Saturday, November 23, 2013

Buildings That Teach

By Phil Mevert

This design thesis project proposes a deeper look into learning environments in elementary education and what can be done to create an environment that children will want to go to and learn, as well as an environment that will inspire great teaching in the future.
What can be done with the current configurations of the classrooms that will allow for a better learning environment? How can the advancements in technology and building materials be used together to create fun yet orderly learning environments? Are there any significant psychological effects of building materials, exterior views and natural lighting that have an effect on learning ability? How can an open free learning environment be created while also providing a safe and secure environment?
By researching various material effects on human behavior as well as colors and space sizes, the learning environment can start to become a welcoming space for learning and teaching. Controlling the amount and intensity of natural light into learning and activity spaces can allow for better mood, resulting in better attention and academic performance.
The layout of the building will be very important in the effort to keep a safe and secure environment. Along with creating a safe feeling, the proper selection of materials and controlling of daylight can better mood and behavior of the students and should increase the desire to teach which can then boost the student’s desire to learn.

The way children learn is beginning to change with the advancements in technology and teaching methods.  Many objects and situations can have an effect on student’s learning abilities.  Everything with a building from wall and floor color to the material selected for the building will affect the learning environment and how the students are learning and teachers are teaching.  Feeling safe while at school also has an effect on the learning environment.  Feeling safe from possible outside threats as well as from bullies at school is a very crucial aspect of the learning environment.
The layout of the classroom is also in a state of change. The traditional classroom with rows of desk facing the front of the classroom where the teacher stands and lectures is being replaced with more interactive spaces. [1]  With the interactive spaces, students are able to work together in groups and with a more hands on approach. By eliminating the rows of desk it is less likely for a student to get lost in the back of the classroom.  With a major problem in school being bullying, it is necessary to consider ways to design the building to reduce bullying behavior.
By utilizing different building materials and colors within the building and classrooms, can it affect the moods of those occupying the building?  By designing a building without blind spots for kids to hide behind the bullying should be reduced, creating an environment that will feel more welcoming to all the students. With the effected moods and the feeling of being safe in spaces designed to allow students to learn freely, will create a learning environment that will help teach the students.

The research will look at the correlation of the built environment and its effects on the learning environment. Changes in the way children are learning and teachers are teaching and how the learning environment is changing spatially because of the new teaching methods. Sitting in on various classrooms and watching how the students and teachers are interacting first hand will be beneficial to understanding what the needs of the learning spaces are and what can begin to be done differently. Interviewing teachers of different grade levels will on what they would like to see in a classroom to assist them in educating the students. The research will include an in depth look at previous solutions to education and capture the relevant information from those case studies.  Crow Island Elementary near Chicago showed that even going back as far as 50 plus years will be necessary to fully understand the importance of school design.

[1] Anne P. Taylor. “Buildings That Teach: Design and Learning Go Hand in Hand.”    

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