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School of the Future Design Competition Winners Shine at CEFPI Annual Conference

Portland, Ore. – Six teams of middle school students met at the CEFPI Annual Conference in Portland, OR, to compete in the final leg of The School of the Future Design Competition. The competition challenges students from across the globe to think creatively as they plan and design tomorrow’s 21st century learning environments to enhance innovative ways of teaching and learning, be healthy, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive and engage the surrounding community.

Sponsored by CEFPI in collaboration with Tandus|Centiva, Interface, Shaw Contract Group, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Green Building Council, Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc., SCHRADERGROUP Architects, Inc. and MB Kahn Construction, the School of the Future competition, now re-branded as SchoolsNEXT, highlights school infrastructure that enhances student and teacher performance and contributes to community culture and vitality. School of the Future which has now been rebranded as SchoolsNEXT.

Over 3,000 students representing nearly 100 school districts from schools all over North America and the United Kingdom participated in the 2014 program. This is a 21st Century learning approach where students are enabled, engaged and empowered through a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum, including leadership and teamwork proficiencies, to master the skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy. The multi-disciplinary solution teaches students how to follow a planning process from the concept phase to completion of the project, with thorough documentation. Each team presentation was offered as an educational session for conference attendees, giving everyone an opportunity to see these remarkable kids “up close and personal.”

Judy Hoskens, REFP, LEED AP, School of the Future Competition chair and CEFPI Board member, poignantly remarked, “What these students did this year that was so powerful was to imbue their design solutions with empathy and meaning, and a desire to make a difference in the world. This added dimension is the critical ingredient necessary to create memorable and meaningful learning experiences for all learners and their communities. BRAVO!”

Walking away with top honors, MR Null Middle School, Houston, TX, received the Award of Excellence. Capturing the Award of Distinction was the enthusiastic Sutter Middle School team from Folsom, CA Kingdom. The impassioned team from Norwalk Middle School, Norwalk, IA, won the Award of Merit. And, the very thoughtful, engaging and talented teams from iTech Preparatory, Vancouver, WA; St. Michael’s Academy, Springfield, MA; and Thoreau Middle School, Vienna, VA earned Awards of Commendation.

Null Middle School provided solutions not only for their school, but for their entire community, establishing partnerships between family, school and the developing community. Constructed on the site of an abandoned landfill with recycled building materials, the school stands as a symbol of reuse, recycle and repurpose, minimizing its effect on the ecosystem. Displaying tremendous courage in sharing their own personal stories, the students emphasized the need for a place where everyone would feel safe and connected, leading to the design of The Stallion Stable, and their own kind of Starbucks that provided a safe, personal support structure, open to students 24/7. A homeless shelter was included in their school. Acknowledging that “learning happens beyond the four walls of the classroom,” they addressed different learning styles and created work study and job training programs in partnership with local businesses. Clearly, the Null Middle School team epitomized “Together We Learn.”

Bouwan means build in Dutch. “Build. Create. Succeed,” served as the foundation for Bouwan School, designed by the innovative team from Sutter Middle School. Looking at their opportunities through a world lens, Bouwan included dormitories for foster and homeless children, in an effort to help them learn and grow. Student orientation guides introduced the concepts of community learning partnerships and simulation work rooms utilizing project based learning. Their ground-breaking strategies demonstrated a clear understanding of sustainable technologies, such as a straddling bus that allows cars to pass underneath; solar trees; paper table tops; aquaponics; self-repairing concrete; solar paint and electrified wood furniture. In their polished and professional presentation, these young students also addressed the important role that furniture plays in successful learning.

Norwalk Middle School’s Smart School functions very differently from schools today – it challenges us to rethink education and inspire change. Collaboratively designed as a competency based, hands on approach to learning, Norwalk’s environmentally friendly space not only equips students for life, but serves as an economic engine for the community. Employing great Smart Growth principles, they assembled an Eco-Park business street, with small businesses housed in recycled shipping containers, allowing students to apply their learning at their own pace while giving back to the community. In essence, they developed a master plan for the community on 700 acres of lakefront property.

ITech Preparatory’s Tennant Castle Academy, inspired by Hogwarts, represents learning in a new creative way, bringing students together in a year-round boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Demonstrating extensive research, the team renovated an old castle into an eco-friendly, flexible 21st Century learning space with separate but interconnected houses for specific interest areas and different learning styles. Epitomizing great teamwork, the St. Michaels’s Academy team developed a very comprehensive school plan that included a thoughtful approach to project financing. Community engagement and eco-friendly technologies were a priority, as their own school was severely damaged by a tornado in 2011. Integrating Darwin’s philosophies and developing real world solutions to current challenges and concerns, Thoreau students’ Darwin Academy focused on the benefits of project based learning through their Obstacle Observation and Obstacle Unraveling programs, highlighting the connection between learning and life.

“Chairing the jury affords me one of the best days of the year,” commented David Schrader, AIA, LEED-AP, jury chair and chair-elect, CEFPI. “Creating schools that inspire changes in education, empower students and engage the community, these young designers demonstrated great passion, enthusiasm, remarkable research and exceptional teamwork. Our future looks much brighter with them at the helm.”

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