Designing Learning Spaces

[As I travel and attend conferences I’m hearing more and more people talk about rethinking how we design learning spaces. In this Edsurge article, you’ll hear from Danish Kurani, an architect who now specializes in designing educational learning spaces. He has a fresh take on concepts like “flexibility” and “modular furniture.” He objects to design that is not purposeful and relevant to the needs of learners. In Pittsburgh there have been some excellent examples where learning spaces match the needs of students. The South Fayette School District created STEAM Studios in their new intermediate building. It was critical to have an informal environment that encouraged creative team-work. The walls were bright colors; the acoustics were appropriate; the furniture was purposeful providing collaborative opportunities. As soon as students or teachers walk into the room they understand the expectations for learning.  In the near future the Children’s Museum plans to create a Museum LAB that will be purposeful providing middle school learners with spaces similar to what Kurani has designed for schools.]

Apr 11, 2017

STEAM Studio

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

“Flexible.” It’s a word that often pops up in conversations about redesigning learning environments, relating to choices in furniture or movable walls. But according to Danish Kurani, redesigning 21st century classrooms goes much deeper than merely achieving flexibility—it involves going all the way back to considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Kurani is a licensed architect who focuses his work on learning spaces, and currently teaches a “Learning Environments for Tomorrow” course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education every year. Having worked on locations ranging from Denver’s Columbine Elementary to SELNY, a psychotherapy clinic and adult learning center in New York, Kurani has seen and used a variety of tactics to implement learning design in pursuit of specific goals.

This week, EdSurge sat down with him to hear about the most common design constraints, architecture gone wrong, and the work his firm recently conducted on the Code Next Lab in Oakland. Check out the Q&A below, or the recording on the EdSurge podcast.

EdSurge: Danish, as an architect, why did you decide to pursue education as a field for design?

Danish Kurani: A few years ago, when I started Kurani as a design practice, it was with the intent that we would use architecture to help solve global problems and challenges. I think, a lot of times, when we’re thinking about the biggest problems in the world—whether it’s poverty alleviation, or environmental issues, or healthy living and healthcare, or education—architects aren’t usually at that round table. I wanted to make sure that we had a seat at that table, because I think our surroundings make such an impact in our lives. Of course, you’ve got to pick somewhere to start, and being an immigrant in this country, when you grow up in an immigrant family, usually education’s paramount. Your parents understand that, for upward mobility, you’ve got to be educated. That was always of high importance in our family.

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Equipping Students to Lead In Our Rapidly Changing World

[Throughout the country students are tackling real world problems in their communities. In this Getting Smart article students from the Anne Arnundel County Public Schools in Virginia address water and space issues. In my work in Western Pennsylvania I’m working with students on sustainability projects around energy and food. I work with colleagues who are getting students involved in a variety of other real world projects, ranging from creating a marathon to raise funds for a family who lost their home to redesigning an auditorium for a historic building. In all of these cases students work as engineers, designers, and scientists to address a real world issue that tackles a social issue in their community.]

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

By Vipin Thekk, March 4, 2017

“We talk about consumers and producers. In much of education, the student is a consumer. The Changemaker movement has helped us to help teachers help students become producers.”

~ Maureen McMahon, Deputy Superintendent for Academics & Strategic Initiatives, Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Eighty percent of the best jobs of tomorrow do not exist today. And increasingly, social problems are outrunning the solutions. We can see that in all aspects of human life – from climate change to unemployment to racial inequality. We are living in a world where change has become the only constant.

In such a world, the art of changemaking–or working empathetically with a team to solve a community problem–becomes essential. When children and adults master the skills of empathy, teamwork and leadership to solve problems which they care deeply about, they are realizing their own power to catalyze change; learning that the status quo can be challenged, and discovering that our collective success increasingly depends on our individual strength as change agents.

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Middleschoolers design and build STEM carts for younger students

[Read about a wonderful example of student innovation at Hampton Middle School, near Pittsburgh. I work with Ed McCaveney, the Technology Director, at Hampton, on several projects in the region and nationally. Hampton received recognition from Edutopia last year, and with projects like this, more national attention should be on the way. I, personally, work on Design Challenges sponsored by the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh with teams of high school students from the Parkway West Consortia. On November 8, I’ll present with teachers and students some of our findings at the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference.]

BY DEBORAH DEASY, THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
October 28th, 2016

School cart competition put creativity to the test. Now, grant funding will get them built

cartimage2-300x300Team by team, 50 Hampton seventh-graders recently pitched their competing blueprints for a rolling cupboard of educational aids.

Their assignment: Design a cart to carry today’s tools for STEM learning — the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math — in Hampton Township’s three elementary schools.

“We are Spark Engineering — lighting your world on fire one idea at a time,” Mia Conte, 13, told the 15 judges who ultimately chose her team’s cart design for production.

Later this year, Hampton High School students will manufacture three of Spark Engineering’s mobile carts — dubbed Tech Eddies — for use in Wyland, Poff and Central elementary schools.

As part of their product development, Mia’s classmates computed each Tech Eddie’s production cost: $235.

To boost their cart’s child appeal, Mia’s teammates proposed to coat each Tech Eddie with chalkboard paint.

The carts are being designed and manufactured by Hampton Middle and High School students for use in the elementary schools as part of a $20,000 grant coordinated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Center for Creativity, school officials said. Funding came from Chevron, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Grable Foundation.

Glenn Geary, technology education teacher at Hampton Middle School, supervised the seventh-graders’ weeks of data gathering, measurement taking, cost estimating and cart designing that preceded each team’s 15-minute presentation to judges Oct. 13 at the middle school.

“Please don’t be nervous,” Marlynn Lux, acting principal of Hampton Middle School, urged the presenters.

“We’re excited to hear you” said Lux, one of 15 Hampton administrators, teachers and business people who judged the proposed cart designs and oral presentations.

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