Jan 29, 2020

How to Design Learning Spaces

It will come as no surprise that we are not effectively educating our K-12 students to be successful in post-secondary education and beyond. It is devastating to report that the first students to spend their entire elementary and secondary schooling engaged with Common Core are the worst prepared for college in 15 years†. The argument can and should be made that the reason students are not finding success beyond high school is that they are not prepared with the skills necessary to thrive in the world outside of school: Enterprise Skills. 

Enterprise skills have been identified and called many names: soft skills, transversal skills, career readiness skills, power skills, employability competencies, market value assets, and much more. These are skills that are transferrable across multiple industries, and across multiple “career stops” that the common graduate is likely to experience in the 21st century.

  Missouri Innovation Campus, Gould Evans, DLR Group, McCown Gordon Construction, Lee’s Summit MO  

Think of your day-to-day life as an adult in the workforce. Did you have to take a spelling test or did you have to carry yourself in a confident manner as you spoke in front of a group for a presentation? Schools have the unenviable task of meeting accreditation standards, mandated heavily by policy makers, state education officials, and union leaders. As a result, schools are caught up in priming students for academic standards, while disregarding mastery of the skills that employers are placing as top priority in their hiring and advancement efforts. 

Beginning in 2014, Gould Evans Architecture began compiling data from multiple research projects from the world of work — surveys of thousands of companies around the globe — scanning for similarities among the findings to create a comprehensive visual representation of what students need according to employers. This research is used to emphasize the importance of change and to influence minds of education stakeholders to design spaces that support success beyond increasing test scores. Imagine a world where all schools prioritize complex problem solving, creativity, grit, cognitive flexibility, and expert communications. That is the world Gould Evans envisions, and shares their work freely to support others to move forward, disrupt the status quo, and advance our outdated educational system.† 

But how do you design educational spaces that align with these competencies? First, we have to understand who we’re educating now and who is to come. Millennials have come and gone. We now have schools filled with Gen Z. A very different generation, they are pragmatic, social justice-minded, independent, entrepreneurial, and ready to put in the effort to gain success. True digital natives, these students (currently aged 9-22) were born during the digital revolution and new technology comes naturally to them. Children of Gen X, they are passionate about preserving the environment and self-motivated. 

   Michael Robinson Photography        Lawrence High School, Lawrence, KS   

Next on deck is Gen Alpha (aged not yet born-8). A lot of conjecture is necessary to describe a generation before they are even with us, but we do know that these people will be competing directly with Artificial Intelligence for jobs. Careers with anything considered rote, repetitive, or memorized will be passed along to a non-human workforce. What will be necessary to compete is creativity, strategy, and innovation.

Neuroscientist and A.I. expert, Dr. Vivienne Ming, argued in her keynote at the RethinkED conference, “If it’s something we have already done, we will be able to teach a robot how to do it in the next 30-40 years. But what robots cannot do is come up with something that has never been done before. That’s what we need to be teaching children to do.” Cultivating and cherishing that inventiveness we lose in childhood will be imperative for individuals to succeed in the future economy. 

To support the development of enterprise skills, learning spaces need to be intentionally designed to put students into the types of roles and experiences that naturally foster these skills. They need to look and operate more like the creative workplaces of today. They need to include meeting spaces for small groups, large groups, collaborative spaces, individual workspaces, and learning neighborhoods. They need to allow students to self-direct, work at variable paces, and experience authentic projects, presented to authentic audiences. They need to expose students to what work really looks like through experiential learning opportunities. They need to support the natural variabilities among learners where each student can flourish and bloom in their own strengths, just like employees do in a business. And they must offer choice and student agency, shifting away from one-directional learning, to fostering intrinsic motivation, curiosity, and creativity.

Our students today are vastly underprepared for the world beyond 12th grade†. By prioritizing enterprise skills, students stand a much higher likelihood of finding success in post-secondary education and the world of work, whether working for a company, or growing into successful entrepreneurs in the Gig Economy. It’s time to take a hard look at what today’s companies in the global economy are demanding of its workforce, and put a full-court press on designing the learning environments that will help students and educators keep these critical skills at the forefront of every day learning.

