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Education is changing to reflect the world today's children face, and school design has evolved to facilitate those changes.

CASTLEImagine a classroom with all of the furniture on castors, tables that can be raised to standing height or lowered for sitting, and stools that are rounded on the bottom so you can rock back and forth or around in circles like a hula hoop.

Throw in table tops that can be flipped into a vertical position to serve as white boards, which can be rolled outside for projects in the science garden, and a whole wall painted as a green screen for videography, and you have a picture of the scene that greeted delighted participants in the third Community Design Workshop for the new Lakeridge Junior High on Sept. 8.

Adults giggled in surprise as they rocked around on the stools while students shared how much better they could think while rocking and how calming that would be when they were nervous about taking a test.

This excitement was taking place in a model "learning studio," which was designed to bring the benefits of a "maker space" to all the classrooms. It includes one room that is a normal classroom size for "heads-down" learning, paired with a larger room for active learning. Two teachers would share the studio and trade the spaces according to their curricular needs.

To test the concept in real-world conditions, the staff combined two adjacent classrooms at LJH into a model of the learning studio. Teachers will take turns teaching in it throughout this school year so the final product will reflect their input when the new junior high is completed.

Education is changing to reflect the world today's children face, and school design has evolved to facilitate those changes. In this kind of learning studio, a teacher will be doing a minimum of standing in front of a class filling students with information, and a maximum of channeling the energy of adolescents into physically active, exciting exploration to bring their lessons alive.

It will be a dynamic compliment to the time spent with electronic devices.

Unfortunately, in order to bring the costs in line with the budget, only parts of the building wil be built to the highest seismic standard (Immediate Occupancy). This would allow for use as an emergency shelter but could delay the reopening of school for an unacceptably long time following a seismic event. There is a possibility that further cost refinement will allow the whole school to be built to Immediate Occupancy, which was the original goal.

Fortunately, sustainability features have been retained because they were more cost-effective than conventional building methods. A hybrid heat pump/passive cooling system will produce the cooling that teachers so desperately need while providing that wonderful feeling of fresh air you get when you open a window on a nice day. The healthy environment of the building will reduce stress and enliven learning, benefitting teachers and students alike.

After serving on the Bond Development and Design Advisory committees, I am very excited to see the plans come together for a beautiful school designed to promote the excitement of discovery, a sense of safety and inclusion, a sense of one's place in the natural world and which will serve us well for the next 75-100 years. This process and this project are being very well done.

Jan Castle is chair of the McVey-South Shore Neighborhood Association, co-chair of PrepLO and a co-founder of the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network.


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