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Learning Spaces That Inspire

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    • Learning Spaces That Inspire

      By using space differently, schools can create environments that are more inspiring, collaborative, and student-centered.

      Many of today’s young people will enter workplaces totally different from the work environments of the recent past. It’s hard to imagine the full extent of the changes in store, but we can imagine that the workplace of the future will be more mobile and virtual and will make use of a much wider range of spaces.

      How can school facilities be designed or redesigned so that students aren’t locked into an outdated paradigm? If a complete architectural overhaul is not realistic, are there less expensive ways to make existing spaces more inspiring, collaborative, and student-centered? Can outdoor spaces, corporate or commercial facilities, universities, museums, and community centers be part of the learning experience?

      Some of the most innovative uses of space connect deeply with a school’s mission or theme. Students at New Harmony High in New Orleans, for example, spend at least one day per week outdoors doing “leave to learn” environmental research or community projects that connect with the school’s focus on environmental issues like sustainability and coastal restoration.

      At Tiger Ventures, in Endicott, New York, the theme is entrepreneurship—so it makes perfect sense that students spend part of each week working with local business startups in the school’s co-located incubator space, created within an existing school building.

      Similarly, Grand Rapids Public Museum School, in Michigan, is co-located with the Grand Rapids Public Museum and museum archives, whose collection of 250,000 cultural and historical artifacts is a rich learning resource for students.

      Crosstown High in Memphis shares space with dozens of businesses, nonprofits, health facilities, and civic groups in the Crosstown Concourse—a 1.2 million square foot “vertical urban village” in a redeveloped Sears distribution center.

      Schools can prepare students to navigate real-world environments by thinking more creatively about their own use of space, whether that means allowing students to spend class time outside the school building or retrofitting existing facilities to foster a different kind of learning.




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