This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Learning Environments for Tomorrow [LEFT] conference at Harvard. The program was a joint collaboration between the Graduate School of Education and the Graduate School of Design, and was well attended by a diverse and international group of K-12 school administrators, educators, and architects. The focus of the conference was the consideration of new and emerging pedagogies in K-12 education and the resulting implications for the built school environment to support these innovations in education.
The program consisted of a series of seminars and talks by industry leaders in K-12 programming, practical school design, and educational research, as well as a design charrette during which we got a chance to implement some of the concepts that were introduced through team-based collaboration.
The seminars presented a great opportunity to get some first-hand experience with and insights into project based learning, maker spaces, and sustainability curriculum (among other topics). One seminar threw us into a maker exercise where we designed and built a cardboard chair in about 15 minutes using a very limited set of tools and hardware. Another had us brainstorming projects for use in a project-based learning curriculum, using some inspirational project examples from High Tech High as precedents. As I typically approach these topics from an architectural design perspective, it was fascinating to get a better insight into these curriculums from an educational viewpoint.
The design charrette was an open-ended exercise that challenged teams to develop a theoretical client, program, and site – and then design a K-12 school that could support innovations in education for that particular client. I was impressed with the way that our team worked together seamlessly even though we hailed from various corners of the world including Illinois, Washington State, Australia, Germany, and Columbia. We discovered that current thinking in education such as project-based and maker-centric learning are universal around the country and the globe, making for some great collective thinking and design work.