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Improved school designs can boost learning

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East Ridge High School
East Ridge was the third high school in the South Washington County School District, in the east metro. The building cost $94 million to build and is being paid for by a $107 million bond that voters approved in 2006.
Photo courtesy South Washington County School District

Schools are now filled with "digital natives" — children born into the age of the Internet. So what happens when children of the 21st century encounter the architecture of the 19th century?

The look and layout of a school can have a profound impact on the way students learn, but classrooms laid out with rows of desks facing a chalkboard are still the norm. Designers point to outdoor spaces, learning centers, natural lighting and desks that can accommodate tablets and laptops as a few of the tweaks that could help improve learning. 

Victoria Bergsagel is founder and president of Architects of Achievement, a design strategy firm that uses educational research to improve school design. She  wrote about the importance of school design in EdNews Colorado: 

Design schools for people. Better yet, ask students. One 16-year-old nailed it. "No one wants to learn in sterile, boring, institutional facilities. Give us beauty, real-life projects, choice, opportunity, and ownership, and we'll show you what we can do."

The American Architectural Foundation (2009) determined in a recent study that students want hands-on learning opportunities, variety and flexibility, comfortable and social spaces, seamless technology, sustainable designs, and connections to the outdoors. I could not agree more.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SCHOOL DESIGN:

• 10 Current School Facility Features that are Obsolete. Traditional school libraries, bathrooms and corridors are being redesigned in schools to improve student learning. (School Design Matters)

• School Design May Affect a Child's Grades. "A study of school design has discovered that school layouts can influence a child's development by as much as 25 percent — positively or negatively — over the course of an academic year." (Wired)

• Top Ten Innovative School Designs. Forget square buildings, chalkboards and desks in a row. (Landscape Architects Network)