The Benefits of 21st Century Learning’s Interactive Spaces
Close your eyes and imagine your typical classroom growing up. What do you see? Rows of desks? A teacher standing at a lecture podium? A chalkboard filled with notes? Now close your eyes and imagine today’s classroom. What do you see? Computers? An interactive whiteboard? Desks grouped in pairs, trios, or quads? Excited chatter while the teacher walks around the room? The scene in your imagination is quite different from scenes of the past. This is 21st century learning: a classroom that prepares critical thinkers to receive, process, and make critical decisions based on information at hand (and some yet to be discovered).
As a multi-disciplinary general contractor and construction management firm, our job is to build the right backbone to teach today’s students how to succeed in a world where technology often outpaces itself. In addition to today’s students, we also have to consider the students who will walk through the doors for decades to come. Enter interactive spaces: flexible classrooms that can be used for group projects one day, high level lectures another, and independent study another. In these environments, there are even spaces to unwind or take a break. Our goal is no longer to build the room to teach but instead, teach the room how to be built.
Think about it like this: the future of education is centered on an individual student based system. Since each child operates at a level different from his/her peer, there’s an opportunity to cater to that particular student. This is precisely why functionality of the space is so important. Flex spaces allow each student to experience the style of learning that works best for them as well as appreciate the style that work best for others. The classroom is as much a part of the learning as the content is.
In today’s technology centered classrooms, space to recharge devices and brains is integral. From a construction standpoint, we need to be sure there are plenty of electrical outlets. In fact, when you think you have enough, be sure to add a dozen more. Furniture selection is also crucial. Desks need to be able to be configured in different arrangements to allow for lectures, hand on learning, or collaboration. Beyond furniture, today’s classrooms feature projectors replaced by large touch screen panels. These new surfaces encompass whiteboards, world maps, and text books all in one.
Perhaps the best part of today’s schools is that they are being built for both students and community members. Current design trends even allow for interactive spaces to be used after school hours. For example, in a building we recently completed, the gymnasium can function 100% autonomously from the school’s classroom spaces. This allows for community use over the summer and on weekends. In some areas, the cafeteria is able to provide food for the community over summer break while still having the classrooms and other sensitive information secured behind locked doors.
Evergreen’s co-founders made the conscious and deliberate decision to build schools over 20 years ago. We value education and see how it directly impacts the people in the communities where we build. We’ve been raised in these schools, watched our parents and spouses teach in these schools, and have even raised our own children in these schools. We’re stakeholders on many different levels. By experiencing these spaces ourselves, we can see each school through the lenses of a contractor and a community member.