If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Build a Really Cool Eco-Friendly School

This blog is called "Build a School" so it seems appropriate that I should talk a little bit about what the buildings themselves would be like. A school is, first and foremost, a place; and the characteristics of that place greatly affect what goes on inside it. Every teacher knows instinctively how the classroom interacts with the lessons that take place there. Is it big or small, light or dark, stark or well decorated? We feel all those things, even when we're not thinking about them directly.

In starting a new school, it will be necessary to create--or at least to choose--the building(s) and grounds for the school. Let's allow ourselves, then, as we do for other aspects of this blog, to fantasize about what we would do if there were no limitations. If you had the resources of a school like Sidwell Friends here in DC, you might build something like this for example. I certainly would.

Sidwell has created an amazing opportunity for their students. The building itself is a part of their education, not just a place where school happens. My old elementary school (my sister teachers fifth grade there these days) has solar panels on the roof; not quite enough for a platinum rating, but still a good example for students of environmental stewardship. I find it heartening that schools like these exist, and hope that more and more schools will find opportunities, even if only on a smaller scale, to be a tangible model of the things we want our students to be.

Play architect: what would your ideal school building look like?


Eric B said...

I'm going to take this opportunity to respectfully disagree with you here, Jeff. At least in part. In this entry you commented that a school is above all a place. But I would argue that if we have a teacher and a student, then we have a school, no matter what their environment may be. Yes, the physical space can, and does, greatly affect what kind of learning takes place. But since you are focussing on skills learned and how we teach, I would suggest that learning to think is about as important a skill as we can teach. And, even though, so far, it is just us teachers on this blog, we are putting forth ideas and thinking about them. That makes this blog a school of sorts. Not exactly what we are talking about, but I wanted just to make that point. Enough disagreeement. Now, on to agreeing with you.

The space is very important. A green school is a great idea. I'll you run with that one. I want to talk about atmosphere. There is an elementary school here in Casablanca that I think is the coolest school I have ever seen. The building is not a square box with small windows. In fact, there are no straight walls at all that I can see from the street. It is brightly painted in lots of cheery colors. It just looks like a fun place to go to school. Not all schools should look like that, but I think school buildings should be places that spark the interest of the students and make them want to be there and be engaged. The actual form will vary depending on the type of school it is. But in general I would vote for open and airy, lots of light.

Jeff said...

It may or may not show, but the space on this blog has been carefully designed, too, with many of the same goals as the solid space of a school: being an appealing place to come and learn, an open place for conversation, and a blank canvas for new ideas. While we may be able to expand our vision of what school space looks like, the characteristics of that space (new or old) have some interaction with the learning that goes on there. The goal is to make it a positive one.