Reimagining PK-12 Schools for the 4th Industrial Revolution

A New Design DNA for Schools

AIA Continuing Education Provider

1.5 LU / HSW

Introduction: For years Education Planners and Architects have discussed and tested design ideas for new schools built in the rapidly unfolding 21st century. But while ideas about transforming the curriculum and expanding the pedagogical toolkit evolved, the notion of how the design of a new school should be organized remained static. This session will present the elements of a new programming language for creating new PK-12 Schools. As 2023 begins, we look around and realize we are no longer designing schools for the children of tomorrow. We are now in the first years of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. So, architects, planners, educators, and administrators must realign their design ideas for a new era. What is this new era we have entered? How did we get here? What do our children and grandchildren need to be successful in this new era? What hard and soft skills must they master to be happy? How must the learning environment of PK-12 schools evolve to get them there? We now have all the design and pedagogical tools we need to create a learning environment to support truly liberated learners. Let's get to it!

The Presentation Overview: If you threw out the traditional design rules for a PK-12 school, the government-mandated directives on how to design a school, and started from scratch, what would it look like? What would emerge if you started with a blank sheet of paper and considered the child's needs first? It's been evident for many years now to all of us in this rarified design field that the antiquated "Cells and Bells" school model can no longer support the development of the human skills, competencies, and behaviors essential for young adults at this time in our history and in the coming decades. To succeed in the rapidly developing, AI-Driven digital world of the mid-21st century, a school's learning environment must prepare students to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. For this presentation, I will focus on the new Garden City Elementary School, one of the first schools in the northeast to be conceived using a new programming language or "Design DNA." The old design rulebooks were thrown out for the new Garden City School. There are no corridors with rows of self-contained classrooms. The entire school is designed around the design concept of a Learning Community model. A Learning Community is a powerful ensemble of spaces. At its heart is a shared "Learning Commons," a social hub and central venue for teaching and student-directed learning. Surrounding this agile and flexible learning hub is a collection of learning studios, smaller than the traditional classroom and in assorted sizes, plus a collection of small group rooms and seminar spaces. The result is rather liberating for the students and teachers. This new programming approach focuses on the needs of the student rather than a pre-conceived architectural design idea, where the needs of the student come in second. With the elimination of corridors and autonomous classrooms, new freedom in the Language of School Design has occurred. In reaction to this shift in pedagogical programming, the fundamental morphology "School" building design has shifted away from the rectilinear factory or office building form to something more organic. New schools must be far more than a place to work and learn. It is also where we build relationships with others, find out how we work collaboratively, develop a sense of ourselves, and discover how we fit into our world and society. We believe that it takes an entire community to educate a child. Learning Community design strategies are grounded in best practices for cognitive development and learning while proactively focused on Wellness and Well-being, digital innovation, and problem-solving.

Presentation Topics: This presentation will be interactive and is designed to inform and connect with Architects, Planners, Educators, Teachers, and District Leadership.

Introduction – What is the 4th Industrial Revolution. What were the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Industrial Revolutions? What was their impact on the development of School education? Discuss the critical human skills necessary for happiness and success in this new era.

The Learning Community Model – A new programming DNA for today's schools. I will ask the attendees to consider this new program approach and sketch out what kind of school forms they might envision using this new DNA. We will post some of these sketches on the big screen.

  • Design Precedent – The Eden Park Pathfinder, 2019.
    Design Precedent – Col-legi Montserrat Early Education Center, 2018.
  • The Elements of a Learning Community Program.
  • An Analysis of the Garden City Elementary School.
  • Discussion of Programming diagrams

Key Design Considerations – To balance sustainability, wellness, and well-being, we need to consider many design and construction considerations. We will touch upon the following issues:

  • Exterior building shell construction. 
  • The place of windows and natural light and ventilation.
  • Exceeding ASHRAE standards for mechanical air circulation and filtration.
  • Security concerns and the "ALICE" protocols.
  • Fire Egress and Life Safety strategies. 
  • Innovative approaches to artificial lighting.
  • New acoustical design standards for more open learning environments.
  • Education technology and integrated mass communications in the new learning environment.
  • The evolution of the "Teaching Wall."
  • Natural behavior in the "Learning Studio."
  • A re-evaluation of flooring materials and finishes.
  • The impact of color in schools.
  • The outdoor classroom.
  • Active Halls.
  • The Social Heart.

Where are the New Jobs? In the next 10-20 years, what kind of new jobs will be out there? What kind of jobs will disappear? Below are 5 of 15 on my list. We will ask the attendees to add to this growing list and also ask what kinds of curriculum changes will be necessary.

  • Design and programming for Machine Intelligence/AI
    Psychologists for Artificial intelligence
  • Haptic Engineering
  • Blockchain programming
  • Design of Bio-Medical, Bio-Engineered, and Cybernetic implants

Final Thoughts – "8 Things Every School Must Do To Prepare For The 4th Industrial Revolution." Originally written by Bernard Marr, published in Forbes Magazine, May 23, 2019. Updated and edited by Jay Litman, AIA.

Learning Objectives:

  1. History – A History and Background on the development of modern school programming models.
  2. Strategic Planning for new Schools – 8 Things Every School Must Do To Prepare For The 4th Industrial Revolution
  3. Security and Safety – A presentation and discussion on the key elements in the Learning Community Model that will make schools safer and more secure.
  4. Environmental Systems – A presentation and discussion on why schools should be the healthiest place for our kids to be and how to achieve this goal in our public schools.
  5. Sustainability – The new goals for designing a school envelop that will exceed NE CHPS and LEEDs goals.
Jay Litman, AIA, NCARB
Jay Litman, AIA, NCARB
Founder and Principal, Litman Architecture/Educational Consulting Group, and Partner Emeritus/Fielding International 

Jay has been a studio head and a partner with Fielding International for the past 17 years. Beginning in April 2021, Jay left to establish Litman Architecture. This independent consulting group will offer architectural design consultation to tackle the many facets of changes necessary to continue the global momentum of school reform. Jay has planned and designed schools in the US and over 20 countries for 43 years.

Track: Resiliency

This track focuses on Resiliency and addresses how learning environments support the development of students and communities that have the strength and flexibility to withstand adversity and adapt to change. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the essential role that schools have in stabilizing communities during a time of crisis. How do schools support the development of strong community culture among teachers and students? How do schools foster physical and mental health and wellness to ensure all are ready and supported to learn? How do we create learning environments that are strong in intent yet adaptable to change? How do we learn from what does not work and further, learn to take risks daily to expand our comfort zone? What can we learn from research and our responses to past events to inform how to build toward a resilient future where we can withstand what crises and challenges the future brings? Topic areas, seen through the lenses of both Art and Science, include sustainability, physical and mental health, community, school climate and culture, safety, and security.

Primary Core Competency
Educational Visioning: Exhibits an understanding of best and next practices related to educational leadership, programming, teaching, learning, planning and facility design. Establishes credibility with educators, community members and design professionals while conceiving and leading a community-based visioning process. Demonstrates the ability to articulate the impact of learning environments on teaching and learning and uses that ability to facilitate a dialogue that uncovers the unique needs and long-range goals of an educational institution and its stakeholders – translating that into an actionable written/graphic program of requirements for the design practitioner.

LearningSCAPES 2023

October 12-15 | Hilton Chicago

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