I don’t write often enough about the importance of architecture and the design of physical spaces for effective contemporary learning, but it is something I want to spend more time learning about and examining. Ira Socol is one resource; I find his thinking about elevating the importance of spatial design inspiring; another fine resource is the work being done at Stanford Design School about innovative learning spaces by Scott Witthoft, a D School scholar and, I am proud to say, a St. Gregory alumnus.
In the same spirit, there are exciting things in development around classroom furniture, ideas and inspiration I want to learn more about and share here in future posts.
The video above is primarily just an architectural firm’s self-promotion, and I don’t want to over-sell it here: In some ways it is old hat. “Open learning” environments were a signature element of many progressive schools in the ’70s.
Nonetheless, as I watch it a few fine elements stand out:
1. The respect the architect and the school administrators show for teacher voices, and the way they sought to include the faculty into planning these reinvented learning spaces, are excellent and admirable.
2. The balance of open space, much more open space than in any conventional classroom, with nooks, corners, and round tables for individual work and collaborative study, is great. There are a few chairs, but it seems that this environment allows for great mobility and activity, and honors students as doers.
3. My favorite element is the transparency: walls are replaced throughout with windows, and learning becomes open, public, visible. Classrooms become theaters for all to observe learning and indeed to learn from learning. Teachers become inevitably collaborators and co-creators because of their much enhanced understanding and appreciation of the work of their colleagues. Lovely.