July 10, 2008


Children’s design for schools of the future

Dr. Michael O’Donoghue

University of Canterbury


Places and Spaces for Learning Seminars Draft Report 2007



Centre for Schooling and Learning Technologies (CSaLT)



1.      Project

a.     If children could design a school of their own, what would they create? This study draws on research conducted in seven countries with children aged between 8-12 years of age who were asked to design a school of the future, one they might expect to see in ten year’s time.

2.      Methods

a.       Students first talked and sketched what their idea of the “future school” or a “school in 10 years” would be.

b.      Then the students builds from Legos their future school.

c.       Teachers and parents were kept out of activity (out of the room).

d.      Students explained their designs to the teacher after it was completed. This gave further understanding of the students’ ideas.

e.       Designs were analyzed to understand the reasons for and influences, i.e. existing school, television shows within the last week, local buildings.

f.        Designs tell how students are thinking now more than what students will be thinking in the future.

3.      Introduction

a.       Schools

                                                   i.      Who should build it?

                                                 ii.      Who should design it?

b.      School design is more than about technology.

c.       Some still believe the best teaching is the “gold standard” – classroom lectures like the good old days.

d.      Initial inclusion of technology (computers) into the classroom consisted of place one or two computers in the back of the classroom.

                                                   i.      Students comment that they would rather use the computer at home because it was better, in a more spacious environment, and did not have a teacher looking over their shoulder.

                                                 ii.      With the computer in the back of the room, it is hard for students to get the teachers attention when the teacher is at the front of the classroom.

e.       Architect designs for ideal schools are idealistic and formal.

                                                   i.      Pod shape classrooms of fiberglass (TES 2003).

                                                 ii.      Spacious Libraries showing only 6 people using the space when the reality is 40 students in a class (CBBS 2002).

                                                iii.      Entrance to a school to be more like an office environment.

                                               iv.      The Flagship school design for Bexley academy, England was followed by the school reporting lower testing scores. Scores improved after teachers took of the architect designed space and turned them into other types of learning environments.

4.      Ideas elementary students came up with in their designs of a “future school” or a “school in 10 years”.

a.       England

                                                   i.      Large project screen to watch movies in the hall. (Combination of work and play. Use of halls more than dull walls.)

                                                 ii.      Communal work rooms. (Students like to work with other students.)

                                                iii.      Security guard / place to put weapons. (Reflect concerns of existing school environment.)

                                               iv.      Working toilets. (Reflects poor maintenance of existing toilets.)

                                                 v.      Janitor cleaning the computer room. (Importance of the computer room.)

                                               vi.      Leaking roof creates a pond for a boat within the school. (Reflects existing environment and how to take advantage of it.)

                                              vii.      Windowless office for the Head teacher and the school supplies. (Reflects school safety problems and theft.)

                                            viii.      Small classrooms. (Statement by student that larger classroom was not need due to many students are not in school most of the time.)

                                               ix.      Truck to pull students out of the local quick sand. (Importance of design including routes to the school.)

                                                 x.      Head teacher on the top level with an antenna to talk to other Head teachers. (Recognition of other schools and what they are doing.)

                                               xi.      Email kiosk on the play ground to email parents what they are doing. (Computers are not just learning tools but also for social interaction.)

                                              xii.      Teacher patrolling hallways. (Importance of order and security.)

                                            xiii.      Canteen areas throughout the school. (Importance of spontaneous social interaction as a learning experience.)

                                            xiv.      Bike storage on roof with lift. (Reflecting the theft of bikes in the school and use of unoccupied space.)

b.      Canada

                                                   i.      Mezzanine space for computers. (Existing building’s need for more space.)

                                                 ii.      Space to sort out fights. (Desire to move students conflicts out the classroom and halls, but the recognition that conflicts will happen and need to resolved.)

                                                iii.      Bad children space in back of room. (Need of a space to but bad children.)

c.       United States

                                                   i.      Computers in every room, no central computer room. (Computers use in every class.)

                                                 ii.      Information Kiosks at the building entry. (Need for assistance to know about the building and the events in the building.)

                                                iii.      T.V. Station. (School learning is more than the 3 Rs.)

                                               iv.      Flowers on every desk. (Need to brighten up the school.)

                                                 v.      Basketball hoop. (Sports and social activities are also important as part of school.)

d.      Sweden

                                                   i.      Floating school able to move. (Education does not always need to happen in a single room.)

                                                 ii.      Adding on floors to the building as enrollment increases. (Need for additional space in the future.)

                                                iii.      Green spaces merge with classrooms. (Teaching does not always need to be in an enclosed room.)

e.       New Zealand

                                                   i.      Happy people figures. (Showing character of students in the school.)

                                                 ii.      Laptop computers. (Importance and flexibility of technology.)

                                                iii.      Jacuzzi for the teachers. (Teachers are special and hardworking and need times to relax.)

                                               iv.      Jet skis and fishing. (School is more than the 3 Rs.)

                                                 v.      Wireless that is accessible outside. . (Teaching does not always need to be in an enclosed room.)

5.      Important

a.       Recreation.

b.      Security.

c.       Range of eating venues to create social spaces.

d.      Teachers.

e.       Classroom layout

f.        Technology

g.       Flexible school times, style and location

6.      Conclusions

a.       Create high quality spaces.

b.      Children value their teachers.

c.       Provide learning environments based on andragogy.

                                                   i.      Andragogy – an educational approach characterized by learner-centredness (i.e., the student’s needs and wants are central to the process of teaching), self-directed learning (i.e., students are responsible for and involved in their learning to a much greater degree than traditional education), and a humanist philosophy (i.e., personal development is the key focus of education). Related concepts include: facilitated learning, self-directed learning, humanism, critical thinking, experiential learning, and transformational learning.

d.      Flexible design.

e.       Student need to be asked what they want in their schools as much as staff and experts.

f.        Architects need to be more concerned with the environment from students’ eyes.