The following is a company-submitted press release and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of School Planning & Management magazine.

Changing the Face of Education

SchoolsNEXT Winners Shine at the Association for Learning Environment’s LearningSCAPES Conference

Washington, D.C. — Four teams of middle school students met at the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) LearningSCAPES Conference in San Diego to compete in the final leg of the 2015 SchoolsNEXT competition. SchoolsNEXThighlights school infrastructure that inspires transformation in education, enhances student and teacher performance and contributes to community culture and vitality.

Over 3,000 students representing nearly 100 school districts from schools around the globe participated in the 2015 program. 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. 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.

John Sumlin, Tandus Centiva, aptly described the program. “We believe this program epitomizes the vision of the organization. SchoolsNEXT exemplifies a truly hands on, project based learning experience, integrating all of the skillsets of the building’s client, the learners of tomorrow!”

Judy Hoskens, REFP, LEED AP, SchoolsNEXT chair and A4LE Board member, poignantly remarked, “These promising young designers demonstrated their ability to rethink education, inspire change and create meaningful learning experiences for all learners and their communities. Preparing a pathway for tomorrow’s learners and leaders, their desire to make a difference in the world was remarkable and humbling.”

Walking away with top honors, Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School, Alberta, Canada, received the Award of Excellence. Capturing the Award of Distinction was the engaging St.Michael’s Academy team from Springfield MA. The impassioned team from Ligon Middle School, Raleigh, NC, won the Award of Merit. And, the Award of Commendation went to very thoughtful and innovative Bullis Charter School team from Los Altos, CA.

How would you like to explore a modern, innovative and eco-friendly 21st century school that promises to make learning more engaging for students in Canada’s North? Traveling all the way from Okotoks, Alberta, the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School team related their experience of working with students in Fort Providence, a First Nations community in the Northwest Territories, in an effort to transform their singular K-12 building educating 170 children into a community icon. Meet Providence Academy … a school inspired by innovation and the ideals of modern architecture, principle-driven design, strong cultural representation, 21st century technology and advanced environmentally-friendly systems.

With their articulate division of labor and an incredible investigation into a culture far from them, an experience tailored around their meticulous research resulted in Providence Academy, where learning exploded beyond its walls. Demonstrating their passion for encouraging optimal student learning and engaging community involvement and culture in this remote area, the team conducted vigorous research on best practices in education. Providence Academy’s wave-like design and igloo motive are representative of the locale and people for whom they hoped to design. Learning that traditional school models do not always benefit students in isolated communities, they envisioned a modern, green school designed to reduce isolation and engage learners of all ages through culturally relevant programming.

The young men from St. Michael’s Academy presented a convincing Vision of how a site responds to the urban context and community, demonstrating a strong connection between community, peripheral learning experiences and athletics. With their Vision, they fulfilled a real community need. The project determined that growth of true community emanated from the pronounced synergy between athletics + academics + citizenship – a provocative reference to the spirit ethic of the ancient Greeks, mind boy. By engaging their passion for sports, the team made it clear that equitable education and learning were of paramount importance to them. Their dedication to true community service was astounding. While designing their learning environment, which had several iterations, and creating an actual budget for their project, the St. Michael’s team met with a real estate agent and developer and sought ideas from many community members. Demonstrating great purpose, passion and empathy, the students plan to continue their campaign for a new community center for Springfield. Truly, these young men are making a difference!

Envision a self-sufficient, eco-friendly boarding school located on Falls Lake, NC. With a science-focused curriculum, the NCIII provides a superb local resource, providing hours of service, resources, knowledge and income to the surrounding community. Demonstrating exceptional research of the needs of the community, exploring community growth and environmental impacts, the students designed solutions that provided a healthy and sustainable environment, but most importantly inspired changes in the future of education for the entire community. Through rigorous research of the needs of their community, exploring community growth and environmental impacts, the students focused on designing community solutions with the future in mind. Replete with flexible learning spaces, maker spaces and eco-furnishings, the North Carolina Institute of Innovation displays remarkable teamwork, a desire to empower students and a passion to change the future of learning. They provided solutions not only for their school, but for their entire community.

With an eye to the connection between learning and community, Dedication Elementary challenges the traditional grade structure, offering a facility for the future with distinct learning environments for auditory, visual, kinesthetic and reading and writing learners. Outdoor learning space were celebrated, both in function and form, given the farm, internal play yard and flowers. The Bullis team’s Dedication Elementary had a great focus on diversity and cultural celebration, evident in their radial built environment, reinforcing safety, security, equality and “community.” Their “Diversity Day” embodies a community celebration of cultural differences. Cylindrical solar panels and other innovative sustainable features were incorporated and the spirit of fun was not lost on these students.

“Each year, Judy and I have the distinct pleasure of experiencing the best and the brightest from across our continent and often from around the world,” commented David Schrader, AIA, LEED AP, vice chair, A4LE. “Their desire to rethink education, empower students and create true community is remarkable. I am sure you will agree with me when I say, ‘our future is in good hands.’”

The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE), formerly the Council of Educational Facility Planners (CEFPI), is the only professional organization whose primary purpose is improving the places where children learn. With approximately 4,400 members, A4LE encompasses six geographic regions across the United States, and supports regional representation in Canada, Australasia, and the UK. A4LE embraces a collaborative network of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, resilient and sustainable 21st Century learning places that inspire transformation in education, enhance student and teacher performance, and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit www.a4le.org or follow us on Twitter @A4LE2.

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