Pattern 1.0: Create Mission Centered Facility Planning Design As a result of school choice, designers shall be challenged to develop individualized renovation, adaptive reuse, and new construction plans that support a particular school’s distinctive mission rather than producing identical, prototypical school designs. All schools have something unique about them, and the architecture should showcase this distinctiveness. In thematically focused schools, the signature element may be more easily defined because it can be associated with a school’s theme like art, technology or environmental science. If, however, a school’s approach to teaching is considered a “magnet”, for example, discipline, rigor, “college first”, this too can become a signature element of the building. Writing on the walls can graphically communicate this uniqueness. School choice will lead schools to develop their unique scope and mission and create distinctively different spaces and designs that showcase this emphasis.
Pattern 1.1: Provide Different Informal and Formal Learning Settings Create learning environments that differ in size, scale, configuration, material quality, and activity type (open learning studios, outdoor classrooms, breakout spaces, project rooms, and flexible-use areas) to provide a variety of multi-purpose spatial settings in which to learn. Replace inflexible classrooms with “learning studios.” Design spaces to enable a range of activities from quiet, reflective personal study to large, hands-on, collaborative projects. Provide flexible, easily accessible breakout areas where social interaction, incidental learning, and informal opportunities to discuss, display, and celebrate student work are encouraged.
Pattern 1.2: Create Active “Learning Streets” Where possible and appropriate, replace corridors with “learning streets” to provide wide, spacious areas, where social interaction and incidental learning are encouraged. Design the learning street as the social artery of the school with differing things happening on either side to make it worthwhile to stop along the way. Provide nooks and alcoves as simple niches for seating, a window seat for quiet reading, and actual activities like a café, school store, display space, or media center. The learning street is a place for informal meetings, spontaneous conversation and unhurried movement, providing opportunities and incentives for students to converse and meander.
Pattern 1.3: Understand and Celebrate a Variety of Learning Style Settings Provide for multiple learning modalities. Realizing that all human beings possess multiple intelligences, we must create spaces that foster linguistic (words), logical (numbers), musical, bodily, spatial, and naturalistic learning styles. Provide for learning intelligences that are both interpersonal (social) and intrapersonal (self). Provide spaces that enable team teaching, mentoring, peer tutoring and peer instruction. Deliver education using a variety of methods and means.
Pattern 1.4: Support Personalization and Differentiation of Learning “One Student at a Time” Provide for individual learning levels by identifying where each student is personally and academically and reaching out to them where they are. Personalized learning environments offer the opportunity for all students to be known well, encouraged academically, and drawn into the learning process. Create a differentiated classroom facility, tailored to small-group, one-on-one, and individual forms of learning. Provide for teacher-focused and student-centered activities. Provide space and incentives for peer tutoring, adult mentoring, and community apprenticeships.
Pattern 1.5: Enable Project-Based Learning and Real-Life Experiences Provide opportunities for learning-by-doing coupled with real-life experiences. Education needs to be connected to real-life applications as opposed to the traditional mastery of discrete subject areas. Integrated, project-based learning supports cooperation and sharing of ideas that will enable students to develop critical thinking skills, process material better, and use the strengths of a group to increase the amount of information absorbed and decrease the time it takes to learn a lesson. Educational facilities should provide project rooms or labs for hands-on activities and exhibition spaces for the display of work.
Pattern 1.6: Leverage Technology and Multi-media Teaching and Learning Enhance learning, enrich education, and increase communication between teachers, students, and parents by integrating technology into the school. Create classrooms with wireless laptop use, interactive whiteboards, video conferencing, audio/visual and projection equipment, and other tools that have the potential to transform learning. Integrate technology to bridge the equity gap for students who do not have access to technology at home, and build local, national, and global connections to expose students to people and opportunities they may miss by virtue of their cultural isolation.
Pattern 1.7: Provide Teacher Support Spaces that Promote Collaboration Consider the design and location of teacher spaces to both support the classroom in their adjacency, and to promote shared dialogue with teachers. Teacher workstations and teacher’s lounges or break spaces should be strategically located to provide opportunities to rest and recoup and to share and inspire.
Pattern 1.8: Offer Incentives to Hire and Retain the Best Teachers Provide non-compensatory benefits such as luncheons, gift certificates, more personal, sick or vacation days, awards, and end of the year parties to retain the best teachers. Consider the option to teach and work in the field, providing “sabbatical” breaks for teachers.
Pattern 1.9: Consider “More Time on Task” and 24/7 Use of Building Consider longer teaching and learning days, more days in school, and just more time on task, as well as after school programs, mentoring and tutoring (peer and professional) to add more content to education. Many charter schools create extended time schools as one way to help close the education gap. Use of the school building 24/7 is also a more efficient use of building. When school is not in session, the building may be used to serve the community, providing after school tutoring, job skill training, or a place to use for recreation or socialization. Consider how the building is organized spatially, the location and number access points, and the quality of a secured yet open environment to accommodate differing users in the building for longer periods of time.
Pattern 1.10: Provide Synergy Between Life Skills and Academic Curriculum Place importance on building character by providing a non-academic life skills curriculum. “Teaching” students how to deal with and resolve conflicts in their life allows students to “practice” virtues and perfect them while their essential natures are still developing. This begins to address the problem of conflicts interfering with a student’s ability to get the most out of school. It is also vitally important in building better citizens.
Pattern 1.11 Foster Interdisciplinary Blurred Boundaries in Specialty Classrooms Foster an interdisciplinary instructional approach especially in the specialty classrooms. The areas of science, art, and shop should become more integrated as the disciplinary boundaries between them come closer together. Consider a modern-day studio as a classroom, a place with lots of daylight and directed artificial light, connection to the outdoors through wide doors, access to water, power supplied from a floor or ceiling grid, a wireless computer network, lots of storage, a floor finish that is hard to damage, high ceilings, places to display finished projects, reasonable acoustic separation, and transparency to the inside and outside. Places need to be provided for teachers and students to collaborate more, to work on real projects, and to encourage cross-disciplinary thinking.
Pattern 1.12: Create Varied Classroom Size and Type As a way to optimize class size, curricular content, and student/teacher ratio, create varied classroom sizes and types to allow choice in curricular settings and teaching and learning style preferences. Research shows that a variety of classroom size and type is more important to consider in design than making smaller classes (20 students or less in a classroom). Reconfigured classroom with irregular shaped classrooms with differing learning areas accommodate differing learning styles, activities, and tasks. Design the building as a “living” space for maximum choice, flexibility, and change, so that a mix of learning areas, individual, team, small-group, large-group, and project-based, can be adjusted easily as needs vary.
Pattern 1.13 Provide for Differing Activity Areas within Classroom Spaces Differentiating classroom space provides dimension and depth to students’ experiences. This model is optimal for project based learning and illustrates an ongoing, reciprocal relationship in learning processes existing between teachers, learners, and the environment surrounding them. Carefully consider the spatial configuration (often an irregular shape) of the classroom to engender settings of differing form and feel to be construed.
Pattern 1.14 Allow for Mainstream of Special Education Since the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997, students with disabilities are required to be taught alongside their non-disabled peers in the “least restrictive environment possible. The physically and socially isolated “special education” classroom design and organization of traditional schools is unacceptable. Special-needs classrooms and services shall be intermingled with general instructional spaces in such a manner that students are socially, emotionally, and physically a part of the school as a whole. Charter schools have a higher percentage of special education students so this inclusion of special-needs students in all instructional activities is of utmost importance. Schools need to be designed, constructed and operated in ways that do not physically and socially isolate special-needs children from their peers and that provide the same means of use for all students, identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.
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