The days of one-room schoolhouses in the U.S. are long gone, and now chalkboards have even become a thing of the past. The education field is changing, and understanding 21st century learning is now an essential part of understanding educational construction.
Sustainable student solutions
School districts across the country are recognizing that building green helps the environment and their budgets. Advanced energy efficiency design is becoming more and more popular; our work at Lake Mills Elementary School is a prime example.
The winner of a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School award in 2015, Lake Mills Elementary boasts features such as solar panels, energy-efficient LED lighting and ample (insulated) windows for natural lighting, geothermal heating and cooling, and a green roof. Aside from contributing to an overall peaceful atmosphere throughout the school, these features result in lower operating costs compared to a more traditional school. Those savings add up, leaving more dollars available to spend on classroom and administrative needs.
In addition to green features like those mentioned above, school decision-makers are putting an increased emphasis on safe, sustainable materials throughout their buildings. By using as many nontoxic building materials as possible—from the flooring to the furniture—students and teachers benefit from better air quality in their learning and working environments.
Open concepts, open minds
Another way that building for education needs is changing shows in the shape—or lack thereof—of classrooms. Boxy classrooms with straight rows of desks are now often being traded for open concept areas that facilitate flexibility, collaboration and sharing resources. With open-concept designs, schools are becoming more adaptable to students’ needs and different learning styles.
These non-traditional learning spaces allow educators to create environments that best suit what’s being studied. As curricula pushes STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) topics and increased physical activity, the environments we’re able to create for them is empowering students to learn in a more dynamic way with flexible furniture that can be modified to accommodate differing work group sizes, work surfaces and mobile instructor stations.
There has been a push to address security measures in schools over the last decade, and one place we often see dollars saved from green energy reinvested is in the construction of secure entrances and security stations. As education becomes more consumer-driven with parents and students enjoying increased school choice, administrators are striving to make their schools as attractive as possible. From sustainability to safety, we in the construction industry are at the forefront of helping districts achieve those very goals.
One project that truly epitomizes 21st century learning is Lake Mills Elementary School. Check out this VIDEO to see how they are embracing changes in education and incorporating both innovation and sustainable design into their new school.