District has designs on learning
Wayne Gretzky, it seems, has insights not only into hockey but also into building a school district. The Roaring Fork School District is trying to plan school for the future – 50 years into the future, district officials said. The problem with building a school to last 50 years, is that education will likely change greatly in the next half-century. Already fading are the days of 25 students seated in neat rows at flip-top desks, listening to a teacher drone on about history, math or science in the front of a room, said Roaring Fork assistant superintendent Judy Haptonstall. These days, teachers try to teach to small groups or one-on-one with students, she said. And instead of worksheets and tests, teachers may use project-based learning, where students work on longer projects that help solidify ideas, she said. To be sure, instruction has changed since the district’s current schools were built, and it will change again in the next 50 years. Other things to take into account include new grading systems, new media, and the desire for parents and community members to feel welcome in schools, Haptonstall said. Couple all of that with the idea that natural lighting could lead to a 20 percent student-performance increase in math, and that colors used could decrease aggressive behavior, and that ergonomics affects memory, and there is almost too much too consider. To help sort through that maze and build the best buildings possible, the district hired architectural consultants from Chicago-based Perkins & Will architecture. The idea is to “let the teachers decide how to operate their rooms and not let the building decide for them,” said Peter Brown, a Perkins & Will consultant. To help the process, the district, community members, contract architects and Perkins & Will came up with a list of 16 non-negotiable building guidelines, such as: The buildings allow for multiple modes of teaching and learning; they accommodate present uses and try to anticipate future uses; both the inside and out support learning; and the designs use sustainable and energy efficient building practices. Each of the schools has a community group to give input to the district and architectural firms working on each school. Sue Rollyson, a Carbondale Middle School parent who is helping with school design, couldn’t be happier. “It’s not very often you get to plan a new school for your kids,” she said. “Put (all the ideas) together and you come up with some pretty good ideas.””Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been,” said Steven Turckes, a Perkins & Will architect, quoting Gretzky.
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