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As educators continually seek new ways to effectively serve a diverse group of students and learning styles, the design community must provide physical environments to support those efforts. The new flexible approach to school design provides clusters of classrooms that easily share resources and common spaces, allowing teachers to create areas of independent study or small group collaboration. Teachers are better equipped to meet the individual needs of each student, and students are able to not only learn the curriculum in their own way, but develop collaborative social skills in the process. When we put teachers and students in the center of school design, the future of education is bright indeed.
THE KEYWORD IS FLEXIBILITY
When Randi Thomas, Senior Interior Designer, CTA Architects Engineers got to work creating a twenty-first century learning environment for St. Ignatius School, she built flexibility, agility and adaptability into every detail of the design. It was paramount to allow quick and simple transformation of spaces, so Thomas created suites of varying shapes and sizes, forming environments where students can work individually or in large and small groups. In this way, the building is subdivided into small learning communities, which promotes good safety, fosters relationships, and facilitates collaboration among multiple classes.
GIVING CORRIDORS GREATER PURPOSE
In keeping with the latest research, this open-concept, modular design strategy utilizes every square foot for learning. While 20 percent of a school building has traditionally been lost to single-function corridors, Thomas widened the hallways of St. Ignatius, allowing them to become additional learning spaces for dynamic group collaborations. What was once just a corridor is transformed into places for breakout spaces, presentations and display, small and large group work, and other uses throughout the day.
MORE DESIGN IDEAS
To incorporate this modular design concept into your next education project, consider using overhead doors to separate spaces. Rooms can be quickly converted from private to collaboration spaces, or even to “mess-making” and “tinkering” spaces. This transparency enhances easy observation and highlights learning on display.
NEW DEMANDS FOR FLOORING SOLUTIONS
These open, flexible spaces present new challenges for flooring designs. Thomas was charged to find seamless solutions that didn’t require a transition between soft and hard surfaces. And of course, the design needed to welcome students, parents and faculty with inspired creativity and a true love of learning.
For the main hallways, she needed to find adequate cushion to achieve both acoustic properties and comfort underfoot, so Thomas chose Tandus Centiva Powerbond® carpet to inspire open circulation.