What does a school look like? For most of us, the image that first comes to mind is very much like the school our parents went to. The blackboard may have been replaced by a Smartboard; there may be new elements like computer tablets in the classrooms, but the basic structure is the same. Chances are that you, like me, most easily envision a blocky building with strings of square single classrooms, an office, a gym, a library, a playground.
Is this what a school has to be? Not anymore. Architects have understood for decades that form dictates function. While creative educators do find ways to work around the limitations of a traditional building, it’s also true that new approaches to teaching and learning can be either fostered or hindered by the building where they take place. As Zoe Branigan-Pipe points out in her Viewpoint column (p. 10), it’s high time our learning spaces were designed for the activities we want to take place in them.
The examples showcased in this issue are truly inspiring in their exploration of possibility. From Zoe’s demonstration classroom in Hamilton, Ont., to the multi-room, multi-age Kindergarten at St. Gregory’s Catholic School in Hinton, Alta., to the Ottawa Catholic board’s brand-new schools, educators across the country are re-imagining what a school can be. All three of these examples have been recognized by the CEA for their transformative potential, while in Building Capacity (p. 14), Stephen Hurley takes us inside Canadian schools designed by the architectural firm Fielding Nair to see how these spaces enable a more creative and collaborative approach. In all of these examples, the design followed from the pedagogical goals and learning vision of the school community.
Exciting as these new buildings are, they are not where most students and teachers spend their days, and so we would like to invite you to read, and contribute to, our blog series supporting this issue. In it we ask: How can we re-imagine, reconfigure and reorganize our traditional schools (and school grounds) so that they work better for today’s teaching and learning activities? We look forward to reading about, and seeing photos of, your creative solutions!
Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, September 2016
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