Integrated Education

As we think about the kinds of spaces that serve the constantly changing needs of a modern learner, it can be tempting to overlook this challenge as a solution for 21st century education, rather than as a solution that must constantly adapt to students of the future. Though the integration of academic curriculum, student culture, and the local community are all critical to the success of any school, it is especially important to integrate the only constant in the future – the students themselves. Human interaction is vital to any high school education experience: it helps teach social skills, develop emotional maturity and character – thus, it must become part of the education at our Open Source Learning Academy. Here, interaction and dialogue become links that connect students in their academic and social lives, encouraging an inclusive environment that facilities the dissemination of knowledge, interests, and ideas.

Our current grade level organization are composed of many subsets of students. In a single grade, individuals study different subjects, have varied interest, and possess unique learning skills. Through offering agile spaces that can adapt and cater to each of these learning groups, a school can help accelerate the educational experience and help each developing student as an individual. Through the development of the three student clusters each located at a different level of the academy, cohorts can receive the adequate balance of guidance and freedom at each level. Students begin with the cluster at the innermost courtyard, and as they progress through to a higher academic level, relocate to a cluster that gives them more access to facilities. These learning clusters are also each directly connected to the inner courtyard, which acts as a central landmark space for students to socialize in the time off, such as during break or passing periods. 

The spaces of the Open Source Learning Academy must be flexible so that it accommodates the students in a proactive manner. Configurations of barriers must be changeable so that students are participating in the creation of their environment, and thus can grow to the size of the learning group. However, barriers must also function as filters between environments of different nature, such as between a quiet study space and a boisterous hallway. Thus, we decided to separate each hallway into three different ‘zones’. On the highway, student are exposed to the beautiful weather of Avila Beach: here, they commute to classes, socialize in a comfortable environment, and are visually connected to the learning centers. In the academic strip, both closed and open learning environments are where instruction happens, and are constantly morphing to become the vessel of housing different student groups. Finally, on the outside, a strip of quietude with plenty of daylighting offer breakout spaces to facilitate the growth and personal focus of the academic classrooms.

Our site in Avila Beach featured a largely open space with a slight gradient. This allowed us to create a semi-enclosed interior courtyard space, with stepped levels towards the gym of the school. These two levels are geometrically linked to the entry to the school, which creates an inviting axis into the interior space. Once inside, the exterior highway creates a meandering journey through academic spaces of different design focus. Key geometric points of the building form are connected by vertical moment frame cores, that allow the students to be visually connected to not only vertical spaces above them, but also natural light. These are also visual spaces for the students to gather and participate in social or group interaction.

On the second floor, the OSLA Foundation, gymnasium and Learning Cluster [1] create the second level interior courtyard. Close towards the entrance, Learning Cluster [3], the central media center, academic classrooms, a culinary studio (hidden by green roof), and a double height student center are interconnected by the ‘highway’. Vertically stacking an intensive green roof allows culinary students to experience the food to table culture.

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