design

    December 28th, 2006

    An intriguing premise for those of you interested in the intersection of digital learning and school design:

    We are faced today by a pressing question: How do institutions– social, civic, educational–transform in response to and in order to promote new kinds of learning in the information age?

    The aforementioned question comes out of a recent “Digital Media and Learning” blog post by Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation.

    Ms. Davidson and Mr. Goldberg are leading a project called “The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital World” that involves a collaborative website that seeks your feedback:

    We will post drafts of the document to a collaborative website, soliciting feedback from policy makers, administrators, researchers, teachers, and students (of all ages). We will host face-to-face meetings to discuss both our evolving document and the feedback.

    One session will take place at the international conference of HASTAC (”haystack,” an acronym for Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory). HASTAC is a virtual institution devoted to advancing humane and humanistic digital technologies and the knowledge they make possible through collaborative work between humanists, artists, scientists and engineers.

    Hard to ignore the final school design call-to-arms they offer here:

    We are committed to envisioning and co-developing learning institutions for the future.

    A school-design-meets-the-future-of-learning dialogue that might be worth keeping an eye on.

    And we also recommend peeking in at the blogging and research links being offered daily at the “Digital Media and Learning” blog hosted by MacArthur. Some truly provocative ideas being explored there!

    “Building Futures” Video: Prakash Nair and the Dept. of Education, Victoria, Australia

    December 28th, 2006

    Based on a series of conversations in 2005, the “Building Futures” video between Prakash Nair and the Department of Education in Victoria, Australia was recently released.

    Full transcript of the conversation available here.

    The Interview Questions:

    The design of new schools - what will they look like in 30 years? (WMV - 1.5Mb) video duration - 42sec, download time - 50sec

    What will be the role of educators (principals and teachers) in designing schools? (WMV - 1.5Mb) video duration - 44sec, download time - 55min

    What facilities do you envisage would support the learning process in schools in the future? (WMV - 1.8Mb) video duration - 55sec, download time - 1min

    What is the role of the community in schools in the future? (WMV - 1.3Mb) video duration - 40sec, download time - 50sec

    How can a community maximise the benefits of a new school design within cost constraints? (WMV - 2.0Mb) video duration - 1.03min, download time - 1:15min

    What sort of research based work impacts on school design? (WMV - 1.6Mb) video duration - 48sec, download time - 55sec

    Tell us about how student safety impacts on school design? (WMV - 1.6Mb) video duration - 53sec, download time - 1min

    Prakash talks about the concept of a ’shell’ and a ’standardised design’ for schools that can be flexible enough to meet the needs of community members in the future. It is better to under design than over design a school. (WMV - 1.4Mb) video duration - 43sec, download time - 50sec

    How can school communities redesign existing buildings to get the maximum benefits for future education incorporating and creating areas to cater for the modalities of learning? (WMV - 2.0Mb) video duration - 1.03min, download time - 1:10min

    Tell us about the sustainable future enquiry centre you have designed? (WMV - 2.3Mb) video duration - 1.09min, download time - 1:20.min

    Tell us how the instrument you have devised to assist with school design works? (WMV - 2.4Mb) video duration - 1.09min, download time - 1:20min

    What are the features of a new school design? (WMV - 3.0Mb) video duration - 1:10min, download time - 1:20min

    Who are the stakeholders in creating a sustainable school design for future education? (WMV - 3.5Mb) video duration - 1:35min, download time - 1:45min

    What is the most rewarding part of your work? (WMV - 1.7Mb) video duration - 52sec, download time - 1min

    EdVisions Video: “Helping Create and Sustain Great Small Schools”

    December 28th, 2006

    Have you seen the EdVisions student-run video? A wonderful asset for anyone that believes in project-based learning and its impact on school design. Especially for small learning communities (or SLC’s).

    The following caught our attention in the video right away (but this is only a warm-up if you have time to watch the entire 30-min presentation):

    • 2:04 A ‘typical’ snap-shot of classrooms from schools around the country, i.e. lots of rows of desks looking straight ahead to the ‘teacher wall’.
    • 2:45 Things are clearly different in an EdVisions type of school: “It looks like an office” where each student has a workstation…
    • 3:06 Exploring advisories and advisors (vs. typical classrooms)
    • 3:25 Defining project-based learning
    • 3:45 Comparing traditional classrooms from advisory layouts. An advisory is described as “a dialogue between student and advisor in real time” while a typical classroom is described like “a phone conversation with only half a phone” because you can only participate part of the time
    • 4:50 The importance of the advisory relationship; the advisor is described as a “partner” and the students’ advocate
    • 5:30 Various students describe what they think an advisor is
      7:45 “What is a project?”
    • 9:30 The “Frozen Chicken” project — a must see! And the sound project and mutant frog research/discovery is also worth the wait.
    • And much, much, much more during the remaining 20 minutes!

    To see the video, first go to the EdVisions site. Look in the left-hand column for the “EdVisions Video” which will take you right to a 30 minute student-run video ‘journey’ that gives a very tangible and spirited student view of what project-based learning is, how it fits into small learning communities, and how 21st century advisor/learning relationships are structured around learning journies.

    Or, go to Google Video where the EdVisions video also lives.

    Background: EdVisions grew originally out of the creation of the Minnesota New Country School in 1991 when a group of educators used the Coalition of Essential Schools model and a teacher-owner cooperative centered on project-based learning. Since then, EdVisions models have sprung up around the country. Furthermore, grants totaling close to $9million have come in from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This has helped to spark over 30 schools in a variety of settings nationally.

    When College Libraries Become Robotic Biblio-Techs

    December 21st, 2006

    From the 1.07 issue of Wired Magazine that just hit the newstands:

    The new library at Chicago State University has one ironclad rule: No students allowed in the stacks - only robots.

    Gulp. Curious niche project or potential future trend in the ranks of higher ed campus design? Considering the growing ease of electronic tagging of materials and resources, it seems that this might be something to keep an eye on:

    Every book, CD, and DVD in the school’s $38 million facility is tagged with a radio-frequency ID chip. When a borrowed item slides through the return slot, the system identifies and sorts it. Human librarians shelve post-1990 materials in the traditional stacks and drop older stuff into file-drawer-sized bins. From there, it’s all robots - tall, forklift-style machines that run on trcks and stow the materials in a three-story-high storage facility.

    A couple of intriguing facts about this ‘robotic’ library:

    • Top speed of CSU’s robotic librarians: 7 mph
    • Average time for a robot to retrieve five books: 2.5 minutes
    • Average time for a student to retrieve five books: 2 hours
    • Capacity of CSU’s high-density storage: 800,000 volumes

    Your thoughts?

    Teacher Magazine: Considering the “Green School” Trend

    December 21st, 2006

    Like many of you, we try to keep an eye on the education journals and web sites that speak to the critical issues of the day. Logical, whether you’re a school administrator or board member, or a design partner. Or simply want to keep an eye poised on the unfolding nature of the future of learning.

    In Teacher Magazine recently, they turn the lens back on the world of school design. Specifically the trend of “green” schools. From the “Natural Habitat” article (12.1.06):

    “Green design”—an approach to architecture and construction that minimizes harm to the environment while creating healthy places for humans—is one of the building industry’s hottest trends. For now, though, green schools remain rare. Only 30 have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit that developed the widely used Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

    From all indications, however, that modest number represents just the beginning of a sizable trend. More than 150 schools have applied for LEED certification, and others are incorporating elements of green design or adopting eco-friendly practices, such as buying local organic produce for school lunches and using more efficient lighting.

    Concern for the environment isn’t the only motivating factor. Others include lower energy costs, improved student health and productivity, and, increasingly, mandates from state and local governments. “It is a way to show your administrators, your parents, your teachers that you are committed to building a safer, cleaner environment for your children,” says Lindsay Baker, who coordinates USGBC’s program for schools.

    The ‘legend’ that accompanies the graphic to the right is found within the link. Offers an answer to the “What does a green school look like?” question. Take a look. An interesting take that is being shared with teachers who are eager to learn more.

    How would you explain the “green school” concept to them? And how will you explain how it will also make a difference in the learning process itself?

    Taking Cues From Outside the School ‘Box’

    December 18th, 2006

    Proof positive that you often have to step outside the ‘box’ to find great examples of what is possible in your own world. Imagine if this described the latest school design in your community:

    The new space, which [students and teachers] occupied last spring, includes workstations that face 10-foot-high windows with views of a playground. There are also casual corners for congregating, private places for meditating and a cafe for lingering, along with art to ponder and banquettes big enough for snoozing during particularly long shifts.

    – Excerpt from “When Comfort Is Obvious, and Wiring Less So” (12.7.06), NYTimes. The article describes the newly designed Lifetime Television operation headquarters in NYC. Considering the description, it seems to have a lot in common with the best ideas in learning environment design as well, esp. as we begin to re-imagine the very premise of what it means to be an engaged and active ‘learner’.

    Can you see this happening in your community? Why or why not?


    Judy, thanks for the link!

    Why Can’t They Build Schools Like That Anymore?

    December 14th, 2006

    With so much debate about how to move schools and students into the ‘future of learning’, is it possible that we all secretly want our school buildings to reflect the design and construction traditions of the 1920’s? Or earlier? [Judy, thanks for the article link]

    School designers face a dilemma, a hopeless one.

    The public sees Grimsley High School, High Point Central and R.J. Reynolds in Winston-Salem, all built in the 1920s before the Great Depression and World War II, and grouse: “Why can’t they build schools like those anymore?”

    They can, designers say.

    But if they did, duck! The wrath of the same public would be fierce.

    Is this nostalgia speaking or is it about holding onto buildings that will stand the test of time? Or is it about developing dynamic learning environments that will support how technology, collaboration, brain sciences, authentic projects, and other present-day insights are now available to us? And will we want our school buildings in the future to be testaments to the enduring nature of traditional architecture, or to actually “follow” the form of what education and learning is evolving into in the decades ahead?

    Greensboro architect Virginia Freyaldenhoven, whose firm, TFF, has worked for the county schools, says school and public buildings once “held a more important place in the framework of a town. They were more monumental.”

    Monument to our past? Or our students’ future?

    Design aside, will we see a day and time in the relative near future where school leaders/districts/authorities will no longer want to “be in the business of school buildings”? Or of communities demanding that their tax dollars go to develop shared spaces for all community members — an asset map of learning spaces for all stakeholders — rather than harkening back to the iconic school house of the past?

    As Much for the Community as the Campus

    December 14th, 2006

    Interesting design competition at Rutgers University being reported at ArchNewsNow.

    Especially worthy of notice for those who see the ‘public’ spaces in and bordering universities as vital components in a larger investment in social/community engagement:

    The overall vision is to create a modern corridor of academic and residential buildings while still honoring and respecting the historic nature of the campus, some of which is listed on the national and New Jersey registers of historic places. The first phase will focus on the outdoor walkways and green spaces and connecting the campus to the Raritan River nearby via a mall leading to a grand park along the river.

    Community Agent: Projected School Building Boom Looms for DC

    December 14th, 2006

    In today’s Washington Post:

    “Our ability to attract people to come and stay in the District depends on our ability to have good schools,” Ellen M. McCarthy, director of the D.C. Office of Planning, told about 200 education and community advocates at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

    What’s at stake?

    Demographic experts yesterday projected that new housing construction in the District could result in as many as 5,000 additional school-age children in the city by 2010, a potential boom in a system that has lost about 20,000 students over a decade.

    Here’s what really captured our attention:

    Because only 20 percent of D.C. households have children in the public schools, the system must reinvent schools as neighborhood hubs with evening and weekend programs geared to neighbors, said Juanita B. Wade, executive director of the D.C. Education Compact, a school reform organization.

    “We’ve got to build interest in the other 80 percent” of the D.C. population, Wade said. “We should see schools as a place to take aerobics and nutrition classes. They can be a place where the elderly can come use the library.”

    Schools not only as centers of community, but as the welcoming agent for re-invented urban corridors as well. Powerful potential for a city that has long ignored the public school population.

    Your thoughts?

    Can Project Blogging Smooth Out Design Rumors in your School Community?

    December 14th, 2006

    This morning, we noticed an article about a school district in Katy, Texas using a web site to fight back against community rumors about outlandish material costs during a school construction bond process. Apparently some folks had been convinced that Katy ISD had been importing Italian tile flooring for Seven Lakes High School. To respond to the rumors, the district created a “Fact or Fiction” page on their web site to take a proative step forward:

    “You’ve got people with text messages, e-mail, BlackBerrys — it doesn’t surprise me that the rumor mill is so active and so fast,” said Kris Taylor, director of communications for Katy ISD. “What we have to do in schools is to use those same tools to counteract them.”

    Is such a tool risky? Apparently, it was risky enough for the district to not fully use the tool for nearly 2 years until a recent bond election failed:

    The venture is a bit risky, say those running the sites, because posting the rumors for all to see could lend them credibility and make the mill churn faster.

    On the other hand, widespread untruths can damage a district’s image, contribute to the demise of some new program or sway the results of a bond election, said Rich Bagin, executive director of the National School Public Relations Association.

    “Rumors can kill things,” he said.

    Of course, no one knows for sure why Katy voters rejected a $261.5 million bond issue in May.

    But Taylor said rumors about the district’s construction habits didn’t help.

    Though the district had set up an anti-rumors page about two years earlier, Taylor said she initially was leery about using it. The bond defeat changed her mind.

    But failed bond or not, was something more vital missed in this story?

    • Instead of a “Fact or Fiction” rumor web page being created after the fact, perhaps an active and collaborative “design blog” could have been kept throughout the process leading up to the bond eletion.
    • Perhaps technology could have been used during the design/schematic phase in a way to share information with all stakeholders in the community.
    • Perhaps a two-way conversation between the district and the voters could have become a natural extension of the design process through a project blog where questions and comments could be left in alignment with sharing of unfolding project details.
    • In addition to fighting inaccurate rumors, perhaps what might have also come out of it would have been a community conversation…and ultimately buy-in on the elements most geared towards success for generations to come.

    While K-12 school design project blogs are still rare, DesignShare is happy to be working with a design firm and school district in the creation of a case study of just such a blog project they undertook. Look for the case study to be published in early 2007!

    Time Magazine cover story: “How to Build a Student for the 21st Century”

    December 11th, 2006

    Seems, perhaps, that there might be a compelling conversation in the world of education’s future brewing in the pages of Time Magazine this week. Something that not only seems to be pushing past the traditional ’standards’ sound byte, but something which may have implications for those of us in the school design community as well.

    Entitled “How to Build A Student for the 21st Century” (this is the summary version; full article available to suscribers or the newstand) the article offers up 4 key points that seem to leapfrog over the oft-heard issues of math/science scores, testing, etc.:

  • Knowing more about the world.
  • Thinking outside the box.
  • Becoming smarter about new sources of information.
  • Developing good people skills.
  • Might be worth exploring how the ideas in this article might have an impact on the way we imagine engaging learning environments that are appropriately aligned for the ‘future of learning’ (as opposed to the schoolhouse of the past).

    And if you still haven’t seen Karl Fisch’s “2020 Vision” video presentation that takes a creative look at the high school graduates in the year 2020, this might be a great 1-2 punch to provoke your team’s thinking! We highlighted Fisch’s video, as well as a school design conversation it sparked, recently here.

    Your thoughts?

    New “Great Schools By Design” Video: Denver School of Science and Technology

    December 6th, 2006

    The good folks at the American Architectural Foundation, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, and Target have a great video for those of you who want to see a school designed to ‘unleash’ learning, take advantage of today’s technology, and help inspire high school kids from a remarkably diverse range of backgrounds to become engaged learners.

    Take a look at the Denver School of Technology and Science video when you get a free moment. A wonderful reminder of what we’re all trying to accomplish, and how it can be done at a fair price and while supporting a really diverse range of learners in the process.

    Thanks for the tip/link, Judy!

    “Vision 2020″ — Impact on School Design?

    December 6th, 2006

    For those of you in the process of designing 20th century schools, here’s a post for you.

    Next time you get a chance, look into the eyes of a 5 year old (roughly a kindergarten student). Now, look forward. Imagine all that they’ll experience and have access to (learning, technology) between now and when they graduate from high school. The year will be 2020.

    Recently, we came across Karl Fisch’s video called “2020 Vision” via his blog (”Fischbowl”). He created a video for his school district colleagues to help them wrestle with the world their 5 year old students will experience in the next 13 years. It’s a ‘vision’ and therefore it must be seen as such. But it does challenge all of us who are working to create 21st century schools to take into consideration a rising tsunami of innovation and technology that will have a direct impact on how learning is imagined in the future. And the design of spaces to support learning, as well!

    Our reaction to the video: Provocative, Eye-opening, and Compelling were the first thoughts that came to mind.

    The timing of this question couldn’t have been better since today on his blog there was a post (”If You Build It, They Will Learn”) that tackled this very question. Apparently a school leader in the process of planning 2 new high schools (and reaching out to the voters for bond funds) had seen his video and wanted to know what ideas he had for her in terms of designing schools.

    Needless to say, the DesignShare team loves this conversation. You might as well. But either way, check out the eye-opening-view-of-the-future in Karl’s video. And tell us what you think!

    Voice of Reason: Can a School Be Safe and Welcoming?

    November 29th, 2006

    With the recent US-based school shootings in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, it was not surprising to hear that President Bush had called for a national summit (entitled “School Safety”) of ideas to speak to safety/security issues in US schools. What would come from it — in real terms — was to be determined.

    The District Administration magazine offers a decent survey of the event, indicating that it may have sparked idea but no clear decisions were made. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Attorny General Albert Gonzales were in attendance, along with a range of experts from the fields of education, school design, security, etc.

    What grabbed our attention, in particular, was Paul Houston’s comments about ‘balance’. Note: Houston is the executive director at the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va. He offered:

    Besides developing safety and emergency plans-which some schools still lack-he says educators also need to follow the ABCs of school safety:

  • Awareness: All staff need to be trained on how to recognize and handle potentially dangerous situations at their school, whether it’s a stranger roaming the halls or a strange truck parked in the school’s lot.
  • Balance: Educators need to develop a balanced perspective and approach to school safety. Over-reacting by building a prison like environment in schools can create even bigger safety issues.
  • Control and Connection: School administrators need to control their campuses by connecting with students through staff or school resource officers who work in collaboration with local police.
  • Equally important, we appreciate his reminder that schools should support the very human experience we’re trying to protect in the first place:

    “Schools should be a place of some joy and of a sense of openness,” Houston says. “You want kids not to feel so repressed and beaten down. So you have to have the view of there are some things you can do to marginally make them safer but is the price worth it? I’m not sure it is.”

    In a day and age of increased need for security measures, how do we strike a balance? Your thoughts?

    What Does the Future of Learning Demand of Us?

    November 29th, 2006

    We’re curious: what does the school of the learning demand of us as educators, designers and planners, and community members? And how will it affect the educational facilities and campuses we create?

    Consider a child born today in 2006.

    They will roughly graduate high school around the year 2024 assuming they continue relatively uninterrupted in a traditional manner. What will it mean to adequately “design for the future of learning” to adequately serve their learning needs over the span of their young lives? How about well after high school graduation, when they enter higher education, professional certification programs, or vocational training spaces? How are we taking into account the classic roles society will require as well as professions not even yet in existence? And will such spaces equally serve their life-learning needs as in a multiplicity of ways across their personal, social, and professional roles?

    For many of us, school design and planning in the 21st century now extends far beyond the literal building and campus itself. Long gone is the traditional school house as an icon for learning. Yes, basic shelter and classic ‘lecture’ spaces will forever be valued. But the overall model for school of the past is being replaced with new expectations for learning and society. While the school house image continues to persist, the rational for such spaces becomes less and less vital with each day. Or better said, the ‘purpose’ of the building and campus is changing, and thus inviting new design strategies to support learning in the future.

    For some, even the core business of schools is up for grabs in a day and age of ubiquitous information access. When information is available everywhere via the Internet, the very future of the schol building must be explored.

    How do we design spaces that engages and sparks collaboration? Provides the ‘just-in-time’ learning resources and spaces needed for tomorrow’s learners? True 21st century learning environments (read: “School 2.0″) demands we frame bold questions and research, seek cross-pollination, embrace new technologies, and expect collaboration as a means to innovative solutions. This is true not only of school design teams, but of the very leaners we’re serving as well.

    What do we mean by a school? When will it be used? Who are the learners and teachers? What does learning look like and how do spaces reflect that? Are there any non-learning spaces in the school of the future, or is every square meter seen as potential collaboration space? And how do we build a school/campus that serves the needs of today’s learners while being agile enough to be relevant in the future as well? Is this a square meter and life cycle issue? A space naming and allocation issue? A resource and political issue? Or a deeper paradigm shift?

    Look around.

    Google and Wikipedia are competing with the traditional library space for your student’s attention. Starbucks and similar “third spaces” are not only supporting entreprenurial and social relationships, but they are becoming a viable model for school spaces in the future — both on campus and off. Hand held PDA’s, cell phones and the $100 laptop program (OLPC) that nobody will be cut off from the Internet, as well as beginning to suggest that computer labs may have to be re-commissioned in time. Possibly not even necessary in the first place. Second Life, Bebo, and MySpace are becoming ad hoc ‘learning environments’ as well as social networking communities for many of our students. The Web2.0 (blogging, etc.) is beginning to re-write the rules of expertise, information sharing, collaboratoin, publication, and learning, thus making the traditional ‘teacher wall’ or ‘front of the room’ an antiquated model for many students. Podcasting means that students no longer have to attend their college classes to be in ‘attendance.’ MIT is giving access to all of their courses for free on the Net. The world, as Thomas Friedman suggests, is becoming very flat and very connected. And information — the prime currency of education’s past — is no longer held as a monopoly by schools and libraries alone. Instead, learning is becoming less and less about getting information, and more and more about evaluating and re-mashing information. This undoubtedly will have an impact on space design and allocation. And what school spaces actually engage learning and learners.

    And none of this takes into consideration the growth of homeschooling, virtual schools and districts, early college programs, a re-branding of traditional vocational programs/spaces, political and social demands split between a ‘back to basics’ vs. a ‘the world is flat’ approach to modern education, and the absolute fear that bullying, shootings, and terrorism puts our schools and students at great risk.

    In short, the rising generation of “digital natives” and the increasing pressure on school facilities to support vast new ways of learning (on top of the myriad of society’s needs that other organizations are less and less able to serve) challenges us all. We believe that each of us, very school design stakeholder, must re-imagine the very foundations of what educational facilities will mean in the future. This is true in ever corner of the globe whether in Melbourne, Glasgow, Austin, Sowetto, Singapore, Chicago, Jakarta, Oslo, or San Paulo. And we’re just beginning to get our hands wrapped around what a true 21st century learning environment means.

    So, once again think of that child born today in 2006. Potentially graduating in 2024. How will the act of learning and the spaces to serve a learning life evolve? And are we prepared to support them based on the facility decisions were making today?

    We welcome your answers, suggestions, ideas, and collaboration!

    Further Exploring Microsoft’s School of the Future

    November 15th, 2006

    Thanks to the quick eye/ear of Judy Marks, Associate Director of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, we were alerted to an interesting broadcast about one of our 2006 DesignShare Award winners: The Microsoft School of the Future (Recognized Value Award winner).

