Educational Visioning

Planning a new school today offers a remarkable opportunity. More so now than any other time, we have greater understanding about education and the impact of facilities on learning.  We can create relationships between academic collaboration and facility organization. We can leverage individual student strengths and interests to design responsive environments. Plus, we know more about the benefits of community engagement in education and its contributions to student success. Creating a facility that captures the specific vision of education in your school or district can be transformational for your community.

To kick-off your school design effort with the strength it deserves, we propose that the pre-design process begins with a series of strategy and visioning sessions. These sessions are intended to establish and/or discuss your parameters (things that are “given”), clarify your goals and visions, establish the strategy for completing the entire visioning process, and determine how best to incorporate educational visioning into the pre-design activities and exhibits to be used to garner community support.
The vision process can be organized in many ways, depending on your specific parameters, however visioning typically begins with an exploration of possibilities without much regard for general physical or operational constraints. When anything is possible, the discussion can focus on what is best for your vision. During the visioning process, many stakeholder voices are solicited and heard. Precedents and best practices from throughout the world are reviewed. Local successes and challenges are also explored. Communication and engagement are core to the process.
The process should be participatory, as student, staff and community involvement generate great value during the process and help ensure a successful outcome. Mutual benefits must be emphasized, and support should be solicited in a variety of venues and formats. Once these critical stakeholders are engaged, it is expected that they will continue to inform the direction of the project with knowledge and enthusiasm as it progresses to subsequent phases of design and implementation. The District’s stakeholder groups should be adequately represented to collaborate in the definition of both specific and integrated needs such as: Student Needs - Recognize the unique developmental needs of students to be served - Understand the specific demographics of the designated student body - Overlay the additional challenges unique to students within District area - Include considerations for specific programs and special needs School Needs - Attributes of a school facility that support student learning and community needs - Community resources that can support the new school - Planning considerations to allow the facility to evolve in alignment with changing needs Community Needs - Explore community issues and concerns - Recognize mutual benefits - Explore arts & cultural connections District Needs - Provide learning environments that truly support 21st century learning - Provide equitable opportunities for all students - Provide safe, efficient and effective facilities throughout the district
We synthesize the ideas and insights from the visioning activities into a set of success metrics (often referred to as guiding principles) which will be instrumental in keeping both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the project on track. The team must know how requests for physical space fit into the larger scheme of things. What is the intended result for the school and its stakeholders (students, parents, staff, community, etc.)? What is the core motivation? All further issues, ideas and decisions can then be evaluated on their ability to support these metrics. At the completion of the project, when teachers and students are using their spaces, the metrics developed through the visioning process become the measure of a job well done.

A Unique Approach

A traditional design process begins with square-footages and construction details, but we approach school design from the inside-out.  In short, we believe that the key to spectacular school facilities begins with the learner.  We must collaboratively determine what your school should BE (educational visioning) before we can define what it should HAVE (space planning).

We help you define a vision for your school that takes advantage of your community’s hopes and challenges. What is ultimately envisioned will come directly from the aspirations of your citizens, parents, community leaders, students, teachers, and school board members with whom you interact every day.

Vision as Roadmap

The process of educational visioning is critical to the success of a school design project.  A strong educational vision can be translated into the criteria used to help design school facilities which are intended to support that vision.  Criteria developed from the vision are translated into facility strategies and spatial parameters such as school size and capacity, configurations, space types, technology, flexibility, extended use guidelines, spatial relationships and hierarchies, and the like. Without a strong educational vision, these criteria may not align with your goals, or worse, facilities are independently addressed without any alignment at all, which can lead to inefficient, inequitable, and short-term solutions. But with criteria developed directly from the educational vision, you have built-in assurance that decisions related to facilities are made with the best interest of the student in mind.