Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The answer is: It could

Can a New Building Save a Failing School?

This story was aired yesterday on "All Things Considered". It asks whether a school can be saved by a new building. The question implies that a school is much more than brick and mortar. And it is. But the places where we spend time matter. The building is not only a "shell" where the schooling takes place. There is a constant and dynamic interaction that happens between users and the physical environment. What the building can "afford" its users makes a difference in what the users can produce. Building users benefit from comfortable spaces where light and temperature can be controlled, where technology is state of the art, and where pride can be built.
The physical environment of the building indicates how much investment is being done in the community, in the students, in the teachers, and in the building administrators.
In my own research I have seen that a new school building, like any other single element of a school, is not magic and it won't turn a school around overnight. It might quickly improve attendance, it will definitively improve morale. But it will take time to build the trust that was lost as the old school building crumbled down...
The school buildings of the XXI century should empower and support teachers and students in their education. They should be flexible, technology ready and pleasant.

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