Improved school designs can boost learning

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.


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)