What is in this article?:
- 21st-Century Learning Q&A
- Freese and Nichols, Inc.
- HMFH Architects, Inc.
- Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood
- The Estopinal Group
- SHW Group LLP
- MKC Associates, Inc.
- Selser Schaefer Architects
- DLR Group
- Fred Quinn & Associates
- Rowland Design
- Bond Wolfe Architects
- College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha
- Dober Lidsky Mathey
- HHSDR Architects/Engineers
- Dougherty + Dougherty Architects LLP
- Earl Swensson
- TMP Architecture, Inc.
- Clark Nexsen Architecture & Engineering
- The Collaborative Inc.
- Perkins Eastman
Architects comment on the latest innovations in designing for future learning, as well as how design can support these trends.
HMFH Architects, Inc.
Laura Wernick, AIA, REFP, LEED AP, Senior Principal
What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?
Teaching in the 21st-century will reflect the latest research on how humans learn. We now know that students retain only about 5 percent of what they hear in a lecture format. They retain 60 to 80 percent of the information they encounter when they are actively involved with their own learning. This may include collaborative problem solving; multi-dimensional research projects; preparing for and teaching others; or hands-on, project-based learning.
"Too often, I will see a small group of students working together sitting on the floor outside of their classroom," says Concord, N.H., superintendent Christine Rath. "This is valuable work. Those students need small group meeting areas with Internet and multimedia access. They need project spaces … story-telling, presentation and performance space."
How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?
Although the term "learning commons" has become familiar parlance for college and university libraries as they evolve into community-wide resource centers with spaces for sharing, teaching, and working, K-12 libraries have been more resistant to change. However, some K-12 libraries have successfully incorporated an age-appropriate learning commons model that provides access to guided, project-based learning, in place of traditional libraries.
In Concord, N.H., HMFH has designed three new elementary schools, which will replace the majority of the city's aging schools with new buildings expected to serve the majority of the city's elementary population through the better part of the 21st century. Each of the three schools has a two-story classroom academic wing, but rather than the traditional rows of classrooms flanking a double-loaded corridor, the classrooms all open onto a 30-foot-wide, two-story-high learning commons.
What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods?
The learning commons in Concord, N.H.'s new elementary schools, scheduled to open in 2012, contains multiple project spaces, media/performance space that will seat students from two classrooms, and a storytelling area, as well as bookshelves, display areas and storage cabinets. There is also space for reading and other support specialists in the learning commons, as well as a small, enclosed traditional library space that contains several hundred books and can seat one class. Wireless technology will be available throughout. The learning commons has enough space for multiple classes to participate in a special activity, for a small group to undertake a research project, or for a single student to find a quiet spot for reading. Because every classroom opens onto the learning commons and also has a window opening onto the commons, direct supervision will be achievable from the classroom.
Any other thoughts on designing for 21st-century schools?
Innovative spaces like the learning commons are possible even in schools that must adhere to state-regulated space allocations and highly constrained budgets: in Concord, N.H., library space required by the department of education is distributed throughout the Learning Commons, and the faculty also agreed to a plan for slightly smaller classroom space in exchange for the readily available breakout alternatives that the plan provided. In this way, this creative approach to educational space programming was put into place without adding any additional gross area to the schools.