It could easily be argued that our schools are some of the most important architectural projects ever to be undertaken. Within their walls, we strive to educate and empower the future generations who will be responsible for the leadership of our country. So how can we design school buildings which will accommodate educational trends and meet the needs of teachers, students and the community as a whole?
According to a recent article in The Virginian-Pilot, the answer lies in design flexibility. Schools are meant to last for 50 to 100 years, but educational trends do not always match that timeline. So designers must create an environment that not only meets current expectations but that can conform to whatever the future holds as well.
Currently, the trend known as 21st century learning focuses on collaboration between teachers and students. Schools designed for such learning need to accommodate multiple classes in close proximity. To that end, many schools designed with 21st century learning in mind contain spacious rooms that can be split into several classrooms or opened up to make room for students to work in large groups. They also have open common areas where groups can gather without space restrictions.
These school designs are perfect for the most recent trends in education, but as in most fields, things can change rapidly. The mark of a good school design, then, is it’s ability to change with the times. To help accomplish this goal, it is becomming the norm to invite educators, students, community leaders, and even home owners who live near the school to come together to discuss design ideas. By widening the group of individuals working on the project, it is hoped that more ideas can be generated about meeting the school’s needs both current and future.
Whatever the ultimate design, however, flexibility remains essential. Nothing lasts forever, but a school built today should be able to stand the test of time and be a comfortable and functional place of learning no matter what educational trends might be waiting around the corner.
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