Architect as teacher: Designing the “school of the future”

By admin on March 24, 2016

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Architects from Aedis work directly with students every week in Colleen Boyle’s eight-grade project-based learning class
What happens when you take 32 eighth-graders, place them in a project-based learning environment, and give them the task of designing a school for the future?

  • A glass-hulled cargo ship transformed into a school, which takes a four-month tour of the Pacific Ocean, provides a seafood diet and a curriculum specializing in marine biology.
  • A school in Ghana concerned not only with education, but also the surrounding area’s livelihood. The school is self-sustaining, and boasts a medical clinic, water-treatment center and fishing port to help offset funding while
    providing jobs.
  • A school focused on creating cross-border student exchange in San Diego on the Mexican border.

For three years, Aedis Architects has teamed with teacher Colleen Boyle at Quimby Oak Middle School to mentor her project-based learning elective class. It’s one of at least two school-business partnerships at Quimby to bring “real world” practitioners to the school to not just present to students but to lead entire classes and incorporate a range of problem solving in “real world” style challenges.

Together with our consultants, we’ve given the students a crash-course on the many elements related to design. The weekly topics have ranged from stakeholder assessment to community demographics, from structural systems to materials, and from site design to sustainable strategies. We’ve given them a lot to consider, but we think they can handle it.

When we asked the students who wanted to be an engineer when they grew up, three-quarters of the class raised their hands.

Perhaps this class will be the introduction to their future careers. Regardless of what they will be doing in 20 years, they learn valuable problem-solving techniques and how to function and design in a group with different roles and tasks.

Regardless of what they will be doing in twenty years, they learn valuable problem-solving techniques and how to function and design in a group with different roles and tasks.

From our perspective, the mentorship challenges us as an architectural firm to communicate the ideas and principles behind what we do on a day-to-day basis in a rigorous, yet simplified manner. It connects us to the next generation, hearing the concerns of the youngest users of our buildings and their thoughts on schools.

Also, we instruct in an Aedis-designed classroom, allowing us to see our design implemented. The design, along with the innovative curriculum and the student’s imagination, is creating a positive learning environment.

“Today’s educators are calling on the community to help in a more intensive way than just one-time show-and-tell or helping with homework after school,” says John Diffenderfer, a principal here at Aedis. “It’s great for students to see how they can use their lessons, and it’s great for our staff to see how students are learning. And of course it’s fun for all of us.”


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