By Lindsey Coulter
Attending industry events and conferences is a fantastic way to learn about emerging school and university design and construction trends, celebrate award-winning projects, and check out the latest and greatest education products. School Construction News attended both the Association for Learning Environments’ (A4LE) LearningSCAPES conference in Philadelphia in September as well as October’s EDspaces conference, organized by the