For more information on current research, case studies, and school design, please visit 
www.gouldevanseducation.com or contact laine.eichenalub@gouldevans.com 

David Reid, AIA
David leads design and research for Gould Evans’ national education practice. For each of the last five years, his work has been recognized with national accolades for design excellence and innovation. He routinely collaborates with educators, anthropologists, psychologists, and futurists to advance his work. In 2014, David co-founded STEAM Studio, an experimental learning lab in his office. In 2017 David co-authored UDL: Learning Spaces Idea Kit, and Unleashing Creative Genius: STEAM Studio’s Impact on Learning.
Laine Eichenlaub
Laine Eichenlaub is a State Licensed Educator, UDL Associate, CITI Certification, Google Certified Educator, Fine Art Certificate with a proclivity for visual arts and design. Teaching at public, private, and charter schools, talent agencies, and museums, she has an extensive background in many worlds of education. Her current role at Gould Evans as Education Liaison allows for further exploration and research into learning spaces and how to design classrooms of the future. Currently she teaches visual arts at the Nelson-Atkins Museum and is earning her MFA in Design Thinking while supporting the design studio and in-house education lab, STEAM Studio.
Marianne Melling
Marianne holds her masters of architecture degree from the University of Kansas, through which she developed methods of translating empirical data from community engagement to design concepts. Since that time she has continued her education through SEED certification (Social Economic Environmental Design). As part of Gould Evans National Education Studio, Marianne has utilized community engagement processes to understand the impact of various scales of user groups on the functioning of elementary schools.

EDspaces 2019 Breaks Attendance Records

Attendee registration at EDspaces 2019 in Milwaukee, WI, was up 16% over the prior year as school and college decision makers and influencers gathered to collaborate on building the best learning environments. Attendees dove deeply into current challenges as they worked to transform education giving all students the chance to succeed through a variety of educational offerings including plenary sessions, interactive classroom designs, and tours. 
A total of 168 exhibitors in 603 10′ x 10′ spaces with many of them donating thousands of pounds and a wide variety of classroom items. Donated goods were collected by representatives from the Brown Deer School District and distributed to schools in Milwaukee.

“For 24 years, EDspaces exhibitors have contributed truck-loads of innovative classroom to local communities. This year it will be one of the largest due to major growth in the past four years of the event. We’re looking forward to an even greater contribution in 2020, when we take EDspaces to Charlotte, North Carolina,” says Jim McGarry, EDmarket President and CEO.
Participating exhibitors donated items to ensure local schools are outfitted with brand new products including furniture, seating, desks, USB embedded furniture, and more, giving the donated product(s) from their booths, interactive classrooms, and displays at the conference’s conclusion. 

EDspaces classrooms serve as vehicles for experimentation, with sessions taking place in classrooms designed by top architects, designers, and space planners. This provides attendees first-hand experience of modern pedagogical approaches in planning, design, and products and are a unique extension of learning for participants. It is the only event featuring six innovative classroom designs, inspiring attendees and exemplifying the future of educational facilities. Each is developed to accommodate a wide variety of presentations, demonstrating learning areas for students of various ages, as well as a comfortable space for adult learners.

Other program elements included a pre-conference Learning Lab, STEM Innovation Tour on Tuesday that kicked off the event. The lab explored how school districts of diverse backgrounds promote STEM and STEAM learner-centered education in spaces where students experiment, make, hack, and learn as they transform ideas into products and solutions.

Visionary keynoter Tony Wagner, a globally-recognized voice in education and author of Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for The Innovation Era presented at the plenary session. He discussed why innovation is today’s most essential real-world skill, and one that can ensure this generation’s economic future.

Expeditionary learning occurred on three distinct tours, two focused on the K-12 environment and one showcasing higher education spaces, with educationally-rich site visits featuring sustainability, creative design, and innovative interiors. Local sites included the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences and the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex (KIRC), as well as Brown Deer Middle/High School, Franklin High School, and more. Every tour included an educational component in a variety of learning environments, and each qualifies for AIA LU/HSW credit.

Mark your calendars for EDspaces 2020: November 11-13 in Charlotte, NC.  www.ed-spaces.com
Adrienne Dayton
Adrienne is Vice President of Communications & Education at the Education Market Association (EDmarket). She is responsible for strategic planning for content creation and management for all EDmarket publications and education programs. Want to share your expertise with the community of thought leaders in the education space? Let's start a conversation.

How Buildings Teach Kindness

Neuroscience data shows that social emotional learning and relationship building is the core to healthy and happy learning for all generations. Research from the neurosciences has greatly improved our understanding of how architecture shapes behavior, how multisensory experiences create meaning essential for learning, and how architectural space and form express emotions that can enhance or impede social interaction. 

Connor Steinkamp Photography    Laraway School by Legat Architects

Educator and author Patricia Wolfe discusses how the brain encodes and stores information and why meaning is essential for social emotional learning. Because a building is multi-sensory in its perception, involving all of our senses over a temporal span through our movements within and around three-dimensional space, scholar and architect Harry Mallgrave describes architecture as an embodied experience in which we perceive, feel and sense. This experience engages neural mechanisms creating the embodied simulation of materials, forms, spatial relationships, sounds, smells, tactile qualities, scales, textures, patterns, and atmosphere that impact social emotional learning

Linking neuroscience and architecture, we will identify the precepts of social emotional learning in and explore how early learners and elderly interactions benefit both age groups promoting brain growth. Experiential learning and environmental education examples that have the potential to engage neural mechanisms to create architectural embodiment will be considered in ways to demonstrate how buildings can teach kindness. Essential to this social emotional learning is that we “feel” or project ourselves emotionally into the actions of other people and empathize with the forms of our built environment. 

