PreK-12 Think Thank Explores Future of Educational Environments
How can educators and facility designers join forces to build change for schools’ ultimate beneficiary: the student?
It was with this question in mind that educational visionaries gathered at Legat Architects’ PreK-12 Think Tank yesterday afternoon. DIRTT’s penthouse Green Learning Center overlooking the Chicago River set the tone as participants discussed the future of educational environments.
Speakers including educators, architects, and interior designers shared their observations about what’s in store for tomorrow’s schools. There was a great deal of vibrant discussion and debate. High school teachers and tech specialists in rolling desks sat beside architects and engineers in bean bag chairs and talked about how to get parents and community members more involved in school settings.
Professors, elementary school teachers, buildings and grounds personnel, construction professionals, and interior designers sat at high-top tables and debated the influence of curriculum on settings and vice versa.
The conference focused on three themes that impact the future of education: adaptability, sustainability, and diversity. The following speakers delivered PechaKucha style presentations:
- Dr. David Moyer (Superintendent, Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205) revealed lessons learned from his experience leading the community-inspired new Hamilton Elementary School with student achievement at its core.
- Patrick Brosnan (President/CEO, Legat Architects) discussed how educators and architects can work together to create opportunities for leadership and a “culture of continuous change.”
- Betsy Maddox (Educational Specialist, DIRTT) introduced some of the construction stresses that schools face and how customized prefabricated interior environments can be easily reconfigured to adapt to teaching needs, curricular changes, and evolving technology.
- Vuk Vujovic (Director of Sustainable Design, Legat Architects) shared some of the ways that schools are pushing the envelope with cost-effective strategies that promote energy efficiency, environmental respect, and even healthy eating.
- Andrea Cooper’s (Sustainability Consultant, WMA Engineering) summary of the seven Petals of the Living Building Challenge covered everything from bridging the gap between humans and nature to reducing the environmental impact of building materials.
- Monique Taylor (Interior Designer, Legat Architects) navigated some of the obstacles that educational designers face when it comes to choosing the healthiest possible materials and furnishings.
- Melissa Ward (Early Childhood Coordinator, Community Consolidated School District 59) offered tips based on her experience with CCSD 59’s new Early Learning Center, which brings together the district’s youngest students in a place that encourages collaboration and problem-solving.
- Lauren Peterson (Project Associate, Legat Architects) analyzed the nine Learning Styles and how schools can literally and figuratively “take down the walls” to create environments that respect each style.
- Dina Sorensen (Design Research Associate, VMDO Architects) wrapped up the evening with an inspiring presentation that encouraged everyone to “search beyond the edges of architecture” and aim for “that fragile moment when a child opts into a space.”
After each session, participants broke into smaller groups to discuss the implications of the content and present questions and thoughts.
The evening finished with all the Think Tank participants judging a design competition that challenged architects to envision an “Educational Environmental Element” for the new CCSD 59 Early Learning Center. The element had to be interactive and teach three- to five-year-olds about environmental responsibility. The winning entry will be built and presented to the district.
Thanks to all who participated in this event. You can view event photos here.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be blogging about some of the lessons that the Think Tank unveiled.