To help teens transition their learning into the work world, many school districts have adopted externships. Central district facilities that offer focused instruction, specialized training, and community partnerships provide opportunities for students to explore interests with working professionals before making career choices. Looking ahead, a future-facing learning system will incorporate advanced digital technology to facilitate dialogue between students and professionals, parents, and teachers. This will help students relate what they learn offsite with what they learn inside their school environment, keeping continuity between ideas to enhance the learning experience.
These virtual interactions can take place along a spectrum of complexity. A simple video conference between students and their mentors, parents, and teachers – especially one led by the student herself – can facilitate a holistic conversation about learning inside and outside the school.1
Immersive environments, such as global learning portals, transport students across the globe to interact with experts or other students from entirely different countries. Many school groups have found it especially meaningful to have a semester-long interaction with students of a similar age in a different country. The in-depth relationships allow students on both sides of the interaction to learn that there are many ways to live and go to school. By sharing in-group projects with distant collaborators, students also learn key job skills that will benefit them in an increasingly global future.
In addition, students can put learning within their school facility to use in a community-facing section of the building that operates as a business, allowing them to serve community members as customers in a commercial or retail-like setting. This type of experience allows students to self-guide their learning, see the outcome of their choices as they interact with the community, build relationships, and create positive interactions between school and community.
When it comes to providing a school facility that meets these needs, the emphasis is often on adding digital technology. What students ask for, and what research supports, is also more spaces that reflect real-world settings in universities and workplaces that students will graduate into in a few short years. This goes beyond digital technology to include furniture, places for students to socialize and eat, and space in which to collaborate through hands-on materials or virtual settings.
As an educational planner, one of my roles is to challenge clients to think beyond the familiar toward the unlimited possibilities that are shaped by choice. It is also my duty to challenge peers to leverage research and evidence to design facilities that support this choice and educational freedom, whether that’s a school facility, a multi-use community asset, or an outdoor learning space that includes Wi-Fi. Equipping students with the tools and skills necessary to make informed decisions will help them become happier, healthier individuals, and support them as they identify their own unique path into lifelong learning. After all, the world is changing every day; we don’t know what the future holds. So we must prepare younger generations to be able to adjust and make wise choices to reach their desired outcome in life.
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(5), 72-79. Retrieved at https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/nov2015/emergent-curriculum
Gresham, F., Sugai, G., & Horner, R. (2001). Interpreting Outcomes of Social Skills Training for Students with High-Incidence Disabilities. Exceptional Children, 67
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Hymel, S., Low, A., Starosta, L., Gill, R., & Schonert-Reichl, K. (2018). Promoting Mental Well-Being Through Social-Emotional Learning in Schools: Examples from British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 36
(4), 1-11. Retrieved at https://www.cjcmh.com/doi/10.7870/cjcmh-2017-029
Morris, T., McGuire, M., & Walker, B. (2017). Integrating social studies and social skills for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities: A mixed methods study. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 41
(4), 253-262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jssr.2017.04.001
Peterson, O. W. P., Mau, B., & Orr, D. W. (2010). The Third Teacher. New York, NY.
Spence, S. (2003). Social skills training with children and young people: Theory, evidence and practice. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 8
(2), 84–96. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-3588.00051
U.S Department of Education, 36th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, 2014, p.289. (Retrieved at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/guiding-principles.pdf
This article was originally printed in the December 2018 edition of School Construction News