Takeaway: EDSpaces Education Conference
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A team from Elevatus was recently able to attend the popular EDSpaces education conference to learn about the newest trends and developments in school and campus learning environments.
EDSpaces was held Nov. 7-9 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The mission of the conference was to help leaders and innovators “reimagine space to meet the evolving student, educator, and administrator needs,” according to its website. It featured breakout education sessions, tours of exemplary learning environments, and a show floor for vendors.
The Elevatus Education Team of architect Emily Hower (team lead), architects Sam Schaust and Andreia Rossato, and Architectural Graduate Nicholas Bloom attended the conference. Here are their takeaways:
There is a shift to make schools more student-centric, where the wellbeing and satisfaction of the students will be at top of mind. The design of schools and learning spaces will serve to enhance the student experience.
Emily learned about one school where the entire student body has a break for lunch at the same time. During the break, students can grab a meal at a variety of food service areas located throughout the school. For a mental break, students also have the option to take a yoga class or participate in another activity during the lunch mod. During “lunch,” half of the school’s teachers will take their lunch, and the other half are available to meet with students.
At a safety and security breakout session, Emily learned about coded key boxes that provide building access to public safety authorities. That same session recommended teachers have classroom access to the school’s PA system to make more localized announcements, and to use strobes in addition to the PA system to alert those on the exterior of the building (i.e. at recess, etc.).
Emily also learned about a school that has developed a unique partnership with its local YMCA. The school needed a new building, and the community wanted a Y, so the two sides came together to put a Y within the school. Facilities like a pool and gymnasium are shared, and staff from both take care of the operations. It has been a win-win.
In a breakout session on school security, Sam learned about passive design elements such as adding mullions on window systems to create an obstruction for a potential intruder. A hindrance that would make an intruder crawl over or under can go a long way.
Sam also learned that creating a grand main entrance for a school can be a security feature because it makes it obvious where the entryway is located. With that in mind, if someone is lurking in another area, school authorities know they likely are not supposed to be there.
Andreia learned in a breakout session that one of the biggest differences post-COVID, after seasons of stay-at-home learning, educators have been forced to change how they teach. Classrooms now need different spaces for each age group, and new rooms are being created to accommodate students such as tranquility rooms, breakout room, and sensory rooms. In addition, outdoor spaces are being used more, libraries are being outfitted with individual nooks, and teachers’ lounges are being made to be more accommodating and relaxing.
In another breakout session on active learning environments, Andreia learned about the importance of flexible, mobile furniture. For instance, tables that can be expanded or raised up or down can easily transform a learning space based on a project or lesson.
Andreia also learned about a unique classroom “design” in which the classroom starts the school year as a blank canvas, and the students design it throughout the year in the form of drawings, etc. The approach lets the students take ownership in the classroom.
In a similar fashion, a new trend is allowing students to choose how they want to learn – where they sit, or if they sit at all. Children can learn in any position, not just sitting, and comfort is the priority. Allowing children the option makes them feel more responsible, and that movement translates into better behavior, Andreia learned.
Finally, in another breakout session, Andreia learned about gaming areas, which are dedication rooms for gamers. These learning environments feature a common area for group gaming, a separate room for loud and passionate play, a lounge area for interactive gaming, and a room for coaches. In these areas, the furniture must be comfortable, she learned.
Nicholas attended a breakout session focused on transforming the learning environment. There, he learned about the importance of facilitating personalized learning for each student. Also in that session, he, too, heard that flexible furniture is key in the modern learning environment.
One concept that Nicholas found interesting was “team-based” school staffing. Through this method, teaching is done by a team of 5-8 experts of topics, so students learn about subjects from the most knowledgeable teachers.
Nicholas also learned about program synergies and how to integrate curriculums within the campus and the community. For instance, a school could use its culinary arts commercial kitchen for class learning, but also open it to the public for service.
Nicholas also learned about the concept of “defronting the classroom,” which emphasizes the reality that all sides of the classroom have learning capabilities, and the teacher shouldn’t just stand and teach from the front of the classroom.
Our Education Team enjoyed learning at EDSpaces and we look forward to attending again in the future.