    She pointed us to a recent episode of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that focused on the school’s efforts to integrate cutting edge technology into the academic lives of low-income students in Philadelphia. Note: the episode can be downloaded as video or audio presentation as well.

    The correspondant starts off with an introduction that gets right to the “impact” question:

    West Philadelphia has the reputation of being a rough part of town, not the kind of place that most cities would use to test out a new approach to public education. But this is where the school district has chosen to build what it calls the school of the future. It’s a gleaming $62-million edifice constructed on former park land.

    In telling the story of this unique partnership between the City of Philadelphia and Microsoft, the report shares the voices of a wide range of stakeholders. This includes parents and students, which we were most pleased to see, as well as the school’s Chief Learner, Shirley Grover, and representatives of her teaching team. Additionally, Mary Cullinane (who heads Microsoft’s U.S. Partners in Learning initiatives), Bill Gates, and Paul Vallas, CEO of the Philadelphia School System, were also included.

    A couple of key sound bytes that caught our attention in particular:

    Paul Vallas spoke of the reasons why the city partnered with Microsoft…and what it could provide over time:

    It was advantageous to us because, at the end of the day, the human resources is what we’re seeking, and sometimes money can’t buy high-quality human resources. And it’s advantageous to them, because it’s just not about them writing us a check. It’s about them putting some of their best and brightest on a project that is dear to their heart and that they’re committed to.

    Shirley Grover talking about partnerships:

    The partnering on the outside is important to sort of have us — we’ve always looked inwardly as educators. It’s sort of like been our little world, and we’ve looked in. We thought we knew the answers to what needed to be.

    And I think, over the years, what’s happened is we’ve recognized the fact that we need to look outwardly, also, that is has to be dynamic, both inside and outside, because we’re shaping kids for the world and not just for education.

    Ryan Wheeler, student, discusses the culture of success that is already taking shape here:

    They want you to succeed, so they’re like just, “Go ahead. You can do it. You can do it.” They give us time. They want us to succeed, so they keep pressuring us to do — because they’re determined for us to take another step higher.

    Diane Jass Ketelhut, Temple University, speaks as to the challenges that present itself when looking at a forward-thinking model like this school, and what lessons and long-term impact can be taken away for an entire city and school system:

    If I was a student and I went to a school that had been built 50 years ago, was run down, and I walked in everyday, the message I’m receiving is, “My school doesn’t matter. Therefore, I must not matter.”

    I walk into a school that’s $65 million was spent on, and I say, “Wow, I was selected for this school. I must matter. And, therefore, this is an important place to be, and I have to live up to the expectations of me.”

    And so it’s very difficult to know whether what they’re doing is because of their educational model, the business model, the technology, or just the fact that somebody spent time preparing and creating a good environment for learning.

    We also appreciate the paradox of creating a state-of-the-art school for over $60 million that can serve only a fraction of a city’s student population. Diane Jess Ketelhut speaks to this in ways that are hard to ignore:

    We have a school district here in Philadelphia that has 200,000 students in it, and yet they’ve spent $65 million fixing up one school for 500 students. While that’s great and this is a model, is it a model for the rest of the Philadelphia schools?

    It’s unlikely they can afford to do that with the other 40 or 50 schools that are in the school district. And therefore, one wonders whether this is money well-spent from that aspect, whereas what could we have done to raise the level for all students somewhat, as opposed to a lot for a small group of students?

    What do you think?

    Will the Microsoft School for the future — as an architectural and educational model — end up having a scaled impact on communities around the US and the world, or will it be seen ultimately as a profound experiment for 500 students alone?

    DesignShare Saddened by Loss of John Mayfield

    November 15th, 2006

    It is with heavy heart that we pass on the news of John Mayfield’s death this week. John has been a friend of DesignShare for many years and a passionate voice in our annual Awards program as a long-standing reviewer. He passed away on November 14th as the result of a heart attack. His funeral will take place on November 21st in South Australia. Condolences can be sent to:

    Ann Gorey
    Building Management, Strategic Services
    Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure
    GPO Box 1072 Adelaide SA 5001
    tel 08 8226 5340
    fax 08 8226 5588

    Ed Kirbride’s recollection:

    “Gentleman John’s influence on quality school design for students has been important to our international community. We have had a wider understanding of our world and student needs since we met John at our CEFPI International UEF Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland in the Fall of 1999.

    We and the students of yesterday, today and tomorrow are grateful for John Mayfield and his contributions.”

    Prakash Nair’s recollection:

    “John was the brainchild of the Barcelona conference and we are glad that we got to see him do what he loved best, to work with him and share many happy memories together.”

    Randy Fielding’s recollection:

    “John’s was a joyful voice on the planet, and a beacon of intelligence. He was a champion for big ideas about learning, and also for the smaller projects that others missed.

    During the DesignShare 2003 awards review, John called our attention to an Aboriginal school in Oak Valley that no one else had noticed. He wrote: “The school’s aim is to provide ‘ngapartji ngapartji’ which is the Anangu concept of equal and reciprocal giving and sharing for everyone’s benefit.”

    Ngapartji ngapartji is a good description of who John was. We were blessed to have known him.”

    Biographical background that speaks to the enormous expertise, contributions and spirit that John possessed:

    John Mayfield has had a long involvement with Education as a teacher and senior administrator.

    On graduation he was appointed to the Adelaide Boys High School from which he gained promotions in the State Education service to Science teaching positions at South Australian Secondary Schools. In 1967 he was awarded to a Churchill Fellowship to study Science Education in several countries. He returned to South Australia where he was appointed as a Consultant and later Superintendent in Education. In 1970-72, accompanied by his family, he studied at Harvard Graduate School of Education in the USA gaining his Doctorate Degree.

    John Mayfield returned to South Australia where he held senior positions in the State Education Department including Director of Facilities and Deputy Director General Education from 1982-89. During this period, he was elected a Fellow of the Australian College of Education and held numerous State and National appointments including President of the Adelaide College of Advanced Education, Chair of various committees of the Australian Schools Commission and (Acting) Director General of Technical and Further Education in South Australia. In 1989, he was seconded as Senior Advisor to the Department of Premier and Cabinet where he helped develop the proposals which gained the MFP-Australia Project for South Australia.

    From 1990 to 1994, he held the position of Manager of Education Business Development in the MFP-Australian Project from which he retired to establish Danton Services International offering a range of Educational consulting services.

    John has had a long involvement with the OECD Program on Educational Buildings based in Paris. He has held positions of Chairman of the 21 nation steering committee and Senior International Consultant to the Program.

    Community Service: John Mayfield has been active in the service of the community. He served a term as an elected member of the East Torrens District Council, has been a member of the Council and Trustee of the Pembroke School in South Australia, a Director of the Rotary Club of Adelaide, a Member of the Board of Aged Care and Housing Group and the Trustee for Science for the Alumni Association of the University of Adelaide.

    “Second Life” Vying to be the Campus of the Future

    November 15th, 2006

    Whether an educator or school planner, one would be hard pressed to not take notice of this recent provocation from CNN:

    The classroom of the future isn’t on a college campus. It’s in the virtual world of “Second Life.”

    For those not in the-know, “Second Life” is a virtual world where:

    …virtual residents — cartoonish-looking characters controlled via keyboard and mouse — create anything their hearts desire.

    Also known as avatars, the residents start up businesses, stage their own concerts, sell real estate and design fashion lines. Reuters news agency even has a correspondent based in the cyber community.

    But what impact does this have in the world of education?

    A growing number of educators are getting caught up in the wave. More than 60 schools and educational organizations have set up shop in the virtual world and are exploring ways it can be used to promote learning.

    The three-dimensional virtual world makes it possible for students taking a distance course to develop a real sense of community, said Rebecca Nesson, who leads a class jointly offered by Harvard Law School and Harvard Extension School in the world of “Second Life.”

    “Students interact with each other and there’s a regular sense of classroom interaction. It feels like a college campus,” she said.

    She holds class discussions in “Second Life” as well as office hours for extension students. Some class-related events are also open to the public — or basically anyone with a broadband connection.

    Heck, when a Harvard Law class is begin taught in “Second Life” complete with a professor avatar and each student taking on the virtual identify of their choice, all while participating in the full classroom experience, you know something is beginning to gain momentum.

    One of the critical ‘drawbacks’ for many who challenge alternatives to the ‘real’ F2F experience of attending classes — whether it be via a virtual university or a “Second Life” course — lies in whether or not the student is actually participating, and whether the participation affects the other members of the course. The following is offered as a testament to the potential of “Second Life” courses:

    Most people think online learning doesn’t require participation or engagement with course material, he said. But in “Second Life” there’s real-time interaction, which means students need to engage in the discussion — much as if they were sitting in a brick and mortar classroom.

    John Lester, community and education manager at Linden Lab, the creator of “Second Life,” echoed that view. “There is a real human being behind every avatar — the people are very real. It’s just the medium is different,” he said.

    This, of course, calls into question whether or not this rising trend of virtual education, from the University of Phoenix to avatar-filled “Second Life” courses will have an impact of note upon the school planning/design community. In otherwords, as more and more educational experiences can be given robust life in a virtual context, what impact does this have on brick-n-mortar facility decisions?

    Your thoughts?

    Prompting Schools to Go Wireless

    November 3rd, 2006

    We were reminded of an ahead-of-the-curve article previously published here at DesignShare — “Wired vs. Wireless” – after reading a recent article at Education Week entitled “Technology Upgrades Prompt Schools to Go Wireless”:

    As educational software and web sites become increasingly rich in multimedia, and more schools adopt one-to-one laptop computer initiatives, districts are turning to high-speed wireless networks to make better use of that software and bandwidth-heavy interactive Web sites.

    Students and educators want the “bigger pipes” the newer wireless networks provide, which is one reason why both K-12 and higher education are in the forefront of this technology trend, according to experts such as Rachna Ahlawat. She is a research director with the Gartner Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based firm specializing in information technology research.

    The new networks can handle the plethora of wireless devices, such as personal digital assistants and Voice over Internet Protocol phones—telephones that convert analog audio signals to digital data, then transmit that over the Internet—that educators now use, Ms. Ahlawat said.

    “Education is one of the biggest [markets] for wireless right now,” she said.

    Perhaps the vision of the “Wired vs. Wireless” article is alive and well afterall!

    Are Nature-Oriented Campuses too ‘Expensive’ to Design?

    November 3rd, 2006

    Mmm. The following quotation from a recent article out of Arizona (US) about the need to change campus design due to the expense of having too many buildings and exterior walls seems to suggest something deeper about why we design schools in the first place:

    “(Campus style) is fun. It looks good. It’s fresh. But is it really necessary?” asked John Arnold, interim executive director of the state board.

    Arizona schools often use ‘open’ campus designs due to the mild climate. Clearly, as the director states above, the atmosphere of an open campus that connects students to nature has some benefits. But it also seems that such benefits of a campus designed in human/nature terms is a little too expensive for some leaders to justify these days. One can’t argue with costs as a compelling part of the school design process. When campuses, districts, states, nations look to maximize their educational facility construction dollars, obviously good people are going to look at every expenditure. But one has to ask if our quest to simply save dollars puts something more vital at risk.

    Didn’t school design of the 70’s — minimize glazing and any sort of window feature in an effort to save on energy costs — teach us anything about the long-term impact of cutting our students/teachers off from the natural world around us? Aren’t the vast majority of us well beyond describing schools that invest in daylighting, natural ventilation, vistas and views, natural relationships with nature and the larger community as “fun” (as the director argues)? Aren’t we at a point where we can finally begin to see that the ‘cost’ of a school design, over the life cycle of the building and community, extends well beyond the initial costs of external walls?

    Perhaps we’d be wise to follow Milton Chen’s lead in his recent Edutopia editorial (”Curing Nature Deficit Disorder”) and review of Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. Perhaps we’d be wise to read more about the “Inside-Outside Connection” design pattern. Perhaps we’d be wise to consider ways that leaders — such as those in Arizona — can accomplish the same financial goals while still protecting the underlying human experience of being in classrooms and on campuses.

    Your thoughts?

    The Re-Booting of MIT’s Famed Media Labs

    November 3rd, 2006

    Feeling like a very awe-struck and engaged kid roaming around a learning and technology candy shop is the sensation of spending time in MIT’s famed Media Labs, a design, technology, and education epicenter of innovation. In some respects, it epitomizes the best of what a learning environment can inspire due to what the spaces are meant to engage over time.

    Many of you may recall that the Media Lab was due for a major expansion a few years ago. The crash caused the university to pause the now-$120 million project designed by Fumihiko Maki. Architectural Record, however, reports that the mothballs have come off and the project is back underway:

    Unrealized during MIT’s recent spate of marquee projects, the Media Center project had to be resold to decision makers as a space that would benefit numerous departments and the greater campus community, according to Adele Naude Santos, dean of MIT’s school of architecture and planning. “There’s a larger mission than serving one entity,” she says. During the go-go ’90s, the Media Lab, avatar of the so-called new economy’s melding of digital media, advanced design, and marketing, proposed funding the building itself through mostly corporate donations. As the tech bust proved, Santos explains, “that was not a tenable position.” MIT wound up investing in the project along with corporate and private donors.

    Here is more on the project expansion from MIT itself.

    We also were pleased to note 2 programs that will be housed in the expansion that have great promise for the future of school design and learning: the Okawa Center for Future Children and the LEGO Learning Lab.

    “We Need Agile Thinking” and Schools to Match

    November 3rd, 2006

    As many of you know, DesignShare is passionate about innovative school design around the world. Even more importantly, we’re passionate about how we “design for the future of learning.” This demands understanding the critical learning trends, conflicts, opportunities, and debates that will fuel the need for innovative educational facilities.

    To that end, we have deep appreciation for thinkers that push our thinking well beyond the physical ‘walls’ of the school buiding, well beyond the ‘fences’ of the campus itself. This often means stretching beyond the obvious sources and experts in search of provocative voices that are pushing the deeper conversations that are having an undeniable impact on education itself. The “Creating Passionate Users” blog is just such one source. While their main thrust lies in the connection between business and technology, especially how it relates to how the brain is impacted as well as how to apply brain-based techniques to improve learning, there is much to adapt from their writing. And trust us; while they are not afraid to throw punches, they are always passionate, creative, and diverse in their thinking. And they are one of the top-rated blogs in existence with an equally passionate following.

    They recently wrote the following in a post on the sad state of engineering and math programs in the US educational system, although we suspect it has implications far beyond one nation as we all look towards the future:

    “Our educational institutions–at every level–need drastic changes or we’re all screwed. The generation of students we’re turning out today need skills nobody really cared about 50, 40, even 20 years ago. Where we used to prepare students for a “job for life”, now we must prepare students to be jobless. We must prepare them to think fast, learn faster, and unlearn even faster…

    The Waterfall Model of education is failing like never before. We need Agile Learning.

    Three of the many people who’ve been leading the charge on this are Roger Schank, Dan Pink (his “Whole New Mind” book is a must-read), and computing/learning guru Alan Kay.

    We were very pleased to note their mention of Roger Schank. Many of you will recall a piece about Roger’s ideas entitled “Death to the Classroom” that was published here at DesignShare. Likewise, we were pleased to see the blog mention Daniel Pink. Many of DesignShare’s community believe that Daniel Pink’s recent best-seller, A Whole New Mind, has enormous potential to influence new ways of thinking about the future of school design. Pink’s premise of a merger of right- and left-brain thinking by imagining life beyond the “information age” (linear, one-way, expert-driven learning) where schools (and all of society) respond to the rising “conceptual age” (pattern-based, symphonic, design-oriented collaboration) radically re-positions the look/feel/purpose of the classroom space and beyond.

    Can Zero-Carbon Emission School Buildings Be A Reality?

    November 3rd, 2006

    Considering the rising attention given to “high-performance” school buildings and the use of LEED certification to validate innovative facility design in the education market, one can easily begin to conside what trends may lay on the next horizon line.

    With that said, we wonder if the “2030 °Challenge” will catch fire in the educational facility design field:

    That all new buildings and developments be designed to use 1/2 the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume (1/2 the country average for that building type).

    That at a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area* be renovated annually to use 1/2 the amount of fossil fuel energy they are currently consuming (through design, purchase of renewable energy and/or the application of renewable technologies).

    That the fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings be increased to:

  • 60% in 2010
  • 70% in 2015
  • 80% in 2020
  • 90% in 2025
  • Carbon-neutral by 2030 (using no fossil fuel GHG emitting energy to operate).
  • In the meantime, consider using this EnergyStar tool to look specifically at K-12 educational facilities.

    Want to learn more about the “2030 °Challenge”, contact Edward Mazria AIA, Architecture 2030 Founder

    Edward Mazria AIA, is a senior principal at Mazria Inc. Odems Dzurec an architecture and planning firm in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is author of The Passive Solar Energy Book, senior analyst for the Southwest Climate Council and adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico. He speaks nationally and internationally on the subject of climate change and architecture.

    Thanks to Jessica Barth, current University of Texas @ Arlington School of Architecture graduate student, for mentioning to DesignShare how impressed she was by a recent presentation given by Ed on the subject.

    Collaboration Spaces are Hot, Hot, Hot!

    November 1st, 2006

    From “On Campus: Sharing Space, Sharing Ideas” (BusinessWeek, 10.30/06):

    When taking a broad look at some of the nation’s—and the world’s—most adventurous, well-endowed, and forward-thinking campuses, it’s clear that one rising trend is toward encouraging increased cross-pollination between fields.

    Okay, you got our attention. And we appreciate the chance to learn more about the following campus/building designs focusing on collaborative spaces such as The Frank Gehry-designed Stata Center for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the James H. Clark Center at Stanford University designed by Foster and Partners; and many others:

    Other well-funded top universities are taking the concept of collaboration to new heights, pouring pooled resources into superlative collaborative tools for the sciences and computing. A group of elite academic institutions—the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Harvard University, MIT, the University of Arizona, the University of Michigan, and Australian National University—is working with Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to construct the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), to be located at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile for best viewing possibilities.

    But why such a profound focus on ‘collaboration’ defining learning spaces on university campuses as of late?

    In other words, the spirit of collaboration that is fueling the design of the nation’s most innovative campus architecture and facilities is clearly fueled in part by efficiency—economic, intellectual, and scientific. Shared resources and spaces could mean ideas are exchanged and projects developed more rapidly than if fostered in a siloed department or in an individual institution with perhaps limited means.

    Trend for the future? Spaces or purposes?

    To evaluate whether today’s radically inventive university buildings and resources herald future cross-disciplinary breakthroughs in science and engineering (or, in the case of the Stata Center, linguistics and philosophy, too) will take time. After all, these structures and tools are experiments in themselves.

    Interesting take-away that suggests that such design thinking is radical. While the physical spaces and envelopes and materials may suggest profound new ways of imaging university facilities, we more appreciate that the focus on ‘collaboration’ lies at the heart of such learning environments. In a day and age of rising ‘digital natives’ seeking learning programs to remain relevant and engaged in the larger world, perhaps such spaces are the necessary currency to remain competitive as institutions. A school design project such as the recent award-winning Estrella Mountain Community College that connected with Herman Miller’s innovative design strategies for collaboration and “radical flexibility” in allowing groups/individuals to work in dynamic ways shows that it can arise from the inside out, as well.

    Ultimately, this ‘experiment’ seems most likely to endure if campus facilities are destined to remain relevant for authentic real-time ‘learning’ rather than traditional ‘instructional delivery.’ This is precisely why we think this is far more than an experiment, far more than a trend. Perhaps schools and school designers are beginning to shift attention towards the larger forces of learning that are indeed at our fingertips.

    Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow for posting the BusinessNews link that grabbed our attention.

    North Carolina: Trying Its Hand at Small Learning Academies

    November 1st, 2006

    “The education model in public schools is well over 100 years old,” said Jason Mammano, academies coordinator at Forestview. The new model “gives kids more individualized attention.”

    And so launches an article out of the Charlotte, North Carolina region about the Gaston County Schools’ decision to develop small learning communities (or SLC’s) at 4 of its 6 public high schools.

    How will the 4 schools move into the SLC world?

    The names of the academies and the way they are divided vary among schools, but each will have one academy for freshmen and three that focus on career-related interests, such as art and communications; math, science and engineering; and business.

    We’re pleased to see another school system begin to invest in a school reform/design model that promotes student/teacher relationships, helps ease 9th graders into high school life, and creating strategic learning pathways that engage students at their passions.

    The school system has opted to use a modified SLC framework that may or may not lead to success long-term. This means that students can take courses outside of their academies and students. This may or may not challenge the culture/formation of each SLC along the way, but it appears that they are taking measures to bring the community/parents/students along with them, which may ultimately be the reason they succeed:

    Students aren’t locked into their academies; they can switch to another academy if it has space.

    Unlike Olympic High School in Charlotte and some others across the country that have formed academies within schools, Gaston’s schools won’t split up completely. Students will be able to take classes in other academies.

    A federal grant of $100,000 per year for three years to each of the six schools has paid for the salaries for business managers and coordinators so far. Though the grant is in its final year, academy coordinators say they expect the county will maintain the initiative.

    Some parents were concerned about students having to choose career paths at such a young age, said Suzanne Wallace, an instructor at South Point, but she said teachers are just trying to give students options for the future.

    We particularly applaude the following educator sentiment who beautifully expresses the power of SLC reforms/designs on fostering strong identity formation through the student experience:

    “Without the smaller learning communities, they’re just thrown in this big high school environment with no identity,” said Wallace, who teaches computer applications and digital communications. “Instead of going aimlessly into four years of high school and entering college, we’re trying to give kids some direction.”

    Thanks to the Edutopia e-newsletter for this story link.

    AIA Releases “Greening American Schools” Report

    November 1st, 2006

    Just learned today that the Capital E (along with the co-sponsorship of the AIA) has released a new report demonstrating the positive impact of “green” schools. Certainly worth the attention of all those invested in the further creation of sustainable, green, high-performance school facilities.


  • Building energy-efficient schools results in lower operating costs, improved test scores and enhanced student health.
  • Schools that are designed to be environmentally friendly would save an average of $100,000 each year – enough to hire two additional full-time teachers.
  • Case Studies:

    The report includes a detailed analysis of 30 green schools built in 10 states between 2001 and 2006, and demonstrates that the total financial benefits of green schools are 20 times greater than the initial cost, and include energy and water savings, and improved student health and test scores.

    As stated in the AIA press release, “With over $35 billion dollars projected to be spent in 2007 on K-12 construction, the conclusions of this report have far-reaching implications for future school design”:

    “This study underscores the enormous cost of poor design and the critical impact that good design and operation has on the quality of our children’s education,” said AIA President Kate Schwennsen, FAIA. “The findings indicate that there are tremendous benefits from energy-efficient school design, not only from an economic standpoint, but from increased student test scores and far healthier environments through improved indoor air quality.”

