A quote that has stayed with me over the past few weeks, comes from Stephen Heppell, speaking at the Core Ed MLE expo, that I have blogged about previously. His words have been resonating with me and I have been doing some serious thinking!!
On the subject of school design, Stephen said, "No detail is too small. School design is ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS." On his website, Stephen has some extensive information about school toilets - an area that is often an afterthought in school design, but can actually have a definite impact on teaching and learning. Not afraid to discuss the problems of the loo, check out Stephen's research and thoughts here.
I've also been thinking about two other areas of school design that I think we need to jump on as important details that could really make differences. The first is parking lots, student drop offs and traffic safety. There must be ways that teachers car parks could be closer to the classrooms. I see teachers every day lugging huge boxes of books and gear back and forward. It's also a fact that despite our best efforts, many parents still want to drive their kids to school. How can we organise this is a safe way? I taught elementary school in the US, where we had drop off lanes at the front of the school. This worked quite well and I saw something similar at Hingaia Peninsula School. So much easier and safer.
The second is staffroom design. The teaching profession is probably one of the few where everyone in the building needs to make a cup of tea at the same time each day. We've all been caught out at the end of the long line, or constant "Excuse me's" as people endeavour to get their lunch before racing out to a sport's practice or duty. Even new staffrooms I have visited still have this problem. Again, there must be creative solutions to manage the flow of people through the area in a short time.
So that's my challenge to school designers - think about the details! Research shows that when teachers are feeling valued and their environment is positive, this in turn has a direct effect on their interactions with that environment and their perceptions. (Gifford, 2002. Woolner et al, 2007) A closer car park and a hot drink aren't too much to ask!
It would also be great to see local agencies that support traffic safety, often run by the local council, involved in the planning and design of student drop off and parking areas. The police would also have expertise in this area. Rather than trying to implement safety plans later - let's get it right the first time.
Wonderings: How do we get multiple agencies working together? How can schools participate in the design process to ensure small details don't get overlooked?
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.