Learning By Design: How the 21st Century School Building project can create better learning, collaboration and schools.

Building More Than Buildings:

How the 21st Century Building Project can improve our learning, collaboration, and the schools we build.

 

When Andre Alonso announced the funding of the 21st Century School Building project in Baltimore City, he restated a quote from Winston Churchill:

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

It is a reminder of the importance of this shaping, and of our opportunity to build learning and community through the design process. If our buildings are to transform our education and our communities, we must first transform how we shape them.
Meaningful involvement of teachers, students, community members and experts in the design of these buildings can inform the architects and city planners of the needs, problems and hopes for the school and community. In turn, these experts can share their insights on how to create better functioning buildings, improve neighborhood design, and access job opportunities. This collaborative learning enables us to build not just a better school building, but also a better school culture and more successful students and communities.

 
Charrette or Charade?

The size and speed of the school construction project is daunting.     It is easier to look across a nearly empty room and check the box for community involvement and move on. But if we are to build learning and gain the wisdom and support of our communities, we need to fill these rooms and strengthen relationships still aching from school closings. Poor communication, and short, disjointed public engagement is failing to create the sustained involvement and trust necessary for successful collaboration. Even staff and teachers have been left without valid information on the status of their school construction projects.
Failure to integrate the design process into school curriculum and after school programs robs our students of a golden opportunity to learn and to shape their future.
Shaping our learning  (we don’t have to wait to collaborate).
Building and neighborhood design processes are perfectly suited for collaborative STEM and experiential learning—the learning these new schools are supposed to foster. Engaging students, faculty and community members in this learning can prepare them to participate in the design process while strengthening their skills in math, science, engineering, health, and economics.
Starting with their existing school, students can collect data on the temperatures, humidity, air quality, lighting, acoustics, and asthma triggers. They can study how to improve bus service, reduce energy use and storm water runoff at their school. This information can help inform the school design process and prepare students to examine larger questions including:

• What are the biggest problems in the community and how can our school help solve them?
• How can our school foster the health and learning of our students and community?
• How can our school help students and their families obtain economic and educational opportunities?

Studying these issues with planning experts and community members would bring more wisdom to the design processes and demonstrate how we can learn and collaborate to solve real problems.  This is the educational and cultural transformation that Baltimore needs. If we are to build our promises, we need to start now with pilot programs and partners.
-Shan

Destiny Watford rejects the planned Energy Answers Incinerator for Curtis Bay

posted in: Blog, Environment, Home, Multimedia | 0

Destiny Watford, Free Your Voice, speaks out against plans to bring the Energy Answers incinerator to Curtis Bay, an industrial area of Baltimore, Maryland.   Watford stated that the plant would be within a mile of two schools and would discharge lead and mercury into the area which is already heavily polluted by industry.
Watford pointed out that the incinerator would not burn refuse from Baltimore, but would be importing fuel from other areas.

Watford won a prestigious environmental award for leading opposition to the planned plant which has not been built.

 

  • aIMG_0085 - Copy by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_0062 by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_0002 by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_9800 by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_9813 - Copy by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_9879 by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_9903-2 by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_9950 by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_9975 by Shan Gordon.
  • aIMG_9998 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_9903-2 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_0062 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_0084 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_9879 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_9975 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_9993 by Shan Gordon.

Thinking Big: How Code in the Schools is helping kids learn to problem solve, collaborate and program computers.

posted in: Blog, Healthy Schools, Home, Multimedia | 0

aIMG_0085 - Copy by Shan Gordon.
Think kids don’t like to learn? You must not have come to the Game Jam at Code in the Schools last Saturday. Students 12 years and up worked in small teams from 8 am to 8 pm to learn programming and to solve problems as they created their own video games. Volunteers with gaming and programming backgrounds mentored each group as they developed their ideas into working video games.

Could this model of mentored learning help students learn in other fields like architecture, health, communications, construction, or government services?

Baltimore needs to think out of the school box learning model with more mentoring and learning opportunities with business, non-profit and government partners. Learning with mentors helps students understand how their learning can be applied in solving real problems and it can help connect them to their futures. What problem solving exercises could your business or agency host for students?
aIMG_0062 by Shan Gordon.
Sixth grade students demonstrate the video game they developed to the judges at Game Jam.

aIMG_9879 by Shan Gordon. Students work together to learn the programming necessary to make their games work.
They were able to reference other games and use online resources to create their own working game.

IMG_9993 by Shan Gordon. So what strategy would you use to escape hungry dinosaurs on an island?
Students had to come up with story plots, characters, game rules and the programming to make it all work as they created their games.
This is a blending of learning across subjects that few classroom experiences match.