Published on May 20th, 2013 | by UC&D Magazine0
When it comes to educating 21st Century students, old-school teaching methods – along with traditional classroom functionality – are going the way of the Dodo bird. The three R’s of yesteryear – Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic – have given way to Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship, says a Jackson, a principal with Salt Lake-based VCBO Architecture.
“Kids are not the same as they used to be,” says Jackson. “Look at emerging technologies of the past decade. Young people today spend an average of six hours a day listening to music, surfing the web, texting, and watching TV. The world is more complex and it’s all happening rapidly.”
“Our goal is to have a building that is the least expensive to operate over its life cycle, which includes maintenance, custodial, energy, and any replacement costs to the structure itself,” —Gary Payne
Jackson says this technological revolution is dictating new approaches when it comes to designing schools. Sitting in a four-wall classroom at a desk with 30 other students and reading from text books doesn’t synch with kids who utilize laptop computers, smart phones, and tablets.
Architectural firms are responding to the challenge by designing schools with classrooms that emphasize collaboration and interaction. An example of this is a new elementary prototype designed by VCBO specifically for Davis County School District (DCSD).
The prototype offers more open space, with bright, bold colors and a fun environment.
“The question we ask is ‘How do we design schools to enhance (collaborative) learning?’” says Jackson. “No more egg carton classrooms with kids on a grid. You want to have the ability to move furniture in rooms to accommodate large and small learning environments; rooms that open up where students can work with other groups and do different activities.”
Endeavour Elementary in Kaysville, which opened in 2010, is an example of collaborative design. The schools main theme is on space, with different wings of classrooms named after different galaxies. Rooms are open and students learn in varying group sizes. The first year students had the highest test scores in math and science in the district, and the following year had the highest scores statewide in those subjects.
Jackson said the new prototype will have different wings and giant roll up doors in a central classroom that will offer great flexibility as learning environments evolve. A new type of furniture is also being designed, along with tables with whiteboards that fold up and roll out of the way.
In addition to different classroom layouts, school districts are keen on building schools that are highly sustainable and energy efficient. DCSD is having the new elementary prototype designed to LEED Gold standards, according to Gary Payne, DCSD Administrator of Facilities, Management and Planning.
“Our goal is to have a building that is the least expensive to operate over its life cycle, which includes maintenance, custodial, energy, and any replacement costs to the structure itself,” said Payne. “That to me is sustainable. LEED helps with the entire process. It can be a little expensive regarding the paperwork side, but most of our buildings would have qualified for LEED Certification. The reason we’re going for LEED this time is that the public wants to know. In the past 10 years we have reduced our energy consumption by 8% while adding a million square feet of space.”
“We aim for LEED but we’re also getting close to NetZero,” added Bryan Turner, Director of Architectural Services for DCSD. “LEED is a good program to get people to think that way. We’ve had that mind shift into how we design.”