What is 21st century learning? The question we were given day one of winter quarter, and that I struggled to find an answer to. And now, looking back, I see the reason I struggled with this question so much is because I spent my time answering what 21st century learning is NOT. It is not a square room with a teacher at the front, lecturing for an hour, six times a day. It is not a list of required classes that everyone must pass. It is not the same routine over and over again until someone finally says you can move on to college. So then what is it, and how can the architecture influence it?
With these questions in mind, I spent the first few weeks experimenting with the ideas of merging high school and college. Maybe the issue was the layout of schools. Maybe it had to do with the stereotypical, double-loaded corridor, and buildings just needed to bring more light in.
After visiting San Diego and seeing a variety of High Tech Highs, and talking to the students that attended them, I had a new theory. These students were so passionate and spoke so eloquently and seemed much more mature than their age. They focused on collaborating and mentoring each other and working on physical projects rather than reading out of a textbook. So maybe the issue was less about the physical high school, and more about the social standards. Maybe the issue was separating these students from each other by grade level and not having the collaboration we saw in San Diego.
Spring Break was where I finally had my revelation of what Open Source Learning was trying to accomplish. After going through a hundred precedents of schools all over the world that were changing the way we see learning, I realized the issue was not just one thing, but a combination of everything I had seen the quarter before, and it had been in front of me the whole time. Schools need to be open. Open grade levels, open design focuses, open teachers, open classrooms, open buildings.
Once we partnered up spring quarter, and Vera and I started to talk about all of our interpretations and understandings of learning, suddenly we couldn’t work fast enough. Every day there was a new idea, new inspiration, new precedent, new shape that made us even more passionate about what we were trying to do. We went through rolls and rolls of trace paper and pens sketching out everything until we both fell in love with what we saw. Making classrooms that connected, making the coffee bar a learning space, making the hallways both indoor and outdoor, the list of new ideas every day was endless and so was the passion for this project. The biggest challenge we faced at the end of the quarter was having enough time to finish everything we wanted to accomplish. I have never been so excited for and proud of the project we had. I never thought we could accomplish as much as we did (or sleep as little as we did) in the past 20 weeks, but I enjoyed every second. These past two quarters have been both the most challenging and most rewarding studios I have ever experienced and after becoming so close with the people in this studio, I am seriously going to miss it.