Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Students Can Have a Voice in School Design

In a program run by the American Architecture Foundation, architects and educators interpreted design ideas submitted by students across the U.S. to help rethink school designs for the 21st century.

When thinking about what schools should be like the voice of students should be part of the mix. Ron Bogle (left), president and CEO of the American Architectural Foundation (AAF), says “In the history of our nation, there has never been any serious research into what kids themselves say they really want in their schools.”

Last year’s “Redesign Your School” competition sponsored by the AAF and Target, gathered ideas from students on what schools should be like. Five thousand students registered for the competition, and 250 entries were completed. According to Bogle, many of the students were not sophisticated in the way that they expressed their ideas graphically but the written essays they submitted were rich in ideas. Schools need to include design education in the curriculum so students develop the ability to learn, think and communicate more effectively with images, objects and spaces (right).

Some themes that were not inherent in the entry materials students were given showed up in the students' ideas. These ideas included connection to the outdoors; safety and security; the shape of a learning unit; feelings and emotions. Students want their school’s spaces to be connected to the outdoors and the community. They want them to be refuges of emotional safety and security. They’d like alternative kinds of learning spaces that take advantage of multimedia offerings and accommodate many different learning styles. And, they want their schools to provide fun places for relaxation and socializing.

Last September the AAF convened a gathering of architects, architecture students, and educators. The groups worked for 24 hours to conceptualize new kinds of environments for schools. Click on the heading above to see some of the ideas they came up with.

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