I like to skim through some of my favorite books, to remind me of useful thoughts I’ve forgotten. Touring Ogden International School’s new building last night inspired me to re-read The Third Teacher, 79 Ways to Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning. As soon as I picked up the book, my mind began racing. Consider: A child entering 1st grade this fall will graduate college in 2030 and retire around 2065.
The world’s changing fast (as is what’s required from graduates), yet a teacher from the Victorian age could fit in pretty easily at most ‘modern’ schools. More than 100 years ago, John Dewey argued that children are learning beings, not vessels to be filled with information. So, at a time when we need creativity and life-long learners more than ever, are we stuck trying to reform an outdated model? Could this explain our scandalous drop-out rate? Or the growing numbers rebelling against the narrowing of curriculum and focus on standardized tests? How different would schools look if the focus were on nourishing creativity and developing the wide range of intelligences we need in the 21st century?
Consider: Within the lifetime of today’s child, the human species must figure out how to fit in on the planet. Changing our relationship with nature means a complete redesign (and understanding ecosystems to start). From energy flows to material cycles, every aspect of life will change. If today’s students will transform our systems to work with nature, not against, might it make more sense to think of schools as incubators, both in the actual designs themselves, but also as places for the designers (students) inhabiting them?
Designers are, by their nature, problem solvers. They’re optimistic. They can imagine what’s possible and then design solutions. And it can begin with the school, and in the school.
P.S. The Chicago Architecture Foundation hosted the tour. Btw, they have fantastic programs and exhibits worth seeing.