I dream of a school building that is designed as thoughtfully as someone's dream home.
LIGHTING: Fluorescent lights would be replaced by soft lighting with dimmer switches and access to natural light in each classroom. The light bulbs themselves would be smart bulbs connected to an app, where the color of the bulb could be adjusted from a teacher's smartphone based on the mood being created or the task being tackled. The visual environment greatly impacts learning, mood, and can even influence creativity. Check out this chapter from Green Schools: Attributes in Health and Learning: https://www.nap.edu/read/11756/chapter/7#86
FLOORS: Hardwood floors or lovely laminate floors with actual rugs would replace the drab tiling or the commercial carpeting. Hardwood flooring in particular is great for indoor air quality and reduces symptoms that allergy sufferers often face. Hypoallergenic rugs can also be cleaned easily and provide comfort at the same time.
WALLS: The walls would be painted with magnetic paint, some walls would be painted with chalkboard paint and some with whiteboard paint to take advantage of all surfaces beyond desk spaces. Many windows covered with smart tint would be spread throughout the campus to allow for windows as an option, or any image to replace the window wall. Making use of walls to provide space for student work, information, and decorations stimulates students' interest.
PROJECTORS: Projectors would be installed in each classroom that could rotate and display on one or multiple walls to help serve as a backdrop to the lesson/topic being explored, or could display the morning message, the schedule for the day, etc. Perhaps the projectors would even project different art that would rotate based on a unit of exploration. A projector can transform the space into a new learning environment and create intrigue.
SOUND: Audio speakers would come with each space to allow for music/ambient sound if so desired. Music has been proven to improve concentration and calm anxious students. And playing music that fits the task often propels students to remember what they're learning.
INDOOR/OUTDOOR: Each classroom would be connected to an outdoor space to provide the ability to collaborate, play, and work indoors or outside! Fresh air is essential, vitamin D is needed, and providing another environment for students to relax, play, socialize, and create is crucial. Providing choice of where one wants to learn increases learning potential.
FURNITURE: The uncomfortable chairs and individual desks would be replaced by a variety of comfortable seating options, including balance balls, floor seating, and flexible tables that could be raised to standing tables or connected easily together to make a larger working surface. When one is uncomfortable, one can shut down and so stops the learning process. It is vital to feel comfortable when engaging in work and to provide options in the same space to move, to stand, to sit, to lie down, while learning.
PLANTS: Each classroom would have plants to take care of to provide students with a sense of responsibility while also naturally beautifying the space and purifying the air.
WORKOUT/HEALTH SPACES: Each school would be equipped with a yoga/dance studio, a spin room/activity room, a general workout space, a pool, and various areas to meditate and reflect. Outdoor tracks and fields would be included as well, in addition to basketball courts, volleyball, and more opportunities for sports development and activities. Physical and mental health are vital for learning to happen. Focus will increase and spirits will naturally be raised.
DIFFERENT WORK SPACES: Each work room would feel different and serve different kinds of tasks but would all have the flexibility to accommodate a variety of experiences. This allows teachers the opportunity to work in different spaces when they work on different projects. Shaking up the space would be beneficial for both teachers and students.
A MUSEUM GALLERY SPACE/THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE SPACE: A beautifully designed flexible performance space would be surrounded by a gallery space for students/families/teachers/staff to put their work on display in a variety of exhibits centered around various themes, projects, etc. By having a space that features final products and even works in process, there is an expectation that the space will be used and that works will be shared with an audience. This inspires higher quality work.
WATER/HEALTHY SNACKS: Water, a variety of fruit infused water, and healthy snacks would be available in each space for all to enjoy. Having access to healthy foods will only improve the health of all those in the school space, will feed those who are hungry to allow them to focus, and will nourish the soul. Water is essential to improve our brain function.
KITCHENS: Multiple kitchens and connected indoor and outdoor dining areas would allow opportunities for projects, meal creation and communal dining experiences.
KEEPING THINGS CLEAN: While a facilities staff is always invaluable, the general upkeep, vacuuming, and cleaning would be placed on the school community, providing students, families, teachers, and staff the opportunity to keep their home away from home clean and in good condition.
What else would you want to include in your dream school environment?