Learning Space Activation
Design is a process and partnership comprised of District stakeholders, administrators, students, planners, architects, engineers and community members alike. It can take months or even years to complete the design process and develop a solution that supports the academic vision of an educational facility.
After a school is designed, constructed and prepared for occupancy, DLR Group designers and District partners carefully document the intricacies of the building’s infrastructure. Together, we review details from valves to geo-thermal systems, what kind of cabling and where it is deployed throughout the building, and so on. Thousands of pages of manuals and instructional guides on every part of the building ensure that the District’s facilities team is ready to run this complex ecosystem.
But do we approach the learning ecosystem with the same vigor? It, much like the supporting functional systems, breathe life into learning. New learning environments, especially spaces that are programmed for informal learning, impact the way teachers build relationships with their students. A few examples are breakout spaces located along a corridor or small soft seating areas spread throughout the building. These nooks encourage the spontaneous interaction that is often just as powerful and relevant as an orchestrated project in a traditional classroom. How do we ensure educators fully understand the value and benefit here?
Our contention is that educational spaces should receive the same attention as the building’s infrastructure. To achieve this goal, we initiated the Learning Space Activation (LSA) process. LSA was conceived to go further than an instruction manual that is handed off during the closeout process; it brings to life the spatial opportunities planned within and functions as an ongoing development tool between curriculum, pedagogy and environment. It is just one component of a professional development strategy designed to ensure future success for students and teachers.
We develop each LSA process to suit the unique needs of the project. For example, in Jordan Minn., we are leading a series of workshops and demonstrations to illustrate how the completely renovated and redesigned Middle School supports the District’s academic vision. In partnership with District staff, this LSA process captures the essence of early design decisions and maximizes the effectiveness of both staff and learning environments.
As designers, we develop and invent spaces in response to our clients’ vision. These spaces become the learning laboratories for teachers and students to use together. Learning Space Activation is one means by which we can ensure that the intricacies of spaces we design - how they can be modified, molded and tweaked - are transferred into action so they are used to the greatest potential for all learners.