CREATING WARM AND EXCITING ENVIRONMENTS

Schools are institutions, and, like other institutions such as post offices and court houses, they were designed to look pretty much the same. Not any more. "One of the biggest challenges schools face today is competing for a child's attention," says Sandy Kate, principal/director of interiors for Fanning/Howey & Associates in Celina, Ohio. "There are so many stimulating environments — malls, video arcades, fast food restaurants — that children often don't want to engage themselves at school. They would rather be somewhere else."

The personnel at Fanning/ Howey have spent a lot of time talking with kids asking them just how they felt about their school environments. "So often we've heard the comments that the place is so 'boring,' 'unfriendly' and 'makes us feel uncomfortable.' What we try to do is create a warm and exciting environment that kids will want to come to."

The design was made to resemble the Village of Fort Recovery's historic downtown, with the corridor tiled like an old brick street, lined with old-fashioned lamposts and history building façades, such as a courthouse, with the a lighted marquee and ticket booth at the entrance to the auditorium with the face of the now defunct Royal Theater.

Surveys of the kids revealed that some of their main concerns were natural lighting, air conditioning and enough space so they didn't feel crowded. These factors were incorporated into the design, the corridor being very wide — 18 ft. across and 330 ft. long. Small tables and chairs on the sides of the "street" provide places for the children to socialize, study or be tutored.

The design serves as an ongoing history of the town and also involves the community in a number of ways. For instance, it has served as the venue for the Veterans Day parade. The children studied military history to prepare for the event, wrote letters to veterans and paraded down the brick streets dressed in uniforms from past wars and carried flags. The "street" was wide enough to accommodate many members of the community who attended the event.

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