Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Everything Old Is New Again

Working in this field for what seems a lifetime, brings with it a unique (or jaded) insight. As I look back at some of the significant trends in education, it is interesting to note that what seems like a new problem or idea, most likely is not.

Sustainability — On Apr. 22, 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day, putting air and water pollution and other environmental concerns on the front page. The sustainability movement took hold in the building and construction industry some 20-years later (1993) when the USGBC was established. The the LEED rating system was unveiled in 2000. The Center for Green Schools was launched in 2010. Today, building sustainable schools is routine practice. The movement has firmly taken root.

Energy and Design — With the OPEC oil embargo of 1973, fuel prices jumped 350 percent. Reddy Kilowatt spread the message to “use energy wisely.” Through the early ‘80s, numerous articles were written about making schools more energy efficient. New mechanical systems were installed to save on heating and lighting. The large windows were eliminated to save on heating and cooling costs. What wasn’t taken into account was the negative impact this would have on natural ventilation amd light, and the positive effects of natural light on students. Windows are now being added or restored.

Science and Technology — It was 1957, and the talk was about the Soviet Union, Sputnik, the space race and how American students were falling behind in math and science. Our sense of superiority was being challenged and our strategy was to emphasize math and science, and to expand vocational programs. The focus quickly faded. Fast forward to the 2000s, when global rankings, the economy and workforce development took center stage, and there was a renewed emphasis on what we now called S.T.E.M., empahsizing that students need to think critically, problem-solve and collaborate.

Open Classrooms and Makerspace — In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was all about the open classroom. In the ‘80s, it was back to basics and the open classroom idea died. Today, it is once again about active learning and collaboration; makerspaces where students can create; and a focus on student-centered learning.

My question is not so much the space, but how we are training teachers to use it? Stay tuned to see if it sticks this time around!

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.

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