Key #2 - The Learning Environment
When considering the "learning environment" one must consider several facets of that environment, including:
- Physical Environment (facilities, schoolyard and learning studios)
- Social/Emotional Environment
- Academic Environment
- School Schedule supports 21st century learning and teaching
The Physical Environment
- Facilities - most school facilities, including newly constructed, are actually designed to replicate the traditional "cells and bells" structures. Long hallways with rows of classrooms down each side. These buildings, or facilities, belong to a bygone era, the factory model, and are obsolete. This structure of organizing learning is obsolete in the 21st century. The goals and purpose of education have radically changed in a newly global society transformed mainly through the advent of technologies and multimedia.
- Living Schoolyard - traditional schoolyards are usually asphalt or, in some cases, a plain lawn. In the 21st century a new concept is emerging for designing schoolyards that are an extension of the classroom. We refer to these schoolyards as "Living Schoolyards." These schoolyards offer tremendous opportunities and benefits to both students and the adults!
- Learning Studios (aka "classrooms") - facilities for 21st century schools have moved away from the obsolete concept of "cells and bells". What were once "classrooms", usually a plain , 4 walls with rows of student desks, are now being designed with the concept of "learning studios". These studios are flexibly arranged to support multiple modes of learning - independent, small groups, and whole groups. Some schools now have, for example, "Da Vinci" studios - these are areas created for art and science. These studios are designed to support personalized, student-centered learning.
The Social/Emotional Environment
The social/emotional environment must be intentionally designed. In traditional schools, the social/emotional needs of the students were largely ignored - academics were the only focus. We now know that unless the proper social/emotional environment is in place, learning will be limited. We agree with William Glasser, M.D., who stated that no learning will occur until four needs have been met:
- The need to belong
- The need for fun
- The need for freedom
- The need for power
Visit this link to learn more about how to design a 21st century Academic Environment.
Based upon the factory model, most schools today have a schedule in which small groups of students move from one classroom to the next, usually rotating on a timed class period of 45 to 50 minutes per class. Each classroom is devoted to one subject, for example, students go from language arts to math, then to science, then to social studies. And, if they are lucky, they also attend courses for music, art and physical education. Many schools have virtually eliminated those subjects due to pressures from standardized testing.