The world of education is changing more quickly than ever before. And it's important that we, as architects and designers, pay attention. The two key developments that are effectively changing the traditional design of K-12 schools are the evolution of educational approaches, and as you might imagine in today’s world, security. Here’s how architecture can help facilitate these changes…
New Kinds of Spaces
Today, what used to be individual classrooms, may see walls removed to create large spaces with several wall-less suites available to several teachers and/or classes.
These spaces have become so common, in fact, that they have their own name: makerspaces. These repurposed spaces aim to support instruction as well as computer work, media and other undertakings. In short, K12 spaces are no longer designed to support one activity.
Improving Safety and Security
Unfortunately, today’s students must grapple with concerns of bullying, fights, risks of school shootings, natural disasters, and mental health. And while we hate to be pessimistic, we don't see any of those risks disappearing any time soon. But that doesn't mean nothing can be done! There are plenty of creative and innovative ways to make learning spaces more open and inclusive while maintaining a high level of security. Below are three design concepts that can improve K12 safety and security:
1. Streamlining Entrances
A critical design element in school safety is addressing the building entry. By funneling visitors to a single point of entry and creating a vestibule within that entry where they can be greeted and identified, the school can better control access and safety.
2. Open Designs with Clear Lines of Sight
Bullying is by far the most prevalent safety concern in schools, and the majority of bullying happens not in classrooms, but in corridors or enclosed places where teacher supervision is a challenge. By providing clear sight lines and eliminating areas that could become hiding places, teachers and staff can easily observe students and recognize if something is out of the ordinary.
3. Wider Corridors and Stairs
The creation of wider corridors and stairs offers students a maximum amount of space to circulate, in turn reducing the likelihood of conflict. For example, one student brushing up against another while passing by could be avoided if enough space is provided – and while that infraction may seem minimal, it can be all that’s needed to precipitate a conflict.
Rethinking K12 Schools
Creating a space that can catalyze school transformation is not a one-size-fits-all solution; each school has its own goals and challenges that it must design for. However, the common refrain of a more “personalized,” healthy, and safe future for students helps us think about the broad needs of learners, and the specific spatial qualities that support that mindset shift.
Innovative school design isn’t simply about taking away walls, making spaces moveable, or clearing lines of sight. Those are simply a means to an end. The ultimate goal is to create a variety of spaces that cater to specific learning needs, and providing a safe and healthy environment where kids feel valued. It’s about investing in healthy, environmentally-conscious schools that will inspire the future generation. School buildings and classroom spaces play a major role in the transition to the future of learning, and that's a future we're excited about!