The majority of students today attend high schools designed in the same way that they have been for hundreds of years: long corridors that lead to rectangular shaped classrooms and teachers who stand at the front of the class giving lectures while students follow along in textbooks. Under this teaching model and in these spaces, learning tends to be a passive experience where students are not encouraged to take an active approach in their education.
Until recently, the idea of student collaboration and project-based learning was basically unheard of, therefore, classrooms did not foster this type of education model. Today, collaboration and communication skills are often thought of as being just as important as math and reading skills. Many of our clients are beginning to embrace project-based learning as a way to give students real-world experience and set them ahead of the pack as they become working citizens. As more people begin to understand the value of collaboration, many are realizing that the way a school is designed can help foster active learning and goes a long way in supporting the values of a curriculum.
In a recent project for Whitfield County Public Schools in Dalton, Georgia, we integrated the latest thinking on school design and 21st century education. The new Coahulla Creek High School addresses the district’s shift towards project-based learning by providing generous amounts of flexible space that allow for more student/teacher interaction. The school is designed for 1,200 students and is divided into three levels of classrooms. Each of these classrooms opens onto its own 4,000 square foot project lab space, which acts as an arena for the lessons of the classroom to culminate through meaningful collaborative projects. These flexible spaces can also be easily reconfigured as teaching methodologies continue to change.
Similar to coffee shops and bookstores, which act as open spaces for interaction and study groups on a college campus, Coahulla Creek’s cafeteria and library are designed to act as one flexible, integrated space. Sustainable features such as natural daylighting, bio-retention gardens, and a green roof have also been provided to enhance the student experience and improve building performance.
The school motto is High Touch, High Tech, High Expectations. We designed the school to advance this motto and to assist in the inquiry-based experience or learning that Coahulla Creek offers.
A version of this blog post originally appeared on SaportaReport.