    Ireland: The UCD Gateway Project Architectural Competition

    November 1st, 2006

    An interesting university design competition coming out of Ireland that challenges the traditional model of a campus beyond simple “places of learning.” Instead, the design competition seeks to be informed by universities as “microcosms of cities” that push learning well beyond the campus walls:

    Context & Challenge:

    The role of University College Dublin as Ireland’s premier educational establishment is changing in response to a rapidly evolving national and international social and economic framework. Universities are no longer seen simply as places of learning, but rather as focal points for knowledge and industry, providing strategic locations where strong links between industry and education can develop and thrive. In many ways, campuses have become microcosms of cities, extending the university experience beyond the traditional classroom and further opening to the outside community.

    The past two decades have proven a tremendous transformation in Ireland’s social and economic performance at the local and international level, transforming Ireland into one of the wealthiest European countries.

    Since its modern inception in the 1964 campus masterplan, UCD has recognised the need for the campus to grow and develop in response to broader social, economic and physical changes. As evidenced in the Campus Development Plan 2005-2010-2015, UCD is aware of the timely importance of the Gateway development at the entrance to the university. Our aspiration is that the Gateway area will further enhance the architectural heritage and sylvan setting of the campus.

    The Invitation:

    The UCD Gateway Project Architectural Competition is seen as an opportunity to establish an internationally recognizable signature image for the Belfield campus. In this respect, the university is keen to retain the very best architectural talents to meet this challenge, resulting in a built environment that will not only provide an attractive and functional development for the region, but will also be a defining architectural feature of UCD in the 21st Century.

    2-stage Competition:

    This is a two stage competition process to select the architectural consultants for the masterplanning and schematic design of Gateway buildings and open spaces at the entrance to the Belfield campus. The Expressions of Interest stage will first produce a longlist of up to ten candidates. Following an interview phase, this number will be reduced to three candidates. In the second stage these three competitors will prepare masterplans and schematic architectural design submissions. The winning architectural design will be announced in second quarter, 2007.


    In order to be eligible, firms must demonstrate that they have extensive experience in the design of institutional/commercial buildings and must demonstrate experience with the design of large civic spaces, associated landscape and open space design. Firms must also have successfully completed prime consulting contracts for major capital works projects.

    Additional details:

  • Expression of Interest, Site, Jury
  • The Campus
  • Schedule of Competition
  • *****
    Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow for posting the original competition link that grabbed our attention.

    Charter Schools Putting Cleveland’s School Building Boom in Jeopardy?

    November 1st, 2006

    What would it take to disrupt the planned $1 Billion dollar school construction plan in Cleveland, Ohio?

    About 54,300 students are enrolled this year. That number is expected to drop to 45,530 by the 2010-2011 school year. Factor in that charter school enrollment in the city has climbed to about 12,000 students and you get some idea why the brand-new Hannah Gibbons-Nottingham Elementary, which opened in August, is 100 students short of capacity.

    Interesting to see an influx of mission-driven, student-oriented, community-based charter schools popping up throughout Cleveland having a demonstrated impact upon the evolving facility needs of the larger public school system.

    Are we watching a charter school ‘tipping point’ unfold in Cleveland?

  • On the one hand, the rapid increase of charter schools appears to be living up to the original premise of charter schools nationally — to be both an incubator of ideas/programs and to challenge the traditional public systems to continually improve due to market-based factors. It seems that what is happening in Cleveland shows just how long-range facility planning for a larger urgan district can be impacted at a certain point.
  • On the other hand, there is a limit to the number of charter schools that can be created, find/renovate or build adequate spaces, and house enough kids in any existing urban system, and thus public schools will only lose so many students.
  • The challenge, however, is that even if they retain the majority of their students, long-range facility planning and construction can be dramatically affected and thus further inspire students to seek alternatives.

    “The amount the state provides for a construction project is based on the number of students the building can hold. If the school district can’t fill those new schools, it will mean less for future schools, Burns [Cleveland’s COO] said. “

    Is Cleveland a unique example? Or will we see similar results in other urban contexts?

    Los Angeles: Leading the Pack of Greening Schools?

    October 27th, 2006

    Very impressive to hear a major urban school district, who is under substantial financial/political pressure resulting from a major population spike, take the lead in developing sustainable and green strategies for buildings that are often seen as merely ‘housing’ kids.:

    “Whereas students learn best in an environment that is comfortable, healthy, naturally lit and well maintained, and studies indicate that student achievement is greater and attendance higher when these conditions are met … ”

    The quotation comes from a recent article entitled “The Greening of LAUSD” which passionately details the remarkable efforts to bring sustainable design practices to 940+ campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a massive educational system that supports over 720,000 K-12 students.

    What caught our attention most were the significant combinations of public/private partnerships that have helped the city’s school system re-imagine how schools and campuses could be designed and renovated via sustainable and environmentally focused practices. Even better, the article discusses how high performance school design efforts at some of the district’s schools have actually helped to raise student learning in the process:

    1999-2000, along with TreePeople, the L.A. Conservation Corps, and the Hollywood Beautification Team, DWP funded the removal of tons of asphalt at both Multnomah Highly Gifted Center downtown and Broadous Elementary Math/Science Magnet Center in Pacoima through its Adopt-A-School program. At Multnomah, a cistern system now provides recycled irrigation water for extensive green areas and flower gardens. At Broadous, water filtration technology can capture and reclaim up to a half-million gallons of rainwater, while the value produced by flood prevention and groundwater recharge paid for a new soccer field. Both schools use green areas for study programs; both cut down on playground injuries, and it may be a coincidence, but Broadous’s test scores for the state’s Academic Performance Index rose 80 points in 2002, one of the largest gains in the district.

    A little background history on LAUSD and the explosion of school construction/renovation that has occurred since 1992 which helped in part spark a new way of thinking when it came to fostering schools that were sustainable and able to make a positive impact on kids, schools, and their communities:

    “[P]rior to 2002, there had been practically no construction for a quarter century, with no major expansion since post World War II. The exploding enrollment that necessitated 1997’s Proposition BB and a succession of state and local bond issues required a plan for 150,000 new seats.”

    The article goes on to discuss an interesting consideration of “optimal learning conditions” that goes beyond shelter and simply having textbooks; also a great primer on CHPS (”chips,” as it is often known, stands for the Collaborative for High Performance Schools) for those of you who may want to refresh your memory, too:

    “While most citizens equate optimal learning conditions with class size, textbooks, and teacher preparation, an enlightened corps of architects, engineers, environmental scientists, project managers, and energy professionals have persuaded the local educational hierarchy of much more: the maximum efficient use of daylighting; the optimizing of thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort; the reduction of heat islands through shading and lighter paving materials; managing storm water runoff; incorporating high-performance HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems; as well as the maximum use of recycling in both construction and demolition – in short, high performance schools.”

    Are you seeing similar sustainable “high performance” facility efforts in large, or small, urban contexts near you? Do you see the efforts in LAUSD being replicable elsewhere, or is this a perfect storm of need and opportunity?

    Thanks to Judy Marks at the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities for pointing out attention to this timely story. And as she said, its refreshing to see such an article being written by a screen writer who understands the impact of storytelling.

    Considering the Paradox of Growth and Disparity in US School Construction

    October 27th, 2006

    While few debate that school buildings around the US are in need of repair, renovation, and replacement, the construction boom of the last decade suggests that we must be making significant progress. 12,000 new schools in ten years. 130,000 major renovation projects in ten years. $500 billion ($600 billion with interest) in ten years. Serious numbers, in other words, and with serious dollar amounts attached to these projects.

    $500 billion worth of new construction and renovation over a ten-year period must have made a profound impact. Right? $500 billion worth of new construction and renovation must mean that we’re beginning to balance the ‘base need’ educational facility scales for school communities across the country. Right? $500 billion worth of new construction and renovation over a ten-year period must suggest that all public school communities are beginning to see shifts in how their campuses are creating 21st century learning environments. Right?

    According to today’s release by BEST (Building Educational Success Together) partners (see below for a complete list of involved organizations) of the “Growth and Disparity: A Decade of Public School Construction 1995-2004″ , too many students are still in overcrowded classrooms within buildings that fall below acceptable standards. Most disappointing is that in a time of such massive school construction growth, disparities seem to be growing just as quickly:

    “…the schools with the greatest need, primarily those in high-poverty and predominantly minority school districts, have seen the least investment.”

    Equally disconcerting, for these school communities, facility money that does come in goes to maintaining basic health and safety elements (such as aesbestos removal) rather than helping to redefine the learning spaces for positive educational outcomes. As the report states:

    “The inadequacy of funding in low-income districts and communities and the disparity in who benefitted from this spneding woudl not be of such importance if the condition, design, and use of school buildings did not affect the quality of education. An increased body of research indicates that poor building conditions . . . are obstacles to academic achievement.”

    Might be worth downloading the 40-page “Growth and Disparity” report. And might be worth using it as a prompt that stretches beyond simply calling for more dollars, but calling for a re-imagination of what we mean by true 21st century learning environments for all of our students and communities.

    Note: BEST partners include:

  • 21st Century School Fund
  • Center for Cities & Schools, Univ. of California, Berkeley
  • Education Law Center
  • KnowledgeWorks Foundation
  • National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities
  • Neighborhood Capital Budget Group
  • New Visions for Public Schools
  • End of the ‘Wet’ Science Lab?

    October 25th, 2006

    Hard to imagine a school science lab without bunsen burners, beakers, and endless safety devices built into the design of the room. And yet, the potential of technology moving the school design community beyond the traditioanl ‘wet’ science lab — a lab both expensive in construction, liability and maintenance — seems closer and closer each day. So close that some very significant educational groups are beginning to take a serious look at the academic pros/cons of virtual labs:

    Now, however, a dispute with potentially far-reaching consequences has flared over how far the Internet can go in displacing the brick-and-mortar laboratory.Prompted by skeptical university professors, the College Board, one of the most powerful organizations in American education, is questioning whether Internet-based laboratories are an acceptable substitute for the hands-on culturing of gels and peering through microscopes that have long been essential ingredients of American laboratory science.

    As part of a broader audit of the thousands of high school courses that display its Advanced Placement trademark, the board has recruited panels of university professors and experts in Internet-based learning to scrutinize the quality of online laboratories used in Web-based A.P. science courses.

    “Professors are saying that simulations can be really good, that they use them to supplement their own lab work, but that they’d be concerned about giving credit to students who have never had any experience in a hands-on lab,” said Trevor Packer, the board’s executive director for Advanced Placement. “You could have students going straight into second-year college science courses without ever having used a Bunsen burner.”

    While the majority of the article explores the ‘threat’ to on-line/virtual schools losing curriculum status and accreditation if they are not able to offer ‘legitimate’ science courses using digital means, there are tremendous take-away’s for the school design community. Imagine if a forward-thinking school design team and an equally forward-thinking school community put their head’s together and imagined the shifting tetonics of tomorrow’s science lab, away from the traditional slate-covered science stations complete with gas and water, looking at the changing face of learning and the potential cost/liability impact at the end of the day.

    Think forward 20 years. Does the average student enter a traditional ‘wet’ science lab or do they enter a space filled with virtual technologies that simulate the scientific process?

    Your thoughts? Oh, and if you have time, consider heading over to Edutopia and exploring their previous article entitled, “Designing Virtual Communities for Creativity and Learning.”

    German Universities Seeking Quality Over Equity

    October 25th, 2006

    In an effort to change the status-quo in German universities, debates over ‘quality vs. equality’ and a new approach to funding are sparking a revolution of sorts:

    “We’re moving from a republic of professors to an entrepreneurial university,” said Peter Frankenberg, the minister who oversees universities in Baden-Württemberg, home of Heidelberg and Karlsruhe.

    From a facility perspective, this seems ready to spark a new way of thinking of the classic German university setting — from campus design to classroom space to integrating resources into a larger network of learning/collaboration environments.”

    Worth reading the entire article. Other key take-aways:

    Changing of the guard of ‘elite’ universities:

    Yet last week, when a German government committee anointed three institutions as elite universities — a sort of Teutonic Ivy League — Karlsruhe made the cut while Heidelberg did not. The other winners were the University of Munich and the Technical University, also in Munich.

    The much anticipated decision, which entitles the schools to more than $100 million each over the next five years, sent spirits soaring at Karlsruhe and swooning at Heidelberg. It also set off a national discussion about the nature of excellence, the necessity of focusing on science and technology and the wisdom of culling the great from the merely good.

    Revisiting the ‘landscape’ of quality vs. equity:

    With German universities — once the envy of the academic world — in decline for decades, Mr. Hommelhoff said most Germans accepted that radical measures were needed to propel them back into competition with their rivals in Britain, Switzerland and especially the United States.

    To start with, Germans are abandoning a notion that all universities are basically equal — an ideal that dates from the 1970’s when university admissions were opened up and that has served to mask vast disparities in quality among the country’s 102 universities.

    “Germany was never a flat landscape,” said Wolfgang Ketterle, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who was a member of the selection committee. “There were always hills and valleys. Our hope is that some of these hills will now grow into well-defined mountains.”

    Designating elite universities reveals some awkward truths about German higher education that were known but rarely acknowledged.

    What do you see as the design challenges/opporutunities that grow out of a national re-investement/re-imagination of an entire university system? Or is this merely a matter of funding and changing the position of the elite university rankings, with little impact on what an elite university ‘looks like’ in the end?

    Designing Access for the Blind in a Digital Age

    October 25th, 2006

    In a day and age of increased technology-based learning programs in schools around the world, what role does a school planner/designer have in helping a school community consider access for the blind in a ‘digital’ landscape? Is this only a consideration for the educators, or does the design community need to advocate for the impact of technology-based learning on all learners — regardless of ability — in the spaces we help to create? is there a limit to the elements that educational facility experts must embrace when it comest to developing truly engaging learning environments for the 21st century?

    If time allows, it might be worth using this as a prompt as you read this recent NYTimes article that looks at the liability being faced as blind users of the Internet seek equitable techonlogies. In particular, the following grabbed our attention:

    Internet search giant Google Inc. is getting into the act as well. In July it launched a project to identify and rank Web sites that offer significant accessibility to the blind.

    As more information and services migrate online, keeping access open to it is of paramount importance to advocates for the blind.

    “The blind have more access to information than they ever had in history — but that’s only true to the extent that Web accessibility is maintained,” Danielsen said. “The technology is out there, and we don’t need barriers to be put in our way. Give us a way in.”

    While the article stresses consumer-based retail web sites as being held to a new standard for ‘access’ by the blind, it seems that schools — where the digital learning landscape is gathering speed in both design and usage — might not be far behind in terms of attention and liability. But more importantly, perhaps the school design community is in a position to consider the impact of ‘wayfinding’ and ‘access’ issues that occur in a 3-dimensional sense as launching points for deeper conversations with our school communities/clients.

    Your thoughts?

    Exploring SCUP’s Sustainable Campus Day

    October 25th, 2006

    The Chronicle for Higher Education recently offered a special report recently on the idea of a ’sustainable’ campus. [note: if link is dead, you may have to be a registered member to read the full article or contact the Chronicle to inquire about access] In particular, you may want to consider exploring an interactive offering entitled “On The Ground: What a sustainable campus might look like.” Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the report:

    One that promotes the concept of meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
    That’s the definition of sustainability derived from a United Nations report that helped make the term part of the parlance of politicians, academics, and rock stars. While it sounds simple, the idea is remarkably complex when put into practice because it seeks to unite actions that in the past have often competed with each other. For a process to be sustainable, it must preserve the environment, stimulate economic growth, and improve society by helping people. This week, as the population of the United States tops 300 million, the quest for sustainability takes on added importance.

    And as the article goes on to ask, what impact does sustainability have for our universities?

    To answer that, we suggest looking into the work of SCUP (Society of College and University Planners) who offered their 4th webcast installment of the “Sustainable Campus Day” program today (10.25.06). While the webcast already came and went earlier today, we’d like to offer a bit of attention to their program. In the 4th consecutive year of conversations, the program looks at a wide range of post-secondary institutions in terms of the integration of sustainable practices and design solutions across their campuses. This year, members of several 2-year, 4-year, and research institutions (including Harvard, Arizona State, Grand Valley State, and Pima County Community College) were invited to share answers to the following questions:

  • Does all of operations know what each other is doing?
  • Do researchers and faculty know what operations is doing?
  • Do faculty know what each other are doing?
  • Do faculty incorporate things that operations does as modeling for learning?
  • If you missed the live webcast, consider ordering the CD. Or, learn more about the overall Sustainable Campus Day program here or read the PDF summary document from last year’s event.

    Judy Marks: Updates from NCEF

    October 6th, 2006

    We’re very grateful to have the opportunity to connect regularly with Judy Marks and her team at NCEF (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities). As many of you know, there may be no better resource for the 4 corners of the educational facility planet. Not only are the resources seemingly infinite, but the people that work doggedly to find them, like Judy, are tremendous advocates for the future of school design.

    On occasion, Judy will be adding her voice here at the DesignShare blog, pointing us all to resources that are worth keeping an eye out for. The following just came our way. Talk about a great way to get involved with issues that affect all school communities and design teams without having to get on a plane!

    Lots of learning opportunities in October without even leaving yourdesk.

    Webcasts or webinars, some free and some with hefty registration fees, are showing up more and more in the educational facility field. Webinar is short for web-based seminar and is generally interactive, while a webcast is a one way transmission of information.

    The NCEF (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities) Calendar lists a series of webcasts from the Environmental Protection Agency on healthy school issues, an APPA webinar on the impact of facilities on student recruitment and retention, and a technical webinar for facility managers on identifying, remediating, and preventing mold in buildings.

    Have further questions or school design resources you’d recommend to the NCEF?

    Get in touch with Judy at

    Robert Schank’s Metaphor of the Library

    October 6th, 2006

    In a past DesignShare article written by Randy Fielding entitled “The Death of the Classroom, Learning Cycles and Roger Schank,” we are introduced to Roger’s passionate and provoative claim:

    “Classrooms are out! No more classrooms! Don’t build them!”

    Schank, the Founder of the renowned Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, where he is John P. Evans Professor Emeritus in Computer Science, Education and Psychology, challenges the entire premise of the classroom of old. Fielding states::

    According to Roger, the only way we learn is through “doing,” and failure. Failure gets our attention, it fosters an emotional response, which is essential for learning. “Doing,” and emotional experiences rarely take place in a classroom:

      “We should spend about 1/3 of our day at the computer, 1/3 talking with others, and 1/3 making something.”

    What are the environmental implications if learners are spending 1/3 of their day at the computer, 1/3 talking with others and 1/3 making something?

    We were reminded of this while reading the District Administration’s blog, The Pulse, this past week when Roger moves further into the classic school building of old, challenging our assumptions based in the library as space and as metaphor for learning. He writes:

    One such disastrous metaphor has dominated thinking about learning for a very long time. We need to get over it if we ever wish to see schooling become in any way relevant in the “knowledge society.” I am talking about the metaphor of knowledge as akin to something to be found in a library.

    Libraries have been around for a long time. For generations, knowledge was contained in libraries, or so it seemed. But, in fact, this was never true. It didn’t matter much, until recently.

    Concomitant with the idea that knowledge is contained in libraries is the idea that knowledge is found through search. In the old days, when people actually went to libraries, there were card catalogues, which were created with arcane notions such as the Dewey Decimal System that helped searchers find books that had been properly catalogued. But we don’t need that stuff anymore, because we have Google. Search has gotten easier, but real knowledge hasn’t changed.

    The problem is that both the library metaphor, and the search metaphor have misled us in serious ways. The consequences of that will take a moment to explain.

    Given the blend of information and searching, technologies and tradition, learner and teacher, found in schools sitting on the edge of the 21st century, do you agree with Schank’s premise that the library, as metaphor and as information space, lies ripe for re-design?

    Edutopia’s founder, George Lucas, Sparks a Film School Re-Design

    October 5th, 2006

    Considering the passionate celebration of education here in the US and beyond of filmmaker George Lucas, and DesignShare’s pride in partnering with the Edutopia team (sponsored by the George Lucas Educational Foundation), this story caught our eye today:

    In the single largest donation in USC’s (Univ. of Southern California) history, the filmmaker is helping to spark the creation of a learning environment that will truly put the USC film school at the top of the charts:

    One of the main changes the gift will bring will be a new, 137,000-square-foot, two-building complex to house the film school.

    Why do the new facilities matter?

    Within the world of film schools, USC already has gotten a top billing. In its most recent ranking of graduate film programs, U.S. News & World Report in 1997 rated USC tied with New York University for first place, with UCLA a close third. Still, one of the knocks on the school has been its cramped, aging facilities.

    The donation aims to remedy that problem with a pair of four-story buildings being designed in the Mediterranean Revival style that flourished in Southern California when the film school was established in 1929.

    The $75-million project, going up on the northern side of campus on a parking lot near the existing film school buildings, will provide multimedia classrooms, editing labs and other work space, along with faculty offices. Construction is expected to begin early in 2007 and to be completed by December 2008.

    Lucas, who described himself as an “amateur architect,” is treating the construction project much like one of his cinematic productions. He hired the architects Urban Design Group of Dallas and has worked with them on such minute aspects as the detailing on the archways.

    Thanks to ArchNewsNow for the tip on this story.

    Student Population: A Tale of Two Cities

    September 27th, 2006

    We’re struck by the similarities and differences of 2 urban school districts in the US that are facing declining student enrollment issues, but for very different reasons. As originally reported in Schoolhouse Beat (e-Newsletter published by American School and University magazine):

    The 16-day teachers strike that ended earlier this month in Detroit may have cost the school district 25,000 students or more, district officials say. The Detroit News reports that the projected enrollment drop could lead to a cut of $190 million in state aid and almost certainly another sizable downsizing of schools and employees. In light of the gloomy estimate, the district has begun a publicity campaign to woo students back before the district’s official enrollment count is recorded on Wednesday.

    The number of students attending New Orleans public schools has reached 21,610 students, only a little more than a third of the students in the system before Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the number is expected to rise somewhat once permanent facilities are repaired and more schools return home from their temporary quarters. Demographers have projected between 24,077 and 27,506 students returning this fall, based on the availability of housing in the city.

    Two very different urban contexts. Both school systems have faced enormous challenges in the last few decades. Both have dramatically lost student enrollment in the last year…but for very different reasons.

    While New Orleans rightfully fights to rebuild and reclaim the schools it has lost in an effort to bring students back, perhaps we ought to be giving similar attention and support to the Detroit public system’s own ‘re-building’ efforts.

    Your thoughts?

    Edutopia: Exploring a Child-Scale School Design in Maine

    September 27th, 2006

    Great to see a 2005 DesignShare Recognized Value Award winner getting recent press for innovative design.

    From the opening paragraph of the “A Kid’s Eye View: Smart architecture scaled down for Munchkin-sized Mainers,” (Edutopia Magazine, 9.06) it is clear that the design team walked in the shoes of the young kids they were creating learning environments for:

    When Daniel Cecil was named lead architect for Kennebunk Elementary School in 2001, he took the school’s motto, “Look through the eyes of a child and see the wonders of the world,” to heart. He also took it literally.

    “One of the first things my colleague Mark Lee and I did was walk on our knees in our office,” says Cecil, of Harriman Associates, in Auburn, Maine, when recalling his early work on the K-3 school, which is now two years old. “We wanted to see what things look like from a child’s perspective.”

    Today, that slogan — prominently displayed in block letters on the muted green wall in the school’s spacious entryway — sets the child-centric tone felt throughout the 102,400-square-foot-campus, situated on 70 acres of lush woods in Kennebunk, Maine.