District 59     Early Learning Center by Legat Architects

As architects, we observe that buildings can teach and be part of the curriculum inspiring learning across generations, that the environment can influence the way we feel, think, and learn
. So how do buildings teach kindness? What does kindness look like in architectural space?

The built environment embodies the connection between space, time, and pedagogy. We will present a consideration of five attributes of an architecture that teaches:

Implications of architecture and neuroscience for design include opportunities to create and evoke the following five topics:

1. Embodied Simulation 
Neuroscientific evidence supports the relationship between the motor system, the body, and the perception of space, objects, and the actions of others. Architecture of embodied simulation constitutes a basic characteristic or our brain and makes possible our rich and diversified experiences of space, objects, other individuals, and our capacity to empathize with them.

2. Multisensory Experiences
 Memory is what enables us to learn by experience and our starting point in understanding learning and memory is sensory perception. Everything in our memory begins as a sensory input from the environment. All sensory input arrives simultaneously! Perception is the meaning we attach to information as it is received through the senses. Architecture that engages multi-sensory experiences will be most embedded and therefore most remembered.

3. Spatial Ambiguity 
Perceptual richness can be produced by a continually changing sensory experience created in architecture. Spatial conditions in design with varying levels of ambiguity and tension create a neurological event open to multiple interpretations. Spaces that bleed into one another, forming a public and private overlap, or half-inside, half-outside interstitial space, are examples of spatial conditions that invite an ambiguity of relationships.  (Image 8)

4. Movement and Form
 The fact that architecture requires movement around and through combinations of form presents a very different experience of form than other arts as we do not perceive a building in static manner. Through eye-tracking devices, we learn that most people look at the same formal features of a building or street scene, often in the same sequence. Repeating lines in collinear, curvilinear, parallel and radial patterns in human-made designs benefit detection facilitated by tapping into the highly organized neuronal system.

5. Biophilia and Atmosphere 
The qualities that are embedded within a space and the sensorial qualities that a space emits are referred to as “atmosphere.” Atmospheric attributes in architectural design, such as light, sound, color, wind, water, matter, vegetation, and landscapes constitute ways we can better create the human-nature connection. There have been measured physiological and neurological effects of nature and “atmosphere” on the human body and the brain. Biophilia is a term used to explain how humans are innately drawn and biologically encoded to be attracted to natural settings and elements (be it direct, indirect, or symbolic). This has proven instrumental in enhancing human physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.
Our authors are open to discussing further the intersections of Neuroscience and Architecture and are currently working on refining pre and post occupancy studies to understand success and failure in architecture design related to social emotional learning. If you have comments and examples that you would like to contribute to this study, please contact Robin Randall at 
rrandall@legat.com. We recognize that we are only touching the tip of the iceberg of this topic and are encouraged with our research. We hope to rationalize the value of design to improve learning and prove it!

Dr. Marcel André Robischon
Professor (tenure track) as the Head of the Division of Vocational Teaching in Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, in the Faculty of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, (since 01.04.14 in the Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institut for Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences), at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Grant Ley, Associate AIA, LEED BD+C
Grant enjoys finding different ways to express a client’s vision and culture. Examples include designing graphics that promote wayfinding and integrating a logo into a feature wall. Grant recently worked with a 100-year-old high school to create floor-to-ceiling corridor graphics that celebrate the building’s history and connect the school’s past with the present. He has done everything from determining space needs and selecting furniture to repurposing dated spaces into vibrant places embodying kindness and equity.
Pamela Harwood, AIA, NCARB
Associate Professor of Architecture, President’s Immersive Learning Fellow, Ball State University. My research is in the assessment, planning and design of high-performing pre-K, elementary and secondary education facilities by considering both the teaching pedagogy and interior and exterior spatial environments. The physical design of the space is linked with the pedagogy and curricular content of the learning environment, carefully considering and assessing how to optimize learning in space as a material design in coordination with the pedagogical space.
Robin Randall, AIA, LEED BD+C, Principal
Robin leads clients in a customized design process that transforms their mission and purpose into meaningful, budget-conscious, forward-thinking learning environments. She builds collaborative teams around projects including master plans, facilities assessments, renovations, and new educational facilities. For over 30 years, Robin has designed and planned award-winning educational facilities ranging from early learning centers to high schools, as well as specialty learning environments. Her designs push the boundaries of sustainability by emphasizing student and building performance.