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Where would you like to discuss the lesson plan today?

Where would you like to discuss the lesson plan today?

Todd Howard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

It’s funny when you ask children to draw a plan of their ideal school, some interesting programming elements emerge.  Recently I reviewed some of these wonderful plans while taking continuing education classes at Harvard (mentioned only for the quality of the classes and not with a nasal tone).  Within these plans were many of the programming elements of a typical school such as classrooms, cafeterias, libraries, art and music rooms.  You get the drift.

But, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”  In his plan, Henry wants a Six Flags amusement park.  A Laser Tag area is also required.  For Jeanie, a “life size” Eiffel Tower and a hot tub will be essential for the ideal school.  The tower is surrounded by a lovely moat (the water source for the hot tub) and a plush “grassy” area.  What is interesting about this exercise for children is the active imagination and intriguing vision that they have for schools.  In both of these examples, the floor plans are open, split-level concepts that offer opportunities for collaboration.  Whether it is in Henry’s garden or Jeanie’s grassy area, spaces for engagement and interaction are essential in our schools.  Even a child knows that.  As a result of technological advances and the learning tools available to our children, they want to learn in networks.

Furthermore, they want to personalize their curriculum, allowing them the opportunity to choose what they learn.  When we stop to think about this for just a minute, doesn’t it make sense?  I know I have a greater appreciation for a topic, and tend to learn more, when I can choose the topic versus having it assigned to me.  I have an even greater appreciation for this chosen knowledge when I can select the environment in which to learn.  As our children’s world becomes smaller, their exposure to knowledge, particularly through technology, is more numerous and complex.  Their approach to mentally processing knowledge must be quick and decisive in order to digest all that is accessible.  The information must be stored, either temporarily or permanently, or discarded altogether.  Their learning environments should provide spaces for using collaboration as a tool to process knowledge.  These spaces will, in turn, facilitate and result in a passion for learning.

Now, let’s go to Henry’s garden to discuss what we have read.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” 
- Dr. Seuss, "Oh the Places you'll Go"