    Check out the Edutopia slideshow to see the school up close.

    Metropolis Magazine Seeks “Next Generation” of Energy-Minded Designers

    September 27th, 2006

    One of the hottest panels at this year’s NeoCon event in Chicago was the Student Day Panel that touched base with past winners of Metropolis Magazine’s “Next Design” Competition to see where their innovative design projects have lead them:

    The Next Generation competition was created in 2003 to promote activism, social involvement, and entrepreneurship in young designers. Metropolis saw the need for a new type of competition, one that went beyond the usual beauty pageants for finished projects, a competition that would generate and reward ideas.

    Metropolis celebrates the next generation by rewarding imaginative young designers at large companies and recognizing the hard work of those striving with their own young firms or on their own as well as students—while some designers have a proposal ready and waiting, others are at the beginning of the process with an undefined desire to create and can use a kick start.

    Well, the 2007 competition has just been announced, and given that its focus is on ‘energy,’ this might be an ideal merger of issues pertaining to 21st century learning environments and young designers seeking innovative solutions that could affect schools around the world. Especially school facilties in developing nations and communities struck by natural and/or man-made disasters.

    Head over to Metropolis Magazine to learn more about the competition. Look for the following image (upper right) where you can learn all about the competition, past winners, and how to register for the 2007 program.

    US Senate Considering Bill to Spur “Green” Schools

    September 27th, 2006

    Worth keeping an eye out for the following with regards to sustainability and “green” schools:

    The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has approved a bill to authorize $25 million over five years and mandate steps aimed at stimulating growth of “green buildings.”

    The bill, which the panel cleared Sept. 13., includes $15 million for a proposed General Services Administration “office of high-perfomance green buildings.”The office would coordinate federal agencies’ work on environmentally friendly buildings and do research.

    The bill provides $5 million for Environmental Protection Agency grants to help schools deal with environmental issues.

    Authorized funds are subject to appropriations. There has been no action yet on a similar House bill.

    Thanks to Kristen at ArchNewsNow who took time to send an email with this story.

    OECD’s 3rd Annual Programme on Educational Building Review of Innovative Schools

    September 26th, 2006

    Heard of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) which sponsors the Programme on Educational Building (PEB) yearly review of innovative school facilities?

    Either way, this might be a collection of innovative school designs worth reviewing:

    The 3rd PEB Compendium features educational institutions from 20 countries selected by an international jury for their exemplary facilities.

    This work addresses how the design, use and management of physical infrastructure can contribute to the quality of education. With full-colour photographs, plans and descriptions, the Compendium focuses on the functionality of 65 recently completed or refurbished buildings or grounds, chosen for their innovation in the areas of safety, sustainability, alternative financing, community needs and flexibility.

    In addition to schools and universities, this third edition of the PEB Compendium covers pre-schools and gives special attention to how effectively the facilities meet the needs of their users: students, teachers, parents and the community at large.

    To learn more, read the Executive Summary or go to this link to learn how to order the report itself.

    CEFPI’s “School of the Future” Design Competition Targets Middle School Students

    September 26th, 2006

    As part of the annual CEFPI School Building Week, we’d love to turn your attention to an invitation for middle school students to participate in a design program to imagine the “School of the Future.”

    The following is an excerpt from the original invitation written by Barbara Worth, Associate Executive Director of the CEFPI Foundation:

    Dear Colleague:

    Spotlighting our nation’s schools and reinforcing the connection between school facilities and student learning, School Building Week creates greater public awareness of the importance of well-planned, high performing, healthy and sustainable schools that enhance student success and community vitality.

    School Building Week 2007 features the School of the Future Student Design Competition. Curriculum for this design competition has been developed to address the middle school math standards, providing a vibrant venue for applying mathematical concepts relevant to students’ lives. This curriculum was developed through a generous donation from Centennial Contractors Enterprises, a School Building Week partner.

    Each of the two units of study, Ideal Learning Environments and Designing the Floor Plan is broken down into lessons that not only emphasize mathematics, but also communication, teamwork and further connections to English, Communication, Social Studies, Health, and other Sciences. It is assumed that the included lessons are not a student’s first exposure to the standards and that prior teaching has provided requisite skills for success. The lessons are designed to be implemented once a week and the duration of both units are intended to last a total of one semester. Criteria for the resultant School of the Future project, narrative and video are also included.

    Might be a great program to pass on to a middle school program near you and a great way to inspire young kids to imagine designing their ideal learning environment along the way.

    Have the Miami-Dade School Design Prototypes Presented a Novel Approach to an Age-Old Paradox?

    September 26th, 2006

    Note: Thanks to NCEF (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities) for turning our attention to this story in their News section.

    Not a day goes by without a community/district considering the long-term ‘value’ of prototype school designs. Seems logical at first. Design once, repeat multiple times, save money in the process. Why re-create the wheel, so to speak?

    The question, perhaps, lies in IF prototype design both is logical and saves money, why it doesn’t inspire learning, and why is it so controversial?

    Could the Miami-Dade (Florida) school system have come up with a new spin that not only maximizes the perceived value of prototype designs while also taking into account the creation of unique learning spaces over time?

    ‘’It’s simple to build boxes,'’ said Rose Diamond, the school district’s facilities chief. “It’s not simple to do important school buildings.'’

    A dozen new schools, scheduled to open in 2007 and 2008, are the first products of an ambitious prototype program that Diamond proposed in late 2004. Copies of those schools are expected to follow regularly for at least a few years, cutting millions of dollars and dozens of months from the time and expense of drafting plans for each school from scratch.

    Clearly, some members of the community do worry about the premise of prototype designs being a one-size-fits-all solution that misses something vital in the formula:

    Much more common is the community perception that prototype schools are generic and bland, unsuited to a particular neighborhood’s students or architecture.

    ‘’Sometimes one size doesn’t fit all,'’ Burnett said.

    Diamond dismissed that criticism, saying Miami-Dade’s prototypes can be customized for all types of curriculum and given facades to match any neighborhood.

    ‘’These are not cookie cutters,'’ she said. “They can adapt to a neighborhood, become an anchor in a neighborhood and a civic landmark that the school should be.'’

    We’re thrilled to see the focus on adapting to unique neighborhoods, being an “anchor”, and finding ways for prototypes to step out of their replicated shadow stereotype.

    Such a re-imagination of spaces grew out of a rigorous commitment to research that sought best practices found around the wold. Most impressive appears to be Diamond’s desire for her district’s students and educators to experience first-hand “artful design” within the prototype process:

    Diamond, who was tasked by Superintendent Rudy Crew with eliminating overcrowding by the end of the decade, wanted more than quick construction. A former New York City building chief, she said she was horrified by some of the dull, intimidating and just plain ugly schools in Miami-Dade.

    For these new schools, she wanted artful design.

    She began the project by putting all four design teams — one for each prototype — together for nearly a year of research and development. They reviewed studies about how building design can influence student performance and talked with educators about their frustrations and wish lists for new schools.

    ‘’We literally scanned the planet to find the most innovative learning tools that are out there,'’ Murguido said. “We looked at England’s exemplary-school models; we looked at Canada, and what the Japanese are doing. We looked at California and Texas, and we took the best lessons out there to generate this new generation of schools.'’

    Going beyond design for design’s sake, however, the district appears to have pushed hard to create spaces that invite light inside, to design environments that challenge the senses of kids, and to align the outer environment with the inner learning objectives:

    Natural light and outdoor learning spaces were major topics. Every classroom has windows, larger and more plentiful than school building codes require. Indoor light is often reflected off walls or ceilings, which is less harsh than institutional fluorescent lights.

    The early-childhood centers will have ‘’sensory gardens,'’ an outdoor patchwork of flower gardens, wood chips, gravel, grass and other materials that encourage young children to explore. Research suggests that such simple variety can boost learning.

    ‘’Butterfly gardens are popping up all over the place,'’ said Judy Marks, associate director of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, a nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Department of Education. “A lot of that may seem like bells and whistles, but in the context of good ideas about sustainable design, there’s been a great deal of testing and winnowing of those concepts.'’

    For more information, read the Miami Herald article and look at the unique sidebar features at the top of the page. They not only allow you to look at how each building type can evolve depending on the community and needs, but they offer an interactive video where Rose Diamond walks the viewer through a series of her district’s new plans.

    Land ‘Appears’ Available, but Land Rush Haults School Projects in Virginia

    September 26th, 2006

    Note: Thanks to NCEF (National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities) for turning our attention to this story in their News section.

    From the Washington Post, 9.25.06, the following ironic tale of land-a-plenty but no place to build a school in fast-growth suburban Virginia.

    Randy Vlad, a land shopper for the Louden County public schools, introduces a county facing the irony of an unprecedented land rush:

    It’s a critical job in a system that plans to open 23 schools in the next six years as enrollment is expected to climb by 40 percent to nearly 70,000 students.

    With its wide-open fields and expansive views, the western reaches of the county would seem the likeliest place to find land for a new campus. But efforts to restrict residential growth there have fueled a land rush over the past year, and planners say hunting for future school sites has been anything but easy.

    Perhaps the answer lies in potential partnerships evolving between developers grabbing up the land and the district who will need to educate the home buyers’ kids over time. As anyone who thinks about school planning knows, real estate is often tied to the quality of schools…but you have to have campuses and facilities to even make a positive connection at the end of the day.

    2006 Spring School Design Institute Report of Findings

    September 26th, 2006

    In an effort to further conversations that are exploring how school houses are being designed and built in the urban context, the American Architecture Foundation (AAF) has released the 2006 Spring School Design Institute report.

    School projects and scenarios in Chicago, Lincoln (NE), Syracuse (NY), Peoria (IL), and Nashville were analyzed in this event to help school district leaders consider innovative design practices in re-thinking educational facilities for their communities and long-range planning goals.

    DesignShare was honored to be invited to paricipate in the 2-day event, working along side a passionate team of urban superintendents and design practitioners who pushed hard at new solutions in space planning, integrating technology, creating collaborative partnerships, and re-imagining educational spaces that inspire learning.

    Additionally, consider reviewing related ideas from the Mississippi Design Institute report (based on a multi-day June, 2006 event), as well as last year’s report from the National Summit on School Designalso hosted by AAF.

    David Warlick’s New Century School House Project Re-Opens Its Virtual Doors

    September 25th, 2006

    While not a school planner or architect, one of the most intriguing voices speaking of new ways to imagine the schoolhouse of tradition is a 30-year master educator David Warlick. Perhaps you’ve seen him keynote a conference presentation or heard that he was working with a school district nearby. Perhaps you’ve come across his education-related podcasts or well-respected education blog writing.

    Or perhaps you’ve already heard of the virtual New Century School House Project that he began building a few years ago and recently brought back to life. Here’s a quick description of the project:

    I’ve decided to resurrect an old online project that I’ve been running for the past eight years. It’s called The New Century School House.The web site represents an old 1950s style school building that has been totally gutted of all relics of industrial age education. It is an empty shell. I want to invite you to come to the building and to adopt a room — repurposing that classroom (or library) for new century teaching and learning.

    Certainly an intriguing concept. While DesignShare would love David to push a bit beyond the ’shell’ of a traditional school house, given what he advocates for in his blogging/podcasting/presentations, his formula offers a convention that allows all stakeholders to participate and still break out-of-the-box a bit. David adds the following that gives it a more tangible premise with a larger ideal held close:

    Look at this as a canvas for professional educators to use to begin to paint a new picture of teaching, learning, and classrooms, designed to prepare our children for a future that will be information-driven,technology-rich, and rapidly changing.

    Okay, you’ve got our attention. But what exactly does one do when they ‘get there’?

    First, click the type of school you are most associated with:

  • Elementary School (Primary)
  • Elementary School (Intermediate)
  • Middle School
  • Secondary School
  • And then the re-imagination school ‘design’ really begins:

    Find an empty room. [Note: here are the rooms chosen when the project was re-opened this past week] It will be labeled, Adopt this Room.You’ll be asked for some information about yourself and then to describe what you think teachers and students should be doing in that room to make students more world-ready. And then you will be asked to list and describe what needs to be in that room for the described activities to take place — what kind of hardware, software,infrastructure, furniture, books, lighting, etc.

    If you’re interested in learning more, here at the Guidelines for participating in the New Century School House Project and designing a classroom of your own.

    New Urban High School in Philadelphia Re-Designs the Notion of Space for 21st Century Research & Collaboration

    September 25th, 2006

    Very interesting, indeed. Not the typical high school student’s description of going to an urban high school in modern day America:

    “When I first came here I was like, ‘This school is so cool’ - because most schools are boring,” Olivia Billbrough, 14, said. “When you walk in this school it’s all bright and it looks like a happy place to be.”

    But ‘uncommon’ is what already appears to set the newly formed Science Leadership Academy that opened on September 7th in the city of Philadelphia:

    So new is this Center City school, housed in a converted office building at 22nd and Arch streets, that boxes full of equipment were atop classroom laboratory tables waiting to be unpacked last week.

    Not just a converted space, but a transformation for what 21st century learning spaces can mean in the first place!

    From a design point of view, a new high school with a marked investment in cutting-edge technology that chooses not to have a computer lab in this day and age certainly stands out to us. The founding principal explains:

    While giving a tour to visitors, Principal Chris Lehmann noted some differences between his school and traditional schools. For one, he has no computer lab, per se.

    “Nobody talks about going to pencil lab. A pencil is a tool that we use. So why do we talk about going to computer lab? We want to get these tools into the kids’ hands and make it part of their day-to-day existence,” he said, explaining why each student was given an Apple iBook G4 computer.

    “Enhancing Interactions”: Koolhaas Unveils New College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornel University

    September 25th, 2006

    From the Architect’s Newspaper comes the following high-design story from Cornel University:

    On September 19 Rem Koolhaas and his associate Shohei Shigamatsu of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) presented their design of Milstein Hall, future home of Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning, in a public forum on the school campus.

    The $34 million building, a floating steel and glass box, will physically adjoin existing campus buildings Sibley Hall and Rand Hall, which had been proposed for demolition in previous schemes. Plans for the new building include studio and exhibition spaces, a 300-seat auditorium, a library, and a roof plaza for the school’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning. Underneath the glass building will be a raised, hill-like structure, the slopes of which will accommodate the raised seating of the auditorium.

    The building project was one of the first initiatives of Cornell’s architecture dean, Mohsen Mostafavi, who arrived in the summer of 2004 from the Architectural Association (AA) in London. Groundbreaking is expected to begin in 2007.

    But will the Cornel students embrace the design that is meant to help enhance their educational life?

    When Mostafavi opened the floor to audience questions at the end of Koolhaas’ presentation, one student brought up her concerns about the availability of studio space in the new building. Koolhaas answered simply — and to some audience laughter—that “there are as many studios as they asked for.” Mostafavi elaborated that the net gain of square footage for Milstein Hall was 10,000 square feet, and that by moving the Fine Arts library from its current location in Sibley Hall to Milstein, more studio space would become available for students in Sibley.

    Mostafavi encouraged students to express their feedback about the plans for Milstein Hall, both by speaking to the students on the planning committee and by e-mailing project leader John McKeown.

    Other students voiced similar concerns about the practicality and division of the available space in Milstein. Jesica Bello ’11, a first-year AAP student, said that she “loved the building,” but felt there was “too much common space,” and a lack of separation between common areas and studio space.

    Adriana Garibaldi ’09 agreed. She felt that the design for Milstein Hall was neglecting the Foundry, the sculpting studio behind Sibley Hall, and that there existed “practical issues” with the building’s design.

    What grabbed our attention (from the original article) about the design premise was the focus on a new way of enhancing collaborative/learning spaces, although you have to hand it to the students themselves who are the ones who will be testing the ‘interactive’ waters first-hand one day soon:

    Mostafavi was quoted in an article in The Architect’s Newspaper in February as explaining “This is a different project. Now that it is more interdisciplinary, we need to have spaces that enhance these interactions.”

    “Catalyst for Collaboration”: Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

    September 25th, 2006

    Thanks to ArchNewsNow for this story about the The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State Univeristy which was named R&D magazine’s Lab of the Year for 2006:

    Form and function are the calculus of every architectural project. But rarely has that mandate provided challenges as demanding as the construction of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University in Tempe. Bordering on Phoenix, ASU is the fourth largest university in the U.S.

    A “catalyst for collaboration”:

    The Institute, a state-of-the art research facility, creates a structural nucleus for the interactive convergence of the most advanced contemporary sciences. It serves as a catalyst for collaboration between the historically disparate disciplines of chemistry, biology, physics, and engineering. The first 13 research centers represent this spectrum and include applied nanobioscience, bioelectronics, infectious diseases, and environmental biotechnology.

    A university’s vision that included dynamic settings, environmental strategies, openness, and spaces that would “encourage intellectual fusion”:

    The vision presented by ASU President Michael Crow was determinant and specific in detail. Design elements must create a dynamic setting of openness and easy access to “encourage intellectual fusion.” It should utilize natural light, provide views from all workspaces, and the infrastructure should be flexible to respond to unforeseen changes in biotech. Visually it must relate to the campus architecture and be “inspiring to occupants as well as the community.” Additionally, the Institute should express its ecological focus with green strategies applied to materials, water, and energy conservation.

    Criticism of UK School Building Process Warranted or Not?

    September 25th, 2006

    A recent Guardian article (”Flagship Schools: On Shaky Foundations,” 9.21.06) takes a look at the multi-billion dollar renovation and building process impacting schools throughout England.

    The article clearly points to issues within the massive national program that is attempting to update every school building over 50 years of age:

    But as more buildings open up, problems are coming to light. Design flaws are being reported. And experts are starting to query whether the programme is capable of delivering the radical change intended. They fear it might simply result in a lot of “old new schools”.

    A recent school audit by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), said that half of the schools built since 2001 have been completed to only a poor or mediocre standard, and that nearly all had failed to tackle basic issues of environmental sustainability such as providing natural daylight and ventilation.

    The question, of course, is whether or not the criticism is warranted or based on an easy target due to the size of the program. And more importantly, what the criticism will bring about at the end of the day. The following article excerpt caught our attention in terms of the complexity of such national programs:

    So why is this spending spree throwing up such problems? The majority of new-school building now comes under the Building Schools for the Future programme, the successor to the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Under this programme, as with PFI, contracts to build new schools are delivered via competitive tendering. Consortia, led by large contractors, bid to deliver packages of new schools to local education authorities, and bids are scored according to weighted measures. But critics say that education authorities are inexperienced in dealing with major building programmes, that consultation with heads and teachers can be sketchy, and that the pressure to get the schools built is squeezing out thoughtful design.

    The final comment seems to get to the heart of it. We suggest, however, that this isn’t just a matter of a multi-billion dollar program attempting to re-make an entire nation’s school facility stock, but the heart-n-soul of every school design project. And while it may be easy to point a finger at the educatioal authorities who lack the ‘experience’ of such school building programs, the ‘process’ by which all stakeholders join the table might be where the greatest gaps occur:

  • A lack of shared language.
  • A focus on expertise rather than collaborative decision making.
  • A design process that winnows down real opportunities for innovation and thoughtful exchange.
  • Your thoughts?


    Organizations mentioned in the article that are worth learning more about:

  • CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment)
  • Building Schools for the Future
  • British Council for School Environments (part of School Works )
  • A+DEN: A New Generation of Design Education

    September 25th, 2006

    Anyone who has had the opportunity to watch kids in a school design charrette session understands first-hand the power of the design process to harness imagination and dreams for the future.

    We were reminded of this recently via an invitation by A+DEN (and the collaborative team of the American Architecture Foundation and Chicago Architecture Foundation). To that end, we’d like to encourage anyone who has the opportunity to be in Chicago, Illinois from October 27th-28th to consider registering for the inagural A+DEN (Architecture and Design Educators Network) Conference.

    Entitled “Identify. Connect. Elevate.”, the conference embraces K-12 design education and brings together key voices in the education and design/architecture fields. Their goals immeidately seek to “elevate the practice and shape the future of design education nationwide.” Whether for education in general or the practice of school design in specific terms, clearly this will be a worthy event to keep tabs on this year and beyond.

    Featured in this first-ever A+DEN conference will be the following:

    Keynote Speakers

  • Meredith Davis, College of Design, North Carolina State University
  • Fred Dust, IDEO
  • Anna Slafer, International Spy Museum
  • Panel Moderator

  • Edward Lifson, Chicago Public Radio
  • Conference 2006 Presenters

  • American Architectural Foundation
  • Architecture Centre Network, UK
  • Architecture Explorations, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Architectural Foundation of San Francisco
  • Chicago Architecture Foundation
  • Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution
  • Learning By Design: Massachusetts
  • Midlands Architecture + the Designed Environment, UK
  • National Building Museum
  • Next
  • Oak Park School District
  • 2006 Design Award Program Winners Announced!

    September 18th, 2006

    7 years of reviewing innovative school design projects from around the world…and the Review team finds itself still falling in love with ever-new ways of imagining the future of learning environments!

    Whether it be a truly child-scaleKindergarten in Argentina that challenges Guadi for vanguard status, an community’s decision in Alaska to protect an ‘open school plan’ as they reimagined an elementary school, a high school in Singapore that re-fuels the metaphor of school as textbook in bold scientific and mathematic terms, or an enlightened academy in California that chose students that are often the first to be overlooked to be its first occupants…the future of school design is very bright, indeed!

    2006 Honor Winners (clockwise from upper left): Nus High School of Mathematics & Science (Singapore); Kindergarten #911 (Argentina); Feather River Academy (California, US); Chugach Optional Elementary School (Alaska, US)

    Oh, and we are thrilled to once again be working with great media partners who will be publishing print versions of the Award winning projects later this fall: School Construction News, Edutopia (George Lucas Educational Foundation), and the UK-based Schools4Life (in conjunction with Building Schools for the Future).

    Read the 2006 Commentary to get a feel for all 4 Honor Award winners briefly mentioned (and shown) above, as well as to learn about all of the 40 winning projects submitted from around the world! Or head straight to the list of all 2006 winners to explore designer and educator narratives, building specs, images, and so much more!

    And remember: the 2007 Design Awards program is only a few months away. We’d love to consider your team/community’s project and share its innovative solutions with the rest of the world!

    New DesignShare Launched

    September 17th, 2006

    After an intense summer of work, the DesignShare team proudly introduces version2.0 of the DesignShare site — supported by a WordPress engine with a much cleaner interface to welcome all vistors.

    Since DesignShare began in 1998, the team’s priorities focused on presenting high-quality resources with an alignment towards best practices from around the world of school design. Additionally, with an eye on the 21st century, our conversations centered on provoking a new way of approaching the field of school design. The ‘look’ of the site, however, never quite matched what lay inside.

