By Tony Sjolander, Director of Project Planning and Development, Kraus-Anderson
A national leader in K-12 school construction, Kraus-Anderson has constructed over $1 billion in school facilities over the past five years and is ranked sixth in the nation by Building Design + Construction. KA works closely with school districts early in their facility planning to provide and evaluate options, address questions and to provide knowledgeable pre-referendum information.
So what’s your why? School districts often respond to this strategic question with something such as “To educate and prepare children to succeed now and in a post-secondary world that is changing faster than any time in history.”
For most districts, the vision, mission and strategic goals set by the board of education and administration set the direction for how education is currently delivered or will be delivered in the future. How this looks in your district reflects the unique ideals of your district. Often it looks very different in adjacent districts. The difference between how this looks now and how your district would like it to look in the future is impacted by the physical space in which students learn during their school day.
Three Common Threads
When considering the impact of facilities on a district’s ability to deliver education, three common threads are typically considered that include educational adequacy, building condition and building capacity.
Educational adequacy concerns the impact of the learning space on educators’ ability to provide an adequate learning experience for students. Metrics of educational adequacy are tied to the concepts of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which includes critical, creative and innovative thinking skills in which students use six key cognitive processes:
Collaboration is Key
Another metric of educational adequacy is collaboration and teamwork, between and among students and staff; which is closely related to the goal of social and emotional learning.
Shifting pedagogy and program expansion also affect our concept of educational adequacy. As KA works with school districts across the U.S., we are seeing a huge rise in interest in project-based learning (PBL), or learning by doing; in which students apply fundamental principles and knowledge to create solutions. Traditional lecture-style classrooms are making way for makerspaces, hackerspaces, and fablabs, creative lab spaces with tools for exploration, experimentation, building and collaboration. More on makerspaces here and here.
Learning spaces today are being designed for flexibility, adaptability, and reconfiguration to accommodate small to large groups and multiple learning and teaching approaches. The increasing emphasis on accommodating enhanced programming and unknown future needs is reflected in the movable walls, furniture on wheels, mobile computing devices, learning lounges and corridors as classrooms.
STEM/STEAM – is another influence driving our understanding of educational adequacy, integrating the learning and teaching of Science; incorporation of Technology; principals of Engineering; leveraging of Arts and application of Mathematics. More on STEM/STEAM
These sorts of pedagogical changes are reflected in the makeup of modern school environments, including:
Academies, small learning communities (SLCs ) and magnet schools with a subject-specific focus that enables learners to focus on personal interests in preparation for post-secondary education and career.
Flipped Classrooms- in which traditional lecture/homework formats are reversed so that students view video lectures outside of class time, and use class time for discussion or project work.
A micro-school is a concept that is being used to convert large public schools using a school-within-a-school strategy.
Educational space that reflects work space in business and industry
Digital learning –in which learners are able to engage with technology regardless of their location inside or outside of their school building. Traditional computer labs have given way to a decentralized approach through cloud-based learning resources.
Special education– Meet the unique requirements of individuals with physical, developmental and mental disabilities.
Community space- Commons areas, auditoriums, athletic facilities and other amenities designed for use by the whole community rather than just PK-12.
Next week: A look at building condition and building capacity as drivers of school construction and school referendum efforts.