    This spring/summer, the DesignShare team began to re-imagine the design of the site in more invigorated and dynamic terms. Phase 1 set out to include:

  • ‘Cleaning up’ the overall look of the site to match the quality of our resources/partnerships.
  • Re-articluating our mission in bolder terms. You may have also noticed a new tagline: “Designing for the Future of Learning” which both embodies the innovative school design roots of DesignShare and a new call-to-arms for all stakeholders to embrace our educational facilites/campuses as part of something much more profound than what history demanded.
  • Preparing a series of tools that will allow our global community to participate in much more dyanmic terms over the next year and beyondl.”
  • Strengthening past partnerships and establishing new collaborations to help chart a collective course to help change the language of school design around the world.”
  • This, of course, is only the beginning. Version2.0+ (and beyond) will up the ante on web-based tools and collaborative experiences that will further draw together the larger community of learning environment stakeholders. As the team has said many times in behind-the-scenes conversations, the future of DesignShare lies in fostering the community’s own involvement and contributions!

    We welcome your comments about what you think of the new ‘feel’ of the DesignShare site from a design standpoint and a user experience point of view. Please contact us at at your convenience — we’d love to hear from you!

    Stories Catching Our Eye

    August 14th, 2006

    Story 1: “Elementary School is Go for Green” (, 8.9.06) — a Maryland (US) elementary school is closing in on becoming the first public school in the state to achieve the stringent ‘‘green building” certification issued by the U.S. Green Building Council. Seems that this school is not only looking at the obvious opportunities, but looking for ‘educational’ opportunities at every turn:

    The classrooms are brighter, the paint is lighter and the ceilings are slanted to allow maximum sunlight into classrooms through large, fiberglass-framed windows.

    Sure to cause wonder in the boys’ bathroom are waterless urinals. And kindergarteners will get a refresher course on their colors every time they use the bathroom. They’ll push one button if it’s yellow and another if it’s brown. The toilet will dispense the needed power and water to flush whichever it is down.


    Story 2: “University of Connecticut Decides to Build Its Own College Town” (NYTimes, 8.9.06) — In a brave attempt to re-create its own destiny, college leaders are demolishing the entire downtown of Mansfield, CT and so they can essentially start over from scratch. Realizing that a campus is far more than a collection of academic buildings, community seems to be on the tip of everyone’s design pens:

    “Students came and saw there was no sense of place,” said Macon C. Toledano, the Storrs Center project manager for LeylandAlliance, a development company in Tuxedo, N.Y.

    “This project offers an incredible opportunity to bring together families who live in the town, retired and working professors, and students,” Mr. Toledano said. “It depends upon appealing to this broad spectrum, and the more you do it, the more vital it will be.”


    Story 3: “In Push to Open Up Smaller Schools, A Big Obstacle: Limited Space” (NYTimes, 8.3.06) — Much attention has been given in the recent past to New York City’s push for creating 200 small schools, supported by both Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein. Innovation aside, the real issue is the lack of real estate. In one building housing 4 indendent small schools, a 5th is being added even though that means taking away space from the others and creating a less-than-advantageous location for the new program. City officials, however, suggest that its an issue of using space efficiently rather than a lack of space:

    Officials note that the city has spurned no option in creating new schools — converting old factories and warehouses and even leasing space in office towers. City school buildings, they say, have never been used so efficiently.

    “We use the existing space better and better, which means there are fewer and fewer alternatives,” said Garth Harries, who leads the department’s Office of New Schools. Still, he said, officials believe they can find space for dozens more schools.


    Story 4: “Off-the-Shelf Plans Could Save Design Fees” (, 7.31.06) — Again and again lately, it seems, the prototype argument seems to raise its head and entice yet another set of leaders to consider conceeding customized learning-centered planning for cost-savings. Perhaps unavoidable as construction costs continue to boom and districts fight to create enough seat-space for their students. Or perhaps something deeper? One Deleware (US) district considers this trend to support their facility needs:

    But Judy Marks, associate director of the Washington-based National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, is skeptical when it comes to prototype buildings.

    “A lot of times, it’s a solution sort of thrust on the community and that’s it, and it’s sold as the best they could do for the money,” she said. “Here’s your new school building, hope you like it.”

    “You’re still going to have to hire an architect to make that predesigned building fit that site,” added John Marinucci, an education associate for school plant planning and maintenance with the state’s Department of Education.

    Good Post-Katrina News Out of Louisiana

    August 12th, 2006

    Good news out of Louisiana! Received the following today from Steven Bingler, founder and President of New Orleans-based community planning and school design firm Concordia:

    On Thursday August 10, 2006 the Louisiana Recovery Authority approved guidelines for planning schoolsin Louisiana that reflect the eight national design principles developed at the Great Schools By Design National Summit.

    Special thanks to Victoria Bergsagel for her testimony to the joint education committee of the Louisiana House and Senate last Tuesday. In addition to approving the guidelines, the Louisiana Recovery Authority also established an initial allocation of $200 million to begin the educational facilities recovery process.

    The 8 national design principles include:

    1. Design schools to support a variety of learning styles.
    2. Enhance learning by integrating technology.
    3. Foster a small school culture.
    4. Support neighborhood schools.
    5. Create schools as centers of community.
    6. Engage the public in the planning process.
    7. Make healthy, comfortable and flexible learning spaces.
    8. Consider non-traditional options for school facilities and classrooms.

    Full report from the National Summit on School Design. Or you can get a hard copy by following these directions:

    To order a hard copy of the Report from the National Summit on School Design for $15.00 including shipping. Alternatively, you may call (202) 289-7800.

    The Serious Business of Play

    August 11th, 2006

    What can children’s play tell us about learning, about education, about school design?

    According to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (NY, NY), the “serious business of play” can tell us a great deal, indeed:

    “The idea is that in moments of everyday play children are really getting a tremendous amount of education,” said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University and an author of “Einstein Never Used Flashcards,” a book whose title sums up the exhibition’s philosophy. In a telephone interview Dr. Hirsh-Pasek, an adviser to the project, said that the significance of play as a foundation for learning was “a critically important cultural message.”

    The museum has invested $3 million in a new permanent exhibit entitled “Play Works” that is meant to teach adults about the learning process as much as it is to let kids play and explore art and other creative ventures.

    Just as exciting is the early attention to the influence of space deisgn on the playing and learning process:

    It is a message the museum intends to take far beyond Manhattan. The $3 million “PlayWorks,” to open Sept. 21 in the museum’s building at 212 West 83rd Street, represents the start of its National Family Play and Learning Initiative, a program spanning several years in which the museum hopes to provide models for similar exhibitions nationwide. In late 2007 it plans to open a satellite version of “PlayWorks” in the South Bronx, the first step toward establishing a children’s museum in that borough.

    “The steps are that we open ‘PlayWorks’ here, and we study it,” said Andrew S. Ackerman, the executive director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, during a recent tour of the building’s third floor, which has been completely gutted for the project. “With an advisory group we’ll look at the different ways we can replicate it nationally. We may provide blueprints for a physical space, or just a curriculum if a community doesn’t want a physical space.”

    Certainly a reminder of the commitment that many museums make to the development of children…and the reminder that ‘learning environments’ exist throughout out communities.

    Chinese Children’s Bookstore Creates New Vision for Imagination

    August 11th, 2006

    With an ever-open eye for trends that suggest a re-thinking of the traditional learning environment, DesignShare noticed a wonderful project in Beijing, China that pushes the boundaries on a children’s bookstore:

    Beijing bookstore

    As noted in one trend-spotter source:

    No longer just the world’s ‘workroom’, China is rapidly becoming an international hot spot with a growing middle class hungry for western luxuries and comforts. Beijing kids are the latest to be treated to some western style indulgence with Kids Republic, a children’s bookstore that transports it’s pint sized customers into a delightful fairytale world full of color and fantasy – complete with massive story telling screens and play areas. It’s haven for little imaginations in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world.

    Could such a delightful and imagine-filled space be an indicator of how school libraries will one day ‘compete’ for the attention of their youngest ‘customers’?

    Cinder Block “Super Dorms” On the Chopping Block?

    August 4th, 2006

    The work-play-live motif is clearly entering the realm of the college/university residence hall design world. As universities compete for students and re-brand their buildings/spaces, the ability to offer a residential ‘experience’ that merges all needs will be critical.

    In addition, students and the community at large are expecting the ‘material’ structure of the dormitory building to be more responsive to future needs. Green and sustainable construction certainly seems to be on the tip of everyone’s design tongue. Smart buildings aren’t far behind from a technology stand point and also from a philosophical point of view as well. So much for the default cinder block construction solution seems to also be on the chopping blocks, so to speak.

    This came to mind when we took notice of the “Dorms of the Future” article at CNNMoney recently. A snippet before you dive into the full article:

    “The old dorms with cinder block walls are a thing of the past,” says William Rawn, whose architecture firm William Rawn Associates has worked on residence halls for a number of universities located in the Northeast.

    In 2004, the University of South Carolina opened its $31 million West Quad dormitories, which are partially powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and boast turf roofs that serve as natural insulators.

    And this fall Tufts University will officially open Sophia Gordon Hall, a dorm which will feature solar panels that preheat the building’s hot water and one waterless urinal in the men’s public bathroom which relies on chemical cartridges instead of running water.

    We at DesignShare are happy that the “super dorms” strategy may be giving way to a new breed of 21st century thinking. The article continue along this line here: Read the rest of this entry »

    American Institute of Architects Adds Podcasts!

    July 7th, 2006

    Wonderful to see technology and social media terms being used by the architecture community – especially the AIA — on this level. A great start.

    Go to the AIA site and listen to the podcasts called the AIAPodNet. Some wonderful voices already added!

    To Name Or Not To Name, That Is the Question

    June 30th, 2006

    Thanks to the quick eye of DK and his youth-focused organizations, MediaSnackers and phatgnat, we were led to an NPR story about Wisconsin schools selling naming rights to all sorts of learning spaces. Far more than just naming a stadium after a beloved alumni, this move suggests that in an effort to deal with rising costs and hesitant tax voters schools may have to look at every conceivable opporutnity to raise funds:

    Milwaukee’s school district is selling naming rights to everything in sight, from rooms and hallways, to gyms. School administrators think it will be easier to enter into marketing agreements with companies than raise more money from taxes. Marge Pitrof of member station WUWM reports on who might buy these rights, and why.

    Not sure if private schools have faired poorly from similar activities to raise endowment funds, but certainly it does offer yet another challenge to the idea of ‘public’ schools. In your opinion, is there any difference between a room being called the John A. Smith Memorial Library vs. the Pepsi Media Center or the Intel Distant Learning Lab?

    Check out the link, listen to the podcast, and let us know what you think.

    School District Buys Land at $1 Million An Acre

    June 30th, 2006

    Re-read the headline several times just to be sure. $1 million an acre to build new schools outside of Atlanta. Amazing. Humbling. And from what we can gather, this is just the cost of entry for one Georgia school district that is facing extraordinary realities to help with expanding facility needs, as they have to raze the existing properties just to have access to the land itself:

    The Fulton County schools will pay an extraordinary amount to make room in Sandy Springs for a new elementary school–topping $1 million an acre. And that doesn’t even cover the cost of leveling the 1960s-era homes sitting on the land.

    The school system is buying an established neighborhood, complete with 24 houses and a road ending in a cul-de-sac. Once the occupants clear out, Fulton will tear down the houses and build the school.

    The purchase, which should be completed today, is easily among the most expensive land acquisitions made by a public school system in metro Atlanta.

    Hard to imagine any voter would be able to get behind such a land acquisition strategy in this day and age of rigorously challenging all investments. Certainly good for the home owners that are part of the program, one can imagine, but good for the kids? Perhaps the ‘life cycle’ issues over time will more than balance out these initial costs. Hard to say. Here’s what they offer in reply to all these questions: Read the rest of this entry »

    CEFPI Expands Innovative Program to Introduce Kids to School Design

    June 30th, 2006

    You never know how one story will lead to another, how one conversation will lead to another, how one project will lead to another, but such is the wonderful case in the world of blogging where connections happen so quickly these days.

    Yesterday DesignShare had the opportunity to connect with Barbara Worth, the Associate Executive Director for the CEFPI (Council for Educational Facility Planners International) Foundation & Charitable Trust. She had read one of our recent posts on a high school design program sponsored by Texas-based Huckabee, and she was kind enough to ask us to become involved in a progam that is near and dear to her heart:

    Just read “High School Students Challenged to Develop Learning Environments for Disaster Zones” – [Huckabee is] to be congratulated for such a great program! And, it struck me, that you are already quasi-participating in School Builidng Week’s School of the Future student design competition. Couldn’t have come at a better time, since we are planning to take the design competition nationwide this year.

    Needless to say, DesignShare compliments Barbara, CEFPI, their sponsors/allies, and the evolution of their program as they seek to share their resources with even more kids, teachers and schools. Considering the range of sponsores/allies they have already lined up, there is no doubt in our mind that they stand to make a significant contribution to not only education, but hopefully to help inspire a few young school designers to come out of the pack.

    Barbara’s enthusiastic comments continue below: Read the rest of this entry »

    From the Mouth of Babes, So To Speak

    June 30th, 2006

    With a voice as eloquent and passionate as this, you sense that in spite of significant changes lying ahead for all of us in design world that successful evolution is certainly viable for the firms/teams that decide to be proactive and innovative rather than be conservatively status-quo:

    We understood that we had reached a critical point where, unless we acted, our profession would face extinction. We knew we had to do three things: stay at the cutting edge of research and in turn share newfound knowledge with the entire architectural community, remain open to the possibility of new paradigms and allow invention to be a catalyst for its own necessity, and to utilize IT enabling software to collaborate seamlessly with our clients and the other fields involved in the design, fabrication, and assembly processes.

    This reflection is shared with readers who discover “Research, Invention, and Collaboration” written by NY-based Eric Kath, the First Place prize for the recently announced 2006 ArchVoices essay contest. If you’re unfamiliar, ArchVoices stands out in the architectural industry as a critical leverage point for all young professionals making their way through the internship experience. No longer satisfied with simply doing ‘door and toilet details’ and working their way slowly up the ladder without a map, a group of young professionals set out a few years ago to re-write the rules for how knoweldge was gained. And their yearly essay contest speaks to the raw intellect and passion of emerging professionals/leaders everywhere.

    As an ex-educator turned school planner, I’d love the same quotation to be written within the educational sector as well. A vision for the necessity and viability of high-quality research, unapologetic invention/innovation, and the need to collaborate nad partner in all sectors. No longer are ’silos’ of expertise or programs viable solutions for the ‘future of learning’.

    And hopefully parties from the design community and the education community will begin to see that its in their best intersest to pursue all future school design projects using the same paradigm of intention. All of our futures demand it!

    HIgh School Students Challenged to Develop Learning Environments for Disaster Zones

    June 28th, 2006

    Consider the following scenario:

  • Design a school to help rekindle a community devastated by natural or man-made disaster.
  • Design a school that is both adaptive and nomadic for a range of environments regardless of condition.
  • Design a school that is sustainable and priced to allow a community to realistically take advantage of the solution.
  • Design a school that is deliverable to the community regardless of transportation options.
  • Design a school that can help the community stage a “return to normalcy” as rebuilding eventually begins.
  • Now, imagine you’re 16 or 17. It’s summer break. You’re walking into a professional architecture office. You’ve never formally studied architecture before and must learn everything on the fly. You’ve just joined a group of kids you’ve never met before. And you’ve been told that you have one week to not only create an innovative solution to the previous scenario, but you must publically present your ideas to a large audience and professional jury on the final evening.

    Such was the case for a group of 6 high school students this past week who entered the innovative design program called NGDI (standing for the Next Generation Design Institute). The program offered by Huckabee, a K-12 architecture firm in Texas, and co-sponsored by the University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture, is in its 4th year…but this summer they decided to push the kids to radically re-think the future of school design via a scenario inspired by the recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and the tsunami in Indonesia.

    The company’s recent press release offers a bold summation of the potential that comes out of seeing kids dive head first into such programs:

    Each team came up with a different, yet successful solution that met each of the criteria.

    “It was nothing short of impressive,” said Chris Huckabee (Huckabee’s CEO). “Think back on when YOU were 17 and 18. Where were you? Probably laying out by the pool or sitting on the couch watching television. It’s their summer vacation and look how they chose to spend it! They’re sitting in an auditorium surrounded by their family, friends, school administrators, judges and architects- what a tough crowd! These kids are leaders - I can say without question that our future is in good hands.”

    In addition, DesignShare was honored to join other local professionals in the jury panel. Jury members offered feedback to the students that included not only the quality of the design solutions but also to their ability to respond to the ‘audience’ while presenting in a passionate and professional manner.

    Want to learn more?

    Go to the Huckabee website and look for the “Six High School Students Seek to Make a Difference” article on the left side of the page. Contact Huckabee’s Corey Wheat or Jennifer Clariday to learn more about the program.

    HS Math Assignment: Design a School in the Year 2050

    June 28th, 2006

    When Apple and Edutopia both point out a teacher as a role model, you should at least raise a curious eyebrow and ask to learn more:

  • Apple’s case study found here.
  • Edutopia’s case study found here.
  • When that teacher challenges her geometry class — great at preparing for tests but a bit overwhelmed when integrating concepts into the real world — to design the school of the future as a way to do ‘real math’, then DesignShare becomes particularly intrigued.

    Such is the case for Mountlake Terrace High School math teacher Eeva Reeder who asked her students to dive into a new class project that would test them on a wide range of skills…and turn them into school designers to boot:

    Working as a member of an architectural team in the year 2050, you are competing against five other companies to win the contract to design a state-of-the-art high school on a given site. You must present your proposed design to a panel of professional architects who will be awarding the contract. Your design must meet the learning needs of students in the year 2050, must accommodate 2,000 students, and must make use of the natural benefits of this particular site, while also preserving at least half of the existing wetland.”

    Care to learn more?

    On June 12 and 13, 2001, the nine design teams comprising Reeder’s 9th-10th grade geometry class presented their state-of-the-art school designs, plans, and budgets to Seattle architects Kirk Wise and Mark Miller. The design that was judged best with regard to concept, use of the site’s features, building and classroom design, and cost would win the competition.

    A GLEF film crew was on hand to document the presentations and collect other artifacts of the students’ work.

    Edutopia presents the work of three teams here.

    Considering Trends in the Design of Public and Academic Libraries

    June 27th, 2006

    Consider the library’s role in the community, both as a public space and an academic space.

    As we gaze at the future of learning and and to the continual development of communities alike, libraries offer us a striking chance to watch history and trends weave together. Libraries continue to be the last bastion of classic research and civil behavior. At the same time, with the advent of wide-spread technology use, the introduction of ‘coffee shops’ into historically silent lobbies, and the very value of book stacks being called into question, one has to wonder if the library of the future will resemble the quiet/reflective book-dominated spaces of the past.

    To that end, DesignShare was pleased to see a wonderful conversation introduced by Kristen and ArchNewsNow that took place between architects with much to say on library design trends. This was the scenario:

    In celebration of the annual American Library Association Convention being held this month in New Orleans, we asked ArchNewsNow contributor Kenneth Caldwell to interview two leading architects on library design trends.

    Mark Schatz, AIA, a principal with Field Paoli, is well known in the San Francisco Bay Area for his community centers and public libraries. Schatz discusses combining those building types and the public process that is required to get there.

    Ed Dean, AIA, LEED, recently joined San Francisco-based Chong Partners as a project director working on academic and large public libraries. Dean offers some observations about combining these uses.

    We appreciated the entire converstation, but in particular were intrigued by points made about the civic nature of library spaces, creating ‘pre-reading’ zones for younger children, the merger of libraries into commercial spaces, the very process of bringing a community together as new library projects were beginning to be discussed, and the issue of sustainable spaces that can remain flexible. And of course the issue of technology was certainly front-and-center in both public and academic libraries.

    Clearly the future of libraries will not be a mirror reflection of what we’ve all grown-up visiting.

    Challenging the Vision of the Community School Model

    June 22nd, 2006

    Historically, schools were ‘community’ minded for many reasons. At the very least, the school building was one of the most valued buildings in small communities/villages/towns. The shift to an urban environment took ‘community’ out of the equation, regulating the entire experience to curriculum, programs, spaces, and testing.

    Well, ‘community’ appears to be all the rage today. In the last few years, ‘community’ has become one of those buzz words that seems to show up more and more in school design conversations no matter what part of the world you’re considering. Urban, suburban, villages alike. Schools designed as a ‘community learning center’ is on the tip of everyone’s design tongue.

    While a historical ‘norm’, planners and educators and builders seem to mean something new in this day and age, which certainly seems logical because our context has changed and our needs have evolved.

    To this end, DesignShare is proud to see one of its own, Prakash Nair, challenge the “Community School” conversation by speaking to new solutions: “Community Learning Centers” (CLCs) and the “School As Community” (SAC) model in a recent Edutopia article entitled “Getting Beyond the School As Temple”. He primes the pump here:

    In their eagerness for a school to achieve the status of a community school, education stakeholders, from administrators and planners to parents, are distracted from asking crucial questions such as “As we move deeper into the twenty-first century, what will education look like?” and “How should teaching and learning and, by extension, learning environments respond to changing needs?”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Ask a Child: What Type of Building Do They Want To Learn In?

    June 20th, 2006

    It’s not rocket science. It’s not distracting. It’s not value-added. And it’s not an excuse to challenge your PR/marketing team to create a ‘cute’ press release.

    Simply ask a kid what sort of space they’d like to learn in.

    You’ll get your fair share of castles and clouds and malls, but if you listen — really listen with respect and curiosity — you’ll hear thoughtful answers from a young one’s mouth, answers that might not only be logical but might inspire innovative design solutions that can have an impact in real time. And even when a child is not directly involved, it seems imperative that every one of we professionals involved in the design process imagine the answers they’d give if offered the chance.

    The UK’s Guardian has an intriguing story entitled “Classroom with a View” that speaks to the value of kids being asked to participate in the design process. And you can tell something vital is happening when you realize the author is defending process over solution in the following way:

    The actual form successful new school architecture might take could be any number of different shapes, materials and colours. What matters is how the schools are planned, and the spirit in which they are founded, funded and run.

    The “spirit in which they are founded,” indeed!
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Bringing Kids Into the Design Process

    June 19th, 2006

    At DesignShare, we talk often about the impact of linking design to learning outcomes, childhood development, creating learning communities, etc.

    We also speak about the power of inviting kids into the design process itself. Asking kids what they actually think their schools, learning spaces, playgrounds, etc. should look and feel like. Just listening to their imaginations unfold. And reminding ourselves to go beyond the press release of the moment, but to truly listen, take their ideas seriously, and allow these young thinkers to inspire great design solutions.

    Just received the following email from a parent whose child took part in just such a process. Clearly, this went beyond a single design charette, went beyond writing down a list of kid-wishes. And clearly the long-term impact will extend far beyond one design project for this young person. Her words say it best:

    I just finished reading the article from the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled “It’s Not Just a Gym: Kids win when we let them be part of the team.” (Excerpt: Lankenau High School in the Andorra section of Philadelphia is getting a new gym. The $11 million addition is a very small part of the city school district’s $1.7 billion construction makeover. But it could make a big difference in the future of some Lankenau students, because educators and the project architect took the time to make them a big part of the design team. “I wanted to involve the whole school community in the project,” said architect David Schrader. So he began work last September by involving students in a five-day version of the hands-on brainstorming sessions that architects call a charrette. The students were asked to help come up with options on where the addition should go, how it should look and how related renovations to the existing school should be handled. To give meaningful input, they had to learn about design, engineering, site planning, “green” buildings and landscaping. )

    It is heart warming to me to see the children involved in the process of being a part of the design team. Our children are our future, and we need to let them start becoming a part of the future. Read the rest of this entry »

    What’s the Price of Bad Design?

    June 19th, 2006

    In the world of school construction, the issue of ‘design’ is often axed in a drive for reverse engineering to save money and prevent the “looks too nice to spend tax dollars on” reaction.

    While everyone knows intutively the impact of being in a poorly designed space, and it doesn’t take an architecture degree for a parent to realize if their child is in a space that was created with an emphasis on learning and design, we still face enormous challenges to defend the value of design in our projects. But can we do anything to reverse the tide of efficiency and front-end economics?

    With this in mind, this story grabbed DesignShare’s attention recently: “New Campaign to Find UK’s Most Depressing Public Building”:

    A new campaign to highlight the impact of bad design on people and the places where we live has been launched by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.

    CABE believes that bad design is not just about aesthetics: it is about buildings and spaces that don’t work, can’t be maintained, and waste money because they need to be replaced sooner than they should.

    As part of the campaign, the public is being invited to nominate the buildings, streets and spaces that depress them.

    The public survey coincides with the launch today of CABE’s latest publication ‘The Cost of Bad Design’.

    We applaude CABE for focusing on spaces that “don’t work” rather than just sheer beauty or aesthetics. And we also think that the front-end focus on school design more often than not creates spaces that in hind sight not only make the public cringe, but more importantly put the learning process at risk.
    Your thoughts?

    Needy Facilities, Falling Enrollment, Rising Construction Costs — What’s a District to Do?

    May 30th, 2006

    It’s a remarkable catch-22.

    Your district is facing dropping enrollment but your facilities need to be updated and/or replaced. And construction costs continue to climb and climb and climb with no end in sight.

    What do you do? Move forward aggressively to lock in construction budgets/bids? Or hold off until you absolutely need to act?

    And if you’re facing a projected $1 billion in facility master plan as is Cincinnati, Ohio, what does such a project scale do to your ability to bring the community and your school district along? Read the rest of this entry »

    How Would DaVinci, Einstein, and Jamie Oliver Design Your Classroom?

    May 24th, 2006

    An intriguing concept:


    If you sat DaVinci, Einstein, and Jamie Oliver down to design their ideal ‘learning studio’, what would they come up with? And could it be incorporated into our current school facilities?

    If you’ve been flipping through the virtual pages of Edutopia recently, you may have noticed a new article written by Randy Fielding, Jeff Lackney, and Prakash Nair entitled “Master Classroom” where they discuss 3 possible “learning studio” designs as conceived through the filter of these master thinkers: Read the rest of this entry »

    Schools in the UK Must “Go Green” by 2020

    May 24th, 2006

    When the UK Secretary of Education Education, Alan Johnson, proclaims the future of school design “must be green” within the next 14 years, the DesignShare community takes notice:

    Schools must become more “carbon neutral” by 2020 by reducing pollution and encouraging children to walk or cycle from home, the government says. Education Secretary Alan Johnson also called for lower water and energy use, with some schools in England using solar panels and wind turbines.

    Needless to say, when design can positively impact not only the general learning environment, but also the larger realms of social behavior and school finances, it might be worth paying attention to:

    He said a government consultation would bring a “win-win situation”, improving pupil behaviour and saving money.

    Can green school buildings really make a difference? Mr. Johnson seems to think so…and is betting a great deal on it: Read the rest of this entry »

    National School Summit Report to be Released

    May 17th, 2006

    The DesignShare team has been in conversation with the good folks from the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the American Architecture Foundation recently about the upcoming press conference at the National Press Club in DC to announce the soon-to-be-released report of the National Summit on School Design on June 12, 2006.

    GSBDesign This grows out of the ongoing Great Schools by Design (GSBD) inititaves.

    This includes the GSBD summit that took place last fall in the Washington DC area. 300 or so of us attended, discussing the future of school design across the national spectrum. Intriguing group convened: plenty of well-known school designers, but also policy folks, mayors, high school kids, developers, researchers, educators, builders, community activists, etc. As anyone knows, if you don’t involve all stakeholders, you’ll never change the daily language of school design. And if we don’t push the acutal language of school design — so that all stakeholders are equals at the table — we’ll still be only re-tooling the assembly line schools of the past except offering fancier window dressing for good measure.

    Rumor has it that on stage at the press conference will be some pretty intriguing guys, including: Chad Wick (CEO of KnowledgeWorks), Ron Bogle (CEO of AAF), Robert Ivy (Editor-in-Chief, Architectural Record), Ray Simon (Deputy Secretary, US Dept. of Education), either Arnie Duncan (CEO, Chicago Public Schools) or Robert Hughes (CEO, New Visions for Public Schools), and several others.

    The DesignShare team was honored to be asked to be one of 2 respondants to join them on stage. Our schedules will not allow a trip to be made to DC on the 12th, but we anxiously await the formal release of the report…and applaude the efforts of everyone associated with the project.

    When Stark School Playgrounds Meet Phillipe Stark

    May 17th, 2006

    Concrete is efficient. Reasonably priced. And satisfactory for bouncing a ball.

    But man, other than a few pirate-ship themed playgrounds and a few charming projects receiving awards, rarerly do you designers really roll up their sleeves and re-conceptualize the singularly most important school space in the life of a kid in the typical school.

    uk playground Well, perhaps we’re onto a minor revolution over in the UK:

    Primary school playgrounds used to be stark tarmac yards where bullies lurked, ancient outdoor lavatories reeked and teachers rarely went. Not any more, fortunately.

    Such is the case in one elementary-aged school in England that has grasped the fundamental law of play = learning:

    Take Alexandra Infants School in Bromley, Kent. The walled garden behind its red-brick Edwardian building has all-weather surfacing in green and blue. Island clumps of bamboo are ringed and passed by paths made from coloured paving stones. There are carved totem poles with peepholes and a low, flat, wooden dragonfly from which a group of children are jumping before they begin a traditional clapping game.

    Joining Forces in Maine to Save On School Heating Costs

    May 12th, 2006

    One of the DesignShare team members grew up in Maine and can attest to the oh-so-cold winters (and springs and falls, too).

    This story about a Maine superintendent joining forces with local organizations to save money on rising heating costs demonstrates not just a necessary solution in the M&O side of expenditures, but also speaks to the power of collaboration. From National Public Radio comes this broadcast (note: you can listen to it in its entirety):

    Paul Knowles, the superintendent of Maine’s School Administrative District 11, has seen the district’s heating and electricity costs rise nearly 24 percent since last year. By joining with dozens of local organizations, he obtained a yearlong contract to provide heating oil at $2.29 a gallon.

    Amazing what we’ll do to save money. But that doesn’t limit us when it comes to the consideration of dynamic partnerships in every other facet of designing, building, and running schools.

    Do you have examples that speak to that spirit within your school design projects?

    Home Buying Explosion Set Off By Enrollment Ceiling

    May 11th, 2006

    School quality and housing markets have always gone hand in hand.

    When a realitor can say little about the demographic make-up of an area, often they are left to describe the local school system. This is the say-it-without-saying-it secret everyone seems to accept as ethical. And clearly attendance zone boundaries, ‘neighborhood’ or ‘walkable’ schools, and language like that couches other expectations as to the connection between a school and local residents. But generally, changes in housing trends remain fairly slow-moving when it comes to the connection with local schools. Generally.

    The DesignShare team took notice of a story out of San Antonio, Texas recently when an enrollment cut-off for schools sparked a massive home-buying trend as families aggressively sought new homes so that their kids were guaranteed spots in coveted schools: Read the rest of this entry »

    Has Harvard Gone Back to Ugly Buildings or Stepped into the Future?

    May 10th, 2006

    Thanks to Kristen’s continual great work at ArchNewsNow for this original story:

    In the hallowed halls and ivy-covered campuses of Harvard University, there has been much talk of the new B-school that is being built ‘across the river’ in Alston. Much ado about the impact on the local community, certainly, but now there is concern from the vantage point of the students themselves that Harvard has lapsed back into the 60’s and 70’s for their design aesthetic:

    The 1960s and 1970s may be the only decades in human history—at Harvard, anyway—where ugly buildings were somehow desirable. All over campus, starkly geometric concrete slabs were erected like tombstones, housing students and offices, and raising the ire of those who prefer serene beauty to hideousness for diversity’s sake.

    We are not worried that the University will repeat the same mistakes, but after the presentation of sketches for Allston’s first new building—a science complex—students cannot help but wonder if the University will make all new mistakes, albeit of the same genus.

    The student editorial gives a quick description (albeit a bit biased, as an editorial suggests): Read the rest of this entry »

    Re-thinking the School Library of the Future

    May 10th, 2006

    Although not a post specific to school design, the DesignShare team was interested to read Doug Johnson’s “Blue Skunk Blog” recently when we came across a post he offered about interviewing prospective media center specialists. Why was this important?

    Johnson offers a series of potential interview questions for other school library leaders. Under a list of alternative questions, he offers the following:

    What your job will be like ideally in five years? Answer honestly in ways that both fit your teaching style and personality as well as what you think is best for the students and teachers you serve.

  • How will the media center be different than what it is now?
  • What new resources and services might it offer?
  • How will the skills you teach be different? How will the methods use to teach them be different?
  • Under what conditions would a child come to the media center?
  • Certainly questions that would be found at the center of any dynamic school design team’s efforts with an eye on 21st century learning environments.

    What would your answers be on a global level? On a local level?

    And wil you ask these of your next school community client, in one manner or another?

    An Innovative Teenage Unit for Cancer Care in the UK

    May 9th, 2006

    While not a school, the following project speaks to the heart of re-thinking the future of schools and learning environments geared towards young people. But even on its own right, this story about a pioneering teenage unit for cancer care in the UK deserves special attention:

    A £700,000, 665m2 specialist unit for cancer patients aged between 12 and 21 has been completed at University College London Hospital (UCLH).

    Funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) the unit was shaped by international architecture, planning and design consultancy Llewelyn Davies Yeang (LDY) and is situated within the young persons’ unit, which forms part of the new UCLH building completed by the same architects in 2005.

    The design brief was for a teenage-friendly environment for the delivery of state of the art clinical care, alongside sensitivity towards social and psychological needs. LDY said: “The unit dilutes the institutional atmosphere of many healthcare environments.” The TCT unit can accommodate 19 young patients, in nine single bed wards and two multi-bed wards. Bedrooms and en suite bathrooms are individualised and were designed with the input of patients. Direct natural light and views across the London skyline enhance each patient bedroom. Rooms also feature coloured LED lighting to enable patients to control the ambience of their own space.

    50 Lessons Storytelling for the School Design Profession

    May 9th, 2006

    If you were to pick 50 ‘leaders’ in the world of school design — globally — who would they be?

    And why would you select them as a voice-to-listen-to as we look forward to the future of designing true 21st century learning environments?

    This comes to mind because of a recent e-newsletter from David Gurteen that we received in which he shares yet another video in the “50 Lessons” initiative: Read the rest of this entry »

    To Revit or Not To Revit

    May 8th, 2006

    “If you want to survive, you’re going to change; if you don’t, you’re going to perish. It’s as simple as that.” —Thom Mayne, FAIA, 2005 Pritzker Prize Winner, during the Building Information Modeling Panel Discussion at the 2005 AIA national convention in Las Vegas.

    Not an everyday conversation quite yet, but more and more members of the greater school design community are beginning to explore the long-range benefits of BIM (building information modeling) on design projects.

    The following quotation by Norman Strong, FAIA, (one of 4 national vice presidents for the AIA) was sent to DesignShare by Aaron Vorwerk of K-12 Architecture firm Huckabee recently. Often the assumption is that only large firms can afford to interweave this technology into their project processes and into a current beta-test project. Or that school communities/districts aren’t hungering for such an evolutionary shift in design practices.

    As Strong writes, however, the potential for small firms and a very diverse client base to achieve remarkable gains from this software is very real:

    My work with the AIA regarding issues of project delivery, BIM, interoperability, and integrated practice over the last couple of years has convinced me: This change is real and it is already here.

    This revolution is already changing my firm, and it will change yours—big firms and small firms alike. Actually, small firms are using the software more prevalently than the big ones, so this is definitely not just a big firm/big project issue. And although BIM is an enabler, it’s decidedly not just about BIM—it’s a cultural shift that will touch everything we do. Our profession will be utterly different, transformed, within the next 5–10 years. Read the rest of this entry »

    NYC and Chicago Debate the Small Schools Movement

    May 3rd, 2006

    From EdWeek comes this story of an unfolding debate out of NYC and Chicago in the realm of closing schools in order to open up smaller academies. An excerpt:

    Major initiatives in New York City and Chicago to close unsuccessful schools and create small schools in their wake are stirring criticism from some community activists, local politicians, and others.

    Beyond the resistance that school closures often generate, some critics charge that the growing scale of the efforts is producing negative ripple effects on other schools in the cities.

    In the world of school design, do you consider this a worthy trend or something with little long-term value?

    Proof Positive of the Small School Movement Before There Was Such a Thing

    May 3rd, 2006

    From Edutopia comes this striking story of one large historical school in NYC being re-designed as 6 different ’small schools’/academies that has had remarkable success long before the small-school movement took hold An excerpt:

    What first strikes you upon entering the Julia Richman Education Complex (JREC), in the heart of New York City, is how neatly the past intersects the present.

    Rows of yearbooks from previous decades line the high beige walls as today’s students whiz by on their way to class. The students of 2005 bear little resemblance to the photographs gracing the old annuals, though. It isn’t just the clothes and the hairstyles that have changed. The building that was once a high school for thousands of adolescent girls is now home to six schools, serving students from prekindergarten through high school.

    It’s past:

    Built in 1923, Julia Richman (named after the city’s first woman district superintendent of schools) was a thriving all-girls high school for 50 years. It began to founder in the mid-’70s, battered by budget cuts, overcrowding, low student achievement, and crime.

    The turn-around…

    In 1993, when the school’s graduation rate hovered around 35 percent, the school board voted to close it. Instead of giving up, however, they decided to reconfigure one large failing high school. It was a radical move — well ahead of the high school reform efforts that have since taken root countrywide.

    And when they talk about a community by design, they mean precisely just that: Read the rest of this entry »

    Considering 21st Century School Libraries

    May 3rd, 2006

    Interesting article on libraries that have been granted ’21st century status’ by Scholastic Administrator magazine. An excerpt:

    Let’s face it. The librarian we all remember, studiously stamping and shelving hardcovers according to the Dewey Decimal System, stopping only to shush a group of rowdy students, is officially a thing of the past (if she ever actually existed in the first place).

    School libraries are adapting to a changing landscape as the wealth of information available digitally grows. The sheer volume of it and its varying levels of quality and accuracy require new thinking about how students locate and process data. The librarian’s alter ego, the media specialist, is leading the way. Media specialists are essential in any school that wants to turn out research-savvy students who can identify and analyze quality information.

    Here are the stories of three librarians boldly blazing the trail. As Janet Williams of Charlotte County (FL) Public Schools says, “The school library is not dying, but it’s changing. Libraries fashioned like 20th-century facilities will die.” How healthy is your library compared with these three?

    Thanks to Doug Johnson and the “Blue Skunk Blog” for this link.

    When School Design Enhances the Entire Community

    May 2nd, 2006

    From District Administration Magazine (focusing on K-12 Education Leaders) comes a timely article on the impact of stylish design, energy-responsible buildings, and smart layouts can have a positive impact on the greater community.

    Of particular value to us is the focus on teachers having an increased freedom to teach in innovative ways due to savvy school design. An excerpt:

    Schools with innovative and flexible designs that maximize natural daylight and save energy can benefit teachers, community members and students. Students thrive in sun-filled classrooms; teachers have the freedom to explore alternative instructional models; and community members enjoy bottom-line budget savings through energy reductions.

    Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa, Ill., and Hassan Elementary School in Rogers, Minn., are two schools designed and built with energy efficiency in mind, but also with careful attention to the school’s appearance. These schools exemplify how a new school can encourage collaboration, fit the current and future curriculum and facilitate interaction between the school and the community.

    Do you have suggestions within your own community of school designs/plans that have had a similar impact? Of projects that echo one interviewed school leader who challenged his team to “not let design get in the way of what the future will bring us.”

    Build It Whether Federal Funding Comes or Not

    May 2nd, 2006

    Imagine sitting down with a group of teachers discussing the unfolding story of the ‘rebuilding’ of Gulf States schools. Now, imagine asking them for their opinion as to the progress federal officials/agencies have made in getting schools rebuilt and ready for kids to return.

    What do you imagine they’d say?

    In a fascinating and telling article from USAToday recently, this very topic was explored, shedding light on how schools are coping in spite of full funding as promised. An excerpt to help you test the waters:

    Eight months after Hurricane Katrina flattened the Gulf Coast region and displaced about 372,000 students, school officials say restrictions on how they can spend federal relief money are slowing down their efforts to rebuild and reopen schools. A few lawmakers say the effort should be stripped from the Federal Emergency Management Agency altogether and handed to a proposed “education recovery czar” at the U.S. Education Department.

    In many cases, superintendents have started rebuilding efforts on their own, crossing their fingers that federal aid would follow.

    “We’re in the position that we’re funding the work, waiting for the check to come later,” says Mobile, Ala., superintendent Harold Dodge. He says he hasn’t seen a dime of promised “restart” money from the U.S. Education Department. One of his schools was destroyed, and most others were damaged.

    The goal of this post is not to add one more insult to injury where FEMA is concerned. It is to highlight the fact that many communities and districts must simply act first and hope the money follows in time. Hopefully they will be supported over time.

    Shedding Daylight on Learning Spaces

    May 2nd, 2006

    Ask most kids, teachers, and visitors to a classroom, ‘daylight’ feels good. Rooms with the right degree of daylight are always called out as being more comfortable, easier to work in, and frankly more desireable. Some even argue that they improve learning and achievement, too.

    To that end, it’s always worth exploring research and thought-pieces that work to explore the positive impact of daylighting on learning environments. Such is the case in this recent article excerpt, “Bring It On” (4.1.06), found in American School & University magazine:

    In recent years, scores of educators and designers have been won over to the view that natural light — provided by the sun instead of bulbs or tubes — is desirable and beneficial for education facilities.

    Studies that show students performing better in classrooms that have the right kinds of daylighting bear out the intuitive beliefs of many teachers that a classroom with natural light is a more appealing learning climate. Daylight also enables schools to trim their utility bills by becoming less dependent on electricity and artificial light.

    But acknowledging that daylighting benefits schools won’t transform every classroom with a window into an ideal learning environment.

    For daylighting to have the desired effect on learning and energy costs, designers and educators must plan carefully.

    We appreciate the idea that ‘daylighting’ is not a guaranteed cure-all, but must be carefully thought out in order to help create an ideal learning environment.

    How to Balance Safety and Aesthetics

    May 2nd, 2006

    Is it possible for school design to support calls for safety/security while ensuring an optimal learning environment that feels welcoming?

    “Defensive Design” (American School & University, 4.1.06) attempts to answer just that question. An excerpt:

    Although violent crime in schools has showed a steady decline in recent years, it remains a serious concern, and administrators are continually looking for more effective approaches to school safety.

    At the same time, the best school environments are not only safe and secure, but also attractive and comfortable. The right school setting can generate enthusiasm, self-esteem and academic achievement.

    One such setting is an open physical environment. It can enhance a building’s aesthetics and encourage learning. Open spaces can increase a sense of awareness, personal control and ownership among students and staff. These factors can promote positive behavior and thus, reduce crime risks.

    When Schools Were Built Too Big

    May 2nd, 2006

    Generally, one hears frustration due to inadequate space per child in a classroom, or schools that do not have enough square footage to allow for all necessary activities. Rarely do you see a headline that shouts in the opposite direction, as is the case in the state of Massachussets these days:

    Many Schools Grew Beyond Past State Size Limits

    More than 90 percent of the 250 or so Massachusetts public schools built or renovated in the past decade were bigger than state rules dictated. The Boston Glove reports that the review by the state School Building Authority attributes the out-of-control spending to a lack of oversight and a poorly staffed Department of Education that simply didn’t enforce basic standards for school size.

    Original link (requires registration).

    Mobile Classroom that Inspires Discovery and Fun

    May 1st, 2006

    Interesting project created by the Office of Mobile Design based on the concept of creating a truly mobile classroom that would also create some wonder in the process. Constructed back in 1998, it seems to offer provocation in an age that still relies on alternative learning environments.

    The mobile ECO LAB was built in collaboration with the Hollywood Beautification Team, a grassroots group founded with the mission to restore beauty and integrity to the Hollywood community. Verbal and visual exchanges took place using computer animated drawings, traditional architectural drafting, and large scale modeling techniques. Full-scale work was performed with a defined material palette (specifically that of a donated cargo trailer and cast-offs from film sets). The 8 x 35 foot trailer now travels throughout Los Angeles County to inform K-12 school-aged children about the importance of saving and protecting our planet.

    As a working mobile classroom, the ECO LAB provides a base for a range of exhibitions all of which focus on ecology. A multimedia program explaining the “life of a tree” creates a path for discovery that weaves in and out of the expandable ECO LAB. A working art studio, local artists collaborate with the children to create facade-sized murals replacing graffiti at inner-city schools. School teachers use stage-like platforms to discuss each child’s role in the importance of planting trees and maintaining a sustainable environment.

    Like a circus tent, this mobile icon arrives at the schoolyard where elevated walkways fold down and slide out of the trailer’s body. It is immediately recognizable as a place for interaction, discovery and fun.

    When Virtual Classes Become Mandatory by Law

    May 1st, 2006

    Curious if the legal requirement for taking ‘virtual classes’ to graduate from high school will have an impact on the design and use of school facilities over time.

    From the good folks at Edutopia, comes this link:

    Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm has signed a law that will require online courses for high school graduation. Michigan will be the first state to implement this type of requirement. (Free registration may be required.)

    Design Students Seeing Projects Through From Beginning to End

    May 1st, 2006

    Thanks to Kirsten at ArchNewsNow for the link.

    While many of our ongoing discussions revolve around the design of schools, it is fair to be reminded of the very ‘design education’ that will help foster the future school designers amongst us. This particular story out of Detroit, Michigan caught our attention as of late. The last line in the following excerpt is of particular interest.

    Inside the architecture building on the campus of the University of Detroit Mercy, nine students have spent nearly every waking hour for the last six weeks drawing, redrawing, designing, redesigning, constructing and reconstructing — all to create a symbol of hope in the city.

    The plans are finally complete. The final piece is to find a buyer who will support their cause: Building a house in Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood using materials salvaged from a historic, 6,000-square-foot house in Highland Park, Ill.

    “Being a student and designing something that is going to be built is really exciting,” said Shannon Sommer, 21, a third-year architecture student from Wisconsin. “This opportunity doesn’t happen. Usually architecture students design something, but they never get to see the final product.”

    To that end, how does our industry of school design teams help facilitate the beginning-to-end experience for design students? And what is the cost of not doing this, esp. as we look towards the future of 21st century learning environments?

    College Construction Totals Continue Rising, Reaching All-Time One Year High

    May 1st, 2006

    Thanks to Brett at DeHavilland Associates (focused on business/education partnerships and outreach programs), this link to the “2006 Construction Report” from College Planning & Management.

    College construction hit an all-time one year high in 2005 of $14.5 billion, with $9.8 billion spent on new buildings. No small sum!

    With construction dollars expecting to rise (as they have for the last 10 consecutive years) well into the future, the question comes down to whether or not we can expect to get the same quality/quantity for our dollars.

    Worth reading the report.

    Blogging for School Design Teams: Fear of Feedback or Collaborative Fuel?

    April 27th, 2006

    Some of you in the greater DesignShare community are aware of the growing use of blogging for school design teams to connect with their client communities.

    As background, check out these resources: 1) Why blogging might be a transformative tool for school design teams; and 2) a review of the same topic done as a presentation for CEFPI earlier this April.

    For some firms, it’s merely about marketing (not the winning answer, by the way…but you can only learn that truth the hard way). But for a ‘brave’ few, it’s really about learning to be an ‘expert by listening’ and empowering the client community to be asking for the right things when they say ’school building’.

    Ran across the following from Paul Baker on his “EducationPR” blog. He’s talking about the opposite side of the table, about the growing use of blogs for school officials and trustees to engage their community. Seems that if our clients are going into the blogosphere, it’s only right that we are at least familiar, if not yet passionate and nimble.

    He wrote:

    I enjoyed reading Craig Colgan’s story “What’s in a Blog?” in American School Board Journal, July 2005. He provides several case studies of school board members, administrators, and teachers engaging their communities with weblogs. Read the rest of this entry »

    CAE (AIA) Spring Conference: “Building a Language for Communication” (Cincinnati, Ohio)

    April 25th, 2006

    Been speaking with Donnie Williamson, Project Manager, Professional Practice, of AIA today about the upcoming CAE Spring Conference: “Building a Language of Communication”. The conference will take place in Cincinnati, Ohio between May 11-13th.

    Click this link to read the on-line brochure.
    Click this link for the printed Registration Form.

    The 2006 theme is Planning and Programming, and this spring the emphasis will be on the early planning stages where major decisions are made. How can we as architects be more involved in guiding these decisions?

    We will see how decisions affect the quality of the learning environment and the building’s design from multiple perspectives.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Dispatch from Tasmania: What If We Designed Schools as…Truly “Connected”?

    April 24th, 2006

    You might be interested to review David Bartlett’s (Minister of Education for the State of Tasmania) comments and ideas on “connected” schools and school design made at the CEFPI conference last year (4.05):

    He writes:

    This week I presented a paper at the CEFPI Architects and Educators conference. A number of people have asked me for a copy of my speech.Unfortunately I don’t actually have a copy of the speech as much of it was made off the cuff from notes.

    However some of the following points were made:

    The Connected School

    The response to all of these trends, needs to be what I call the “Connected School.” And I have chosen the word “connected” very deliberately to mean many things. So what does the connected school look like?

    What if we considered school as… Read the rest of this entry »

    Digital Kids, Antiquated Schools

    April 24th, 2006

    Why is it that for the first time in history, our children are so very different than us? And what does this have to do with the design of our schools?

    These are the underlying questions posed by Jim Craig in the South Bend Tribune (Indiana) in his “Schools Need to Meet the Needs of ‘Digital Natives’” editorial recently. He continues:

    We adults are described as “digital immigrants.” Just like someone who learns a foreign language later in life rather than growing up with it, we will never have the same intuitive understanding our children do. This has nothing to do with intelligence, and everything to do with how one learns.

    We view each new device as a new challenge to be learned, often painfully. Digital natives do not. Rather, they see each new development as a continuously evolving and improving facet of their lives that is something to be used, not just figured out.

    What does this have to do with school? Everything. Read the rest of this entry »

    Blurring Line Between Real and Virtual Spaces

    April 24th, 2006

    From the illustrious mind of George Siemens and his “elearnspace” blog (and e-newsletter)subscribe!!! — comes this tasty morsel about the blurring lines between real and virtual spaces. Implications for our field are very real:

    For all my chatter about the changing nature/need of learning, I think I’ve largely ignored what is becoming one of the most interesting trends: the absolute blurring between online and physical spaces.

    A Virtual World’s Real Dollars: “It’s easy to see why Second Life has captured the attention of Bezos and other investors. Second Life is a three-dimensional digital world in which players can do just about anything: Create an avatar that acts as an online alter-ego, fly around landscapes dotted with dance clubs and gardens, and socialize via text messaging with friends’ avatars. The population inside Second Life has grown eightfold from a year ago, when just 20,000 “residents,” as they’re known, called it a second home.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Collaboration and Future-Oriented Design at Northwestern University

    April 24th, 2006

    ArchNewsNow strikes beautiful design chords again. This time, a view of the future when schools of design and education come together:

    Built specifically to obtain certification in environmental sustainability, Northwestern University’s Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, designed by New York City-based Davis Brody Bond, is now the focal point of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science’s initiatives in design education.

    Made possible through a $10 million grant from Ford Motor Company, and significant gifts from Steelcase, Illinois Tool Works, John Deere Foundation, and 3M Foundation, among others, the $30 million, 80,000-square-foot facility supports a wide range of undergraduate design efforts, from the first year’s integrated design curriculum, to more specialized senior projects and annual competition entries. Read the rest of this entry »

    Philly: But Where Will the Children Go?

    April 24th, 2006

    Kristen and ArchNewsNow continues to provide great news hints. Case in point, this story out of Philly where new urbanism might be making ’school’ forgotten community resource. An excerpt:

    Every week in Philadelphia seems to bring another condo proposal. By the end of the decade, booming Center City could be home to 10,000 new people. We know where those residents will live. We can guess where they will shop, dine and park their cars. But has anyone thought about where they might send their children to school? Not yet. Read the rest of this entry »

    Stylish Daycare Center in Denmark

    April 24th, 2006

    If getting a combined 52 weeks of maternity/paternity leave for new parents wasn’t enough reason to move to Denmark, these recent and very stylish daycare center projects in this Scandanavian country might be at least worth a visit:

    Denmark is a pretty good place to have kids. New parents receive a combined total of 52 weeks (one full year!) leave from work, and the government guarantees children space in day-care facilities after their first birthday. The latter provision has had an interesting architectural side effect. When a recent baby boom in Copenhagen necessitated the construction of new day-care centers, the city commissioned Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen–one of Denmark’s most acclaimed and busy young architects–to design two of them, bringing smart design to preschool digs. Read the rest of this entry »

    Brad Pitt Shares Love of Architecture to Help ReBuild New Orleans

    April 24th, 2006

    Worth a glance, according to Forbes magazine:

    The whole world wants to know about the rumors of a “Brangelina” wedding in Namibia, not to mention the chances that the first biological child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie might be born in Africa next month.

    But all the publicity-shy actor wants to talk about is his new architecture project - a design competition to encourage eco-friendly rebuilding in areas of New Orleans hardest hit by hurricane Katrina.


    Pitt was much more forthcoming on his love of architecture and his plans to sponsor a design competition and lead its jury.

    “Our goal is to kick off the rebuilding effort. It’s certainly long overdue and I can only go from the reports that we get … that it’s behind, absolutely. People are frustrated,” Pitt said. Read the rest of this entry »

    Inspired Flight vs. Crash-n-Burn: Los Angeles Unified School District and Design Team Push Artistic Boundaries

    April 24th, 2006

    Any school design project is a hot-button topic in communities large and small. The general safety phrase is “efficient, cost-savings, and 50-year building” that everyone understands and will vote for (i.e. pay for).

    When you push the boundaries on school design, however, you open up a can of worms. But this time I’m hoping the worms will be very pleased (or at least hang on to learn more).

    From Los Angeles, this story excerpt of a very provocative school design grows wings:

    IT’S not a bird. Could be a plane. The collective Angeleno imagination will have 2 1/2 years to conjure an appropriate image for the irregular-looking assemblage of gray- and sand-colored structures in concrete, plaster, glass and steel that will soon begin to rise downtown above the Hollywood Freeway. However the city eventually decides to define the strange shapes on its new public arts campus, given the estimated cost of $208 million, it had better be Superschool. Read the rest of this entry »

    Learning Space in Pakistan to Demystify Research with Community-Focused Development

    April 24th, 2006

    Great chance to lend a hand to colleagues in the Middle East and throughout the world:

    Subject: - Subscription of Books / Information Material for Information and Learning Center Khuzdar

    Institute for development Studies and Practices (IDSP-Pakistan) is providing a learning space for the group of motivated individuals from various field of research and development. It is a space where this group shares, learns, promotes, practice and together try to create an environment where the process of development can be de-mystified and redefined. The courses offered by the institute are based on community-focused development, combining theory and practice, which ultimately contribute towards the project objectives and policy shifts towards just and equitable development processes. Read the rest of this entry »

    Dutch Learnscapes

    April 24th, 2006

    In discussion with Jan Koster about the 4th national congress of school building in Amsterdam and the principle of “learnscapes” as a design pattern. Here is what he wrote to us in a recent email:

    On the eve of the 4th national congress of school building in Amsterdam (April 5th and 6th in the Okura Hotel), we will give you in headlines a view on our national developments. Mind you that we cannot prevent ourselves from our perspective of sustainable education and environmental development.

    Schooling for the future [involves]: Read the rest of this entry »

    Discussions about the School of the Future

    April 24th, 2006

    Been talking with Tom Blackwell, the Director of Facilities and Construction of the Leander Independent School District in Texas, recently about the ’school of the future’ (not to be mistaken with the Microsoft-supported new school opening this fall in Philadelphia). He writes:

    With Education coming under fire from all sources now, when will facility design actually facilitate future flexibility in order to better serve the quickly-changing needs of contemporary as well as future education? That is, when will the facility actually become a verb rather than a noun?

    As an ex-English teacher, I find that previous question to be a true shot across the bow. Tom continues to push us all with his following questions: Read the rest of this entry »

    Inspiration in Iran

    April 24th, 2006

    The following email came to the DesignShare offices this past weekend.

    Messages like this remind us that we are very blessed to be involved in the larger world of school design, planning, and construction, acting as advocates for design teams around the globe. More importantly, we are blessed to share this larger world of ’school design’ with passionate and committed individuals like this writer:

    I have known your website and its [Design Awards] competition since I was an M.Arch student. Your web site was a great motive for me to chose educational field as my thesis subject and future career.

    I chose Tehran Virtual School for my thesis title which was a school designed for the Iranian Ministry of Education. Articles and Award winning projects that were presented on your website really helped me to get a new approach for deigning this unique school which will be the first Iranian cyber school. Read the rest of this entry »

    Opportunity and Pain in the Small Schools Movement

    April 24th, 2006

    As many parts of the US (and the world) face the difficult issue of school closings — often due to funding, changing demographics, or academic standards — there is tremendous pain and heartache that comes with each decision, good or bad. Case in point, the pending closure of the George W. Wingate High School in New York City, turning the historic school into several smaller learning academies:

    When the George W. Wingate High School opened in 1955, excited students helped unpack the furniture and baseball legend Jackie Robinson attended the school’s dedication. Trophy cases soon brimmed with accomplishments at the Brooklyn school that would graduate a future U.S. senator.

    But today is a very different story for this historic school:

    All that is little more than a memory now. The Class of 2006 will be the school’s last.

    Wingate, a long-troubled institution, is one of 20 public high schools in New York City being phased out over seven years, a historic spate of closures by officials intent on raising student achievement and staff accountability. For the final class, the mood grows glum when talk turns to carrying school spirit forward.

    And even for students who will be graduating, this comes as a very difficult time for them: Read the rest of this entry »

    What to do with extra classrooms?

    April 20th, 2006

    Received the following email recently about a school in Arizona that has too many empty classrooms…and a call for ideas as how to re-format them to support a team-teaching approach:

    I thought I might ask for your direction on finding information regarding an issue I am investigating for my school.

    I work at a Middle School in Flagstaff, AZ. Due to a number of factors we have seen a dropping enrollment in the past few years. This will leave
    us with 10 unoccupied classrooms next year… I would like to propose giving the space to the students in the way of “Team Rooms”.
    Our middle school is divided into teams and I thought some team common space would be a nice use of the extra space. I am envisioning a space that would be open to students before school, lunch and after school that would be monitored by staff… but for the most part furnished, organized and designed by the students themselves. I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of research or models that give students common space within their buildings. My staff is a bit of the old guard and they need convincing. Any light you could shed on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

    What would you advise?

    Perils of Prosperity for Design Firms

    April 20th, 2006

    2006’s top-500 Design Firms.

    Are you on the list? And do you agree with the premise of the ‘perils of prosperity?’

    The U.S. economy is strong and so is the construction market. No one knows this more than designers who are at the leading edge of the boom. But just as the recent recession brought new issues and concerns to the design profession, so has prosperity. A lack of people to do the work, the drive for greater efficiencies in light of technological developments and the personnel squeeze, and new and subtle threats in the future have many thinking hard about where the design profession is headed.

    Will School Facilities Remain Relevant 50 Years From Now?

    April 20th, 2006

    Thanks to DesignShare’s friend, DK, and his “phatgnat” blog, we are asked to consider a future without school facilities:

    Regardless of our roles in society, each of us will be affected by what happens in the field of education in the coming decades. The knowledge gained, the work habits developed, and even the moral values learned by today’s students in our schools will, for every American, at least partially determine the future efficacy of our health care system, affect our place as a country in the world market place, and influence the level of safety and security we will experience individually and collectively in the coming decades.

    But what does this have to do with school design, or lack thereof?

    A new paper by Kenneth R. Stevenson presents both possibilities and critical issues related to what the future holds for the field of education and the facilities that house it. Will schools as physical places disappear by 2055, and be replaced by virtual schools?

    Intriguing question. But what’s really fueling it?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    I’m Nobody! Who are you?

    April 19th, 2006

    Thanks to Aaron V. for this timely link.

    Straight out of the ‘Young Architects Forum’ of the AIA, an interesting take on how architectural firms ‘tell their story’ to win over potential clients. Not only relevant to the field as a whole, but very much of interest when you realize what it takes to draw a school client your way…and what it takes to inspire the community itself. Hopefully.

    “I’m Nobody! Who Are You? The Ins and Outs of Authentic Publicity” was written by Joan Capelin, Hon. AIA, Hon. AIA NYS, Fellow PRSA.

    A quick excerpt:

    Time was when the work came to the architect. Without branding. Without advertising. Without publicity (well, that could be argued). Just good solid family connections and a modicum of luck.

    In the late 1970s, all that changed.

    Well worth looking closely at the 6 Fame Principles Capelin outlines. Only change I wish she’d make would be to switch the first from “Redefine ‘accomplishment’ as ‘helping the design community succeed’” to “‘helping the community succed through design’”, but perhaps that’s just me.

    Your thoughts?

    “Digging Deeper” Blog Introduction

    April 16th, 2006

    Well worth checking out the McGraw-Hill Construction website and their “Digging Deeper” blog.

    While it certainly covers the ‘obvious subjects’ in the construction industry, it smartly seeks to look at tangential topics as well. Not only good for the unexpected (a positive in the blogosphere), but it reminds us all to re-think the very foundation of expertise we all take for granted.

    If the Desk Moves Like the Student Does, The Kids Just Might Learn to Be Healthy in the Process!

    April 16th, 2006

    Familiar with Ian Jukes yet?

    If not, head over to his thought-provoking “The Committed Sardine Blog” and swim around a bit in his world of future studies, technology, and education. If so, then this post excerpt of his on the idea of school desks that actually move to suit the kids’ movements will seem par for the course:

    Fourth- and fifth-graders in one Rochester, Minn., school stand at adjustable podiums, kneel on mats or sit on exercise balls during class whenever they want, as part of a Mayo Clinic study on whether the students will burn more calories than they would if they were seated at traditional desks. Anecdotally, their teacher and superintendent find the children more focused and less distracted. The conclusion - fidgeting in classroom may help students. This article can be found at this link.

    The fidgety boys and girls in Phil Rynearson’s classroom get up and move around whenever they want, and that’s just fine with him.

    In fact, stretching, swaying and even balancing on big wobbly exercise balls are the point of this experimental classroom. The goal is to see if getting children to move even a little can help combat childhood obesity. Read the rest of this entry »

    School Facilities, Bond Referendums, and Fearless Learners

    April 16th, 2006

    David Warlick, a friend of education from every conceivable angle one could offer up, lives in a North Carolina community that is preparing for a bond referendum to pay for the improvement of school facilities. In his must-read “2 Cents Worth” blog, David offers an inspired and provocative post that takes on the issue of facilities and tax dollars/voters, but more importantly asks us whether we are trying to inspire “waiting learners” or “fearless learners” in the process.

    Its in all of our best interests to ask David’s question in our own communities: Read the rest of this entry »

    Can a New Entry Transform an Entire Campus?

    April 15th, 2006

    Excerpt from “Creating a New Campus Gateway” article (4.06) in Midwest Construction:

    The East Campus of the University of Wisconsin at Madison is undergoing dramatic changes.

    By July, a 3.1-acre site that formerly housed a salvage yard, gas station and garbage truck parking will be home to a six-story residence hall, seven-story office/parking structure and one-story cylindrical university welcome center.

    “It’s a great new gateway and entry,” said Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor, facility planning and management of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “It’s a major transformation of how people arrive on campus.”

    New Haven, CT Pushes Per-Capita School Construction Envelope

    April 15th, 2006

    Excerpt from “New Haven Learning a Lot In $1.5-Billion Building Spree” (4.17.05) Engineering News-Record article:

    School district officials in New Haven, Conn., are in the throes of a $1.5-billion, 15-year marathon to replace, or renovate to pristine condition, schools and other facilities that now serve 21,000 students.

    The district is not the nation’s largest by any stretch, but it is spending more per capita on construction than any other, officials say. “Cities like Cleveland and Washington, D.C., have bigger programs,” but they are not investing as much per child, says Thomas Rogér, a vice president of Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane Program Management, who directs the New Haven Public Schools program. Aging infrastructure, rather than a growing student population, is the impetus for this construction push, which began in the late 1990s.

    When School Clean-Up Goes Bad

    April 15th, 2006

    Excerpt from a 4.17.06 Engineering News-Record article:

    The Los Angeles Unified School District is locked in a high-stakes legal battle with its insurer, American International Group, over a $100-million policy it bought to cover rising cleanup costs at school construction sites found to be contaminated with toxic substances. The lawsuit, filed in L.A. County Superior Court on Feb. 28, accuses AIG, New York City, of reneging on a 1999 pact to cover for 20 years much of its environmental cleanup cost—an expense district officials admit could reach policy limits.

    Anyone recognize this firm?

    April 5th, 2006

    Thanks to Mike and Daren for this wonderful link:

    Click on the link and read all the menus. Design process is the funniest.

    A spoof. But maybe not.

    And with all this serious discussion, it’s nice to have someone re-think the premise of the architecture firm…to keep us all honest.

    Can school design fight child obesity?

    April 5th, 2006

    This email from a cultural anthropoligist really caught my attention recently:

    In the meantime you might be interested in the following story on an experimental classroom designed with fighting childhood obesity in mind - . I also posted about this on my blog -



    So, with all the focus on fighting childhood obesity (heck, there’s a new reality show on cable called “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids” about this very topic), can school design really make a difference?


    If you want to get in touch with Marcel Harmon, Ph.D., a remarkable cultural anthropoligist with a strong passion for spaces that positively impact kids, give him an email at mjharmon[at]humaninquiry[dot] or go directly to his firm, Human Inquiry to explore his anthropological work.

    Eperitus to Spin-Off from Architectural Firm: Educational Consultants Announce New Growth Opportunity

    April 4th, 2006

    Interesting news from Virginia and the world of educational facility design:

    Richmond, Va., April 1, 2006—EperitusEperitus, LLC, owned by BCWH Architects, announced today that it will become a fully independent company. BCWH, a leading Virginia architectural company, located in Richmond VA, started the subsidiary company in 2001 to better serve their educational clients. Eperitus was founded in the infancy of technology in education. Since this time, the individuals at Eperitus have found a strong and growing business beyond technology. This has taken the core of their practice beyond design of educational facilities and the state of Virginia. Eperitus has a second office in Winston-Salem, North Carolina that was established in 2003. Read the rest of this entry »

    Project FROG May Push School Trailers to Leap Ahead

    April 4th, 2006

    The Mayor of SF continues to be a visionary. Case in point in the unexpected realm of ‘temporary’ classrooms. Excerpt brought to us by the good folks at School Construction News:


    With 118 public school sites in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom is hoping a sustainable classroom prototype, known as “Project FROG,” will provide an improved way to accommodate schoolchildren who are currently housed on campuses in trailers, some of which are poorly insulated and leak.

    A couple of details about this powerfully unique ‘modular’ prototype: Read the rest of this entry »

    Transformative Power of Blogging for School Design Teams

    April 4th, 2006

    blog presentation title page

    Been asked a great deal lately about the potential value of adding blogging to the collaborative work of school design teams. Marketing opportunities aside for the design firm itself, there seems to be infinite potential for teams who take advantage of blogging as a way to:

    a) capture conversation, b) truly ‘listen’ to the community/client, and c) use it as a way to fine-tune the project requirements over time.

    Sadly, however, many in the architectural community are skeptical about adding this ‘new’ tool, fearing liability issues or the expense involved. Possibly its just ‘fear of change’. Or maybe the ‘traditional’ client-interaction process is ‘just fine’ and there seems to be no ‘fire’ to be lit under anyone’s seat. Well, times are-a-changin’!

    From an architecture firm in Wyoming, Chad wrote the following to me recently:

    While considering the use of a project blog for my school design teams, a March/April ‘06 School Construction News article jumped off the page. Read the rest of this entry »

    “Truth in Class Size Act” — Georgia

    March 27th, 2006

    From “Cap on Class Size Passes” (3.26.06), Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

    Public school pupils will have fewer classmates in English, math, science and social studies under Gov. Sonny Perdue’s “Truth in Class Size Act,” which won final approval Friday. But some of them will probably be taught by less-experienced teachers in classroom trailers.

    “Yes!” Merchuria Chase Williams, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, exclaimed when she heard the Senate passed House Bill 1358 50-0. “Ah, that’s wonderful!”

    Why it matters? Read the rest of this entry »

    Creating an ‘Internal Ideas Market’ for Conceptual Investing

    March 27th, 2006

    As someone who has always been a natural brain-stormer, this one hits near and dear to my heart. Good stuff out of FastCompany’s FCNow blog:

    Fast Company cofounding editor William Taylor penned a useful piece for Sunday’s edition of the International Herald Tribune. Entitled “Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas,” the article concentrates on the innovation practices of Rhode Island-based Rite-Solutions.

    One interesting project at the company is an internal ideas market in which employees invest in conceptual stocks. These investments are in effect votes for which initiatives get formal recognition, backing, and leverage.

    How do you solicit, identify, and give the nod to the best new ideas where you work?

    Excerpt from the article mentioned above: Read the rest of this entry »

    ArchNewsNow — Check it out!

    March 27th, 2006

    Been pleased to be in conversation with Kristen Richards, Editor-in-Chief of ArchNewsNow as of late. Amazing site that spans the world of architecture globally. Worth a look. Extends beyond school design, per se, but part of a critical conversation.

    You can reach her at:

    Feel free to subscribe to the ArchNewsNow site as well. Great daily feeds!

    And definitely check out the international calendar of events. Lots of wonderful opportunities to get involved, showcase your projects, learn, etc.

    Randy Responds to School Leader’s Views on Design Myths

    March 26th, 2006

    Recently, Chris Lehman — principal of the soon-to-be-opened Science Leadership Academy in Philly — wrote a series of reactions and questions to one of Randy Fielding’s articles on myths within the school design realm. Randy just offered the following set of responses. Here they are in order: Read the rest of this entry »

    Possible to Build Great Schools from the Inside Out?

    March 26th, 2006

    *****Very interesting job opportunity for someone interested in the future of urban schools and real estate development*****

    Been in an interesting conversation with Susan Cunningham ( of EdBuild during the last 24 hours. She led construction and operations at the SEED School for about 7 years:

    The SEED Foundation opened its first school, The SEED School of Washington, D.C., in 1998. The SEED School offers an intensive academic and boarding education to 320 urban children in grades seven through twelve. Every student at The SEED School is from the District of Columbia, but each individual represents a spectrum of personal experience. Overwhelmingly, SEED families want their children to have more and better opportunities than they did. Some students are pushed onward by strong families who are seeking out the best education for their children. Others find a refuge at SEED, a safe place for them to learn and live while their families overcome personal challenges. At SEED, all students find a network of family and community support that helps them to thrive academically and socially.

    In any event, she just left SEED late this fall to start EdBuild, partially funded by NewSchools Venture Fund (a national grant-making organization that supports high quality public schools and school districts). EdBuild is working to create and sustain more high-performing schools in Washington D.C., working with DCPS to modernize school buildings quickly and to support improved instruction in the traditional and charter public schools housed in these buildings.

    To that end, EdBuild is looking to hire a Vice President of Real Estate: Read the rest of this entry »

    65% Funding Solution

    March 26th, 2006

    It seems that the ‘elephant in the room’ these days for all school design teams (at least here in America) is the future of funding. Beyond the more obvious implications that school construction takes capital, there is the underlying question of whether or not ‘prototype’ designs will begin to become a requirement in various states around the nation as politicians and funding leaders begin to demand ‘efficient’ building programs.

    To that end, there is more and more talk (some whispers, too) about the potential of the “65% funding solution” that ties school funding to instruction vs. non-instruction needs. Standard and Poors — well known for matters well outside of educational circles — has an intersting initiative named SchoolMatters that appears to offer a fairly objective look at the implications of the “65% funding solution”. Might be worth your time to scan the site and its resources if you’re beginning to sense the potential impact of this topic on school construction in the future.

    Also, received an email from Susan Shafer, the Director of Marketing and Communciations @ Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services today reminding me of SchoolMatters 1 Year Anniversary. It read as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

    Teachers Talking School Design

    March 24th, 2006

    Sometimes great conversations about school and classroom design are being had by folks who are not traditionally part of the design ‘industry’.

    Case in point: AJ, a San Francisco-based teacher focused on language acquisition who offers the following in his teacher/language-oriented blog:

    “A study at Georgetown University found that even if the students, teachers, and educational approach remained the same, improving a school’s physical environment could increase test scores by as much as 11 percent.” –Dan Pink

    How’s that for a “hard numbers” reason to take school design seriously. We’re all debating, endlessly, the proper teaching approach. Yet here’s a very simple way to boost our effectiveness… one that requires no change to how we teach. Read the rest of this entry »

    High Performance Schools Symposium

    March 23rd, 2006

    Just got this in from Rebecca Borden ( at the Arts Education Partnership which focuses on documenting the impact of arts on learning, showing why and how arts matter in the lives of students, teachers and communities. They work at a national level to identify and share successful strategies for ensuring the arts are taught, and taught well, in our public schools. Note: she wrote a great article a ways back for the NCEF on how to involve kids in the school design process — well worth the read!

    Reminder: High Performance Schools Symposium at the COG in DC on April 24th.

    To register: Please E-mail your registration to Pam Vosburgh at VSBN

    Here’s the full story…

    We will have speakers from school districts throughout the region present their work, and case studies on high performance new school design, renovations and O&M.

    MCPS will present the winners of our Portable Classroom Design Challenge as part of School Building Week, and later the MCPS Green Building Program in one of the breakout sessions in the afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »

    Will Architecture Firms Begin Blogging?

    March 22nd, 2006

    Whether as a marketing tool or as a pre-design tool with clients, it only seems ‘logical’ that architectural firms will begin to consider the pros/cons of adding blogging to their communication arsenal.

    Me, I’m biased, but there is much to weigh and each firm must think it through on their terms. For school design firms, it seems even more advantageous given the nature of needing community feedback and buy-in over the conceptual and schematic phases of project development. Read the rest of this entry »

    Getting Close to AIA-CAE Awards Time

    March 22nd, 2006

    Was reminded by Tim of the Cunningham Group (Minneapolis) of the AIA-CAE Education Design awards that will be handed out at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Spring Conference soon; he mentioned it in an email as he was getting ready to fly off to join the rest of his co-jury panel. Here’s a reminder of what the awards are focused upon, for those of you who do not occupy the ’school design’ or architecture worlds on a daily basis.

    The call for entries to the fourth annual Committee on Architecture for Education Design Awards program opens on October 3, 2005. The CAE Design Awards recognize exemplary design of educational environments. Submissions will be due on December 6, 2005, with jurying in January 2006 and announcement of the winners at the CAE Spring 2006 Conference.

    The awards program is looking identify, honor, and disseminate the projects and ideas that exhibit innovation and excellence in the following ways:

    1. A planning and design process that is educational, collaborative, and builds the capacity of the school and its community to support its students
    2. Enhancement of the client’s educational program through the thoughtful planning and design of facilities
    3. Integration of function and aesthetics in designs that also respect the surrounding community and context.

    Why That Remarkable Design Brochure of Ours Really Doesn’t Matter

    March 22nd, 2006

    One of the many wonderful things about architecture firms and school planners is the high-design of many of our press releases, brochures, RFQ documents, client PowerPoints, and other “hey, look at what we can do!” media-darlings. Seems impossible to imagine a day when we wouldn’t all be invested in showcasing our firm’s ability, culture, and services in high-gloss ways, esp. in an effort to tell a great ’school design story.’

    The question is, however, does it really matter? To the client, does all of this really end up making a difference?

    According to Seth Godin (PR-god; author of the Purple Cow and other marketing gems), it doesn’t matter one tiny ounce…but read his words to learn for yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

    Possibly a Pattern Language for the New Internet?

    March 22nd, 2006

    Prakash and Randy, you might find this curious and timely:

    According to those in the inner circle of the re-creation of the Internet (read: “Web2.0″ for those who live more typical lives and may still be trying to get their heads wrapped around email and eBay), there is discussion of pulling off this epic shift via “patterns”. Thought you might find that of interest. Here’s what one article (from the good folks at “Web Monkey”) that is trying to explain the power of “pattern language” for a brave new Internet to come:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    What is the Potential of Creating a School Architecture Internship Like This?

    March 21st, 2006

    Project M 2006
    June 1–29
    Belfast and Searsport, ME

    Inspired by the late architect Samuel Mockbee and his Rural Studio, John Bielenberg began this design workshop in 2004 hoping to encourage graphic designers to create for social causes. Last year, the participants designed a rolling studio that was then used to deliver supplies to designers displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Five participants will be selected in all, after which they will all agree on a project to work on throughout June. The cost will be $2000 per person.


    Considering the Unique Design Elements of a K-8 Facility

    March 21st, 2006

    A Colorado-based architect sent the following to DesignShare recently about the unique attributes of a K-8 school design:

    We are working with a school district who wants to build a K-8. Our firm has never designed one and we are struggling to understand how a K-8 is different from a elementary combined with a middle school. Could you help in directing me where to research either on your website or elsewhere? Specifically, do you know of K-8 educational specifications??

    Any ideas? And any research you’d send his/her way?

    Value of Curb Appeal for Schools?

    March 21st, 2006

    The following invitation came from Peggy Kinsey, AIA, CEFPI of
    SlaterPaull Architects:

    I am writing an article that deals with the current need for individual schools as well as school districts to “market” themselves. I think this is as recent phenomena. In the past, other than in the case of non-public schools, most parents didn’t have a choice as to where their child would attend school. You moved into a neighborhood so your child could attend a particular school. As most of you are acutely aware of, today that is not the case.

    Thus the question for you – How important is “curb appeal” in this new world of choice?

    V International Congress on the Development of Physical Infrastructure — Mexico, May 31 - June 2

    March 21st, 2006

    The Administrative Committee of the Federal Program for School Construction (CAPFCE) extends an invitation to the V International Congress on the Development of Physical Infrastructure en Education, in City Zacatecas, México, on may 31, june 1 y 2.

    The aim of the Congress is to exchange experiences and present examples related to the following elements of educational spaces: Read the rest of this entry »

    Continuing to Talk about Mold In Schools, But from a Different Point of View

    March 21st, 2006

    This mold-n-school article comes via the “Constructionmail” e-newsletter from the good folks at McGraw Hill. While in a construction-related context, the article is more focused on allergies in general having a negative impact on kids and learning. Yes, the underlying elements of black mold (et al) are still there, but glad that it’s not the typical conversation on building materials are good or bad.

    An excerpt before you dive into yet another dialogue on the mix: Read the rest of this entry »

    Schools Ain’t Factories…or Prisons

    March 21st, 2006

    I was struck recently by a recent “Guardian” article out of the UK that discussed bringing prisoners into the conversation of prison design. Nearly stopped me in my tracks, truth be told. Not so much because of the idea of guards and prisoners sitting down at a table with architects, and creating bubble diagrams of how ‘transparency’ and daylighting could make the prison experience less, well…ah,…prison-like, but because it simply reminds me that so few kids and teachers and parents and community members are actually invited into the mix when schools are planned and designed. Read the rest of this entry »

    Weekly Invitation to All Writers

    March 6th, 2006

    “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” — George Bernard Shaw


    The DesignShare Blog team has greatly appreciated the diverse range of visitors, as well as the positive feedback, during our first few days of operation. Still very much a work-in-progrees, we are now beginning to see the fruits of dialogue grow.

    To that end, each week we will invite all visitors to the DesignShare Blog to offer a post of their own, something to add to the on-going conversation. Here are the rules (or simply put, a few handy steps to launch you into the blog-publishing world!):

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Doing-Spaces: Studios for Learning

    March 5th, 2006

    Word play is a wonderful way to generate new ideas, and often its the only way to help any of us break free of the binds that keep us tied to old ways of finding solutions.

    As this blog was partially created to help us re-think the very ‘language of school design’, it seems that this is certainly one for consideration. Even better, it comes from outside the industry of architecture. Perhaps the paradigm shift won’t be so difficult as we all think if more and more non-school design folks are already building the new vocabulary.

    To that end, I’d like you to consider the following post called “Classrooms as Studios — Personal Doing Environments” from Jeremy Hiebert, an expert in the fusion of technology and learning and design and life: Read the rest of this entry »

    A Survey of Comments

    March 5th, 2006

    Blog visitors offer feedback, questions, and challenges on Philly’s “School of the Future”, bridges between educational models, flexible space in schools and classrooms, future memories of interactive learning, and re-thinking the classroom wall. Read the rest of this entry »

    The Community’s Voice Is Heard

    March 5th, 2006

    An interesting view of the impact of blogging to draw together a larger community of educational facility stakeholders. This comes from David Sundersingh:

    Dear Randy,

    Congrats on a blog & a very newsy newsletter. You are taking this into the 21st Century, I am sure content will become more focused in the coming months as more professionals take part actively in the blog. Read the rest of this entry »

    From Start-Up to Blog in Just 3 Short Weeks: An Open-Source Story

    March 3rd, 2006

    Tonight I was talking with Randy shortly after he exited yet another plane (how many states in how many days?) and the “…in just 3 short weeks…” comment bounced back and forth.

    You see, the entire create-a-DesignShare-blog-experience started pretty innocently only 3 weeks ago today with just a single phone call: Read the rest of this entry »

    ArchVoices: Define the 21st Century Practice

    March 3rd, 2006

    “…the profession definitely needs a kick in the pants, and we see this year’s essay theme as an opportunity to provide it. ” — ArchVoices challenge (a true “Arm me with Audacity” call if I’ve ever heard it, Randy!)

    Okay, you’ve read the first post about the upcoming ArchVoices Essay Competition. Well, here’s part two to wet your whistle. They continue:

    So, next time you and your co-workers get into a heated discussion about the future of architecture at an office happy hour, get out your sketchbooks and pens: the world is waiting to read your manifestoes, dreams, and even your carefully laid plans for architecture or revolution. Stage One’s 500-word essay proposals are due March 31, 2006. The future of our profession can hardly wait.

    Want to know more? Read the rest of this entry »

    ArchVoices: Staring Bright-Eyed Into the Future

    March 3rd, 2006

    “Frequent interaction with the public might elicit an enlivened interest in the role of architecture…” — Excerpt from “Engaging the Everyday,” by Hannah Teicher, 1st Prize, 2005 ArchVoices Essay Competition


    Many of you may be familiar with ArchVoices, a remarkable virtual community that supports the professional development of architectural interns as they move towards licensure. All of this grew out of an intern’s desire a few years back to find resources in an often confusing world of requirements, acronyms, and test preparation all while trying to just ‘get it’ as one moves from studio to professional practice. And in many ways, it is a reflection of the collaborative efforts of the DesignShare Blog as we all strive to not only share best practices but also seek to broaden the base of participants. Read the rest of this entry »

    Considering Philadelphia’s “School of the Future” as a Model

    March 1st, 2006

    Had the pleasure of reading “Is This the School of the Future” (Scholastic Admnistrator magazine Feb. ‘06), last night, thanks to the suggestion of a superintendent I’m currently working with these days. His curiosity about the Microsoft/City of Philadelphia initiative was quite evident, both as a partnership and program. And I believe he was equally interested in it as a school ‘design’ in the purest architectural manner.

    Without getting into the Microsoft debate, or even if this is or is not the ‘ideal’ progressive architectural solution, I simply pose the following question to you:

    How would you describe the “school of the future” and what are the components and elements that give it meaning and form?

    Bridges Between Architectural Education Models

    February 27th, 2006

    Posted as an open-challenge by Pablo Campos Calvo-Sotelo, PhD Architect, University Campus Planning & Design, as the beginning of a larger conversation starter:


    “Bridges between models”:

    In other words, the idea would be to explore and review how different cultures have generated different educational archetypes, and how those models have influenced other cultures.

    For example, the oxbridge qaudrangle to the American campus birth, or the American Campus to the European Universities in the XX Century

    Any such models and archetypes come to mind? Your thoughts?

    Cutting the Engine and Allowing Ourselves to Catch the Breeze

    February 27th, 2006

    The following was submitted by Robert Jackson, Jackson McElhaney Architects, the principal architect for the Warren Skarren Environmental Learning Center (seen above in the DesignShare Blog masthead):


    In the future nothing will be more important than environmental awareness and a basic understanding of ecology (the interconnected relationships between all living and non-living things). Read the rest of this entry »

    A Time Capsule of Reading

    February 27th, 2006

    Imagine a ‘time capsule’ sitting beside a conceptual dirt hole in the ground. Imagine standing there with a shovel in hand. Imagine a group of kids — ages from infant to nearly-graduating-from-high-school — standing on the other side of the hole, each looking at you with curious and hopeful eyes. And imagine a satchel over your shoulder holding precisely 5 books of your choice that you will put into the time capsule, and cover up by shovel and dirt not to be opened until the first day of school in 2026. Read the rest of this entry »

    Learning Environments

    February 27th, 2006

    This post was written by Dr. Wayne Jennings, Chair of the International Association for Learning Alternatives as a challenge to traditional view of the classroom image as the predominant vision for the future of educational facilities:


    The first thing people think about schools is classrooms.

    I suppose there should be a few classrooms or seminar rooms for group learning and discussion. However, classrooms convey an image of rows of desks with the teacher at the front of the room and group-paced instruction. While familiar, I hope that image fades from practice. Read the rest of this entry »

    We Versus Me In the Classroom

    February 27th, 2006

    This post was written by Roger Leeson, AIA, Architect, LS3P Associates, LTD in response to the “grave conflict between social learning and customizing the experience of learning to suit each and every individual taste and style.”


    The United States has embraced the principle of universal education in support of democracy.

    Our founders were the product of enlightenment values and most received an education in “the classics”. This tradition has continued for centuries. The now reviled, “sage on stage” provided a structure of common social experiences that reinforced common values. Education is a social action in this country. Read the rest of this entry »

    Design Awards 2006

    February 24th, 2006

    School planner/designer or just a lover of the built learning environment, especially the innovative ones that are taking on the added challenge of having an impact on learning and community development? This is for you!
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Putting Your Philosophical Poker Cards on the Table

    February 22nd, 2006

    “Men of integrity, by their very existence, rekindle the belief that as a people we can live above the level of moral squalor. We need that belief; a cynical community is a corrupt community.” — John Gardner


    “This I Believe…”:

    On NPR there is a segment each week called “This I Believe…” which grew out of Edward R. Murrow’s similar work in the ’50’s which sought “to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization.” Continuing in that tradition, Read the rest of this entry »

    “School Design Institute” Supports Gulf States

    February 20th, 2006

    Note: The following story came by an article-link from the good folks at Edutopia.


    Appreciate seeing Ron Bogle and the American Architectural Foundation (co-supporters of the “Great Schools By Design” summit that took place last fall) in the center of this critically important and still-unfolding story down in the Gulf States. No way to predict where things will go for these communities and their schools, but seems that any progress at this point is good progress:

    From “Design Experts Share Ideas On Rebuilding Destroyed Schools”, WLOX-Channel 13, Biloxi - Gulfport - Pascagoula:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Becoming a Design-Oriented Story-teller While Still Looking After the Community

    February 16th, 2006

    Ever run into Seth Godin?

    If not, a good place to start is his near-famous All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. On page 30, he offers the following short bit of advice in the “post-Golden Age of Marketing”:

    “There are only two things that separate success from failure in most organizations today:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Letters to a Young School Designer

    February 16th, 2006

    If you’re a school planner and/or designer, builder, or otherwise in the mix of creating new schools on a regular basis, this question is for you:

    If you could ask a young school-designer-to-be — think an 18-year old in his/her first semester of an undergraduate architecture studio course — what ONE SINGLE piece of advice would you give to them to help them understand the significant responsibility that lies ahead?

    If you’re a student, a parent, a school leader or teacher, a community member, or someone else who does not typically play a leading role in the design, planning, and/or building of new schools, this question is for you:

    Likewise, if you were speaking to the same young school-designer-to-be, what ONE SINGLE request would you make of them so that they could best serve your long-term needs, wishes, and dreams?


    Reference: Hopefully Rainer Maria Rilke and his Letters to a Young Poet will forgive my off-the-cuff reference in the title, although I do think there is an easy article concept for someone in this DesignShare community to write along the same spirit.

    Hint, hint; nudge, nudge.

    “We know a great deal about how people learn and about designing schools that enhance learning.” — Randy Fielding

    February 16th, 2006

    The point of blogging is reaction, response, collaboration, compromise. Not expertise…and certainly not the little bit of knowledge I have at this point i my life.

    Randy offered a healthy and spirited response to my “Knowing Nothing and Powerful Beyond Measure” post (2.14.06).

    (If I were a betting man, I’d wager the first crisp dollar bill on Randy’s response over my initial provocation. In its entirety, here is Randy’s response that deserves certainly more light of day than to be buried in the ‘comment’ section.)

    Agree or disagree with either of us, feel free to add your voice:

    “Wow Christian, you have responded with wonderful vigor to my nudge to follow Shakespeare’s advice to “Arm me with Audacity!” I disagree with a major point in your commentary, but love the spirit of it!

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Leaping Forward Beyond Best Practices

    February 16th, 2006

    As we begin to think not only about our seat at the table as this blog conversation begins, but the larger goals of producing great learning environments suited for the future, I am brought back to an early moment in Prakash and Randall’s The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools.

    Jeffrey Lackney offers the following in his introduction: Read the rest of this entry »

    “Down the Rabbit Hole”

    February 16th, 2006

    “… thought Alice, and she went on. “Would you tell me, please, which
    way I ought to go from here?”

    “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
    “I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
    “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
    “– so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
    “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

    — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


    For a split second, let us forget about blog provocations. Simply a question:

    In the above equation, where do we as school designers find ourselves:

    Standing in the footprint of Alice or sitting upon the limb of the Cheshire Cat?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Knowing Nothing and Being Powerful Beyond Measure

    February 14th, 2006

    “Knowledge about yourself binds, weighs, ties you down; there is no freedom to move, and you act and move within the limits of that knowledge.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti (b. 1895), Indian mystic. Krishnamurti’s Notebook, entry for Sept. 21, 1961, Harper & Row (1976)


    The school of the future is waiting for you. Actually, it is waiting for all of us. Practically waving us forward. A place where learning is central. And a ‘built environment’ that actually seems to have a role in that reality.

    That’s the good news.

    The bad news, however, is that none of us will know how to design it.


    Because standing at the edge of the 21st century, we really don’t know how to get there. Or what it’ll even be called. Or, ultimately, how to give it form.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    The Chicken and the Egg: A Re-Framing of Language

    February 13th, 2006

    “All grown-ups were first children, but few of them remember it.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery, written as an introduction to a friend in The Little Prince


    Welcome to the DesignShare blog!

    As we embark upon this collective journey of conversation via the newly formed DesignShare blog, we consider the possibility of “the chicken and the egg” paradox remaining forever part of our school design adventure.

    In other words, it is possible that the issue of learning environments being designed via the ‘efficiency’ vs ‘engagement’ question will forever ‘be’ the debate. Perhaps this tension is necessary. The sky and the ground, so to speak. It is possible that with our current language and experiences we may never tell which truly came first — the proverbial “school design chicken-and-the-egg” — and which will win out in the end. But perhaps there is something that is within our reach which can shift the way we set out to create lasting and meaningful learning environments.

    The key, then, lies in beginning to re-frame our language, the language specifically associated with schools and the design of learning environments of all shapes and varieties. Then and only then will we be in a position to reach more satisfying and dynamic solutions. And only then will we truly know that the environments we co-create truly support the learning process and the development of all students.

    This challenge is greater than the ability of any single designer or school leader. It is greater than a single architectural firm or school district. It is greater than innovative funders or dynamic school reform models alone. It is even ultimately greater than an unquestioned community success story.

    The challenge is great enough to need all of us. A collection of voices. A range of life experiences. A diverse body of expertise. A willingness to ask questions never before uttered…and allow them to lead us to epiphanies never before imagined. A realization that the conversation itself may be the ’solution’.

    This is our collective journey to discover the language that will support the future of school and learning environment design. It is the basis for the DesignShare blog conversation.

    We welcome your input, your ideas, your questions, your challenges, your experiences, your research, your campfire stories, and your companionship.


    The DesignShare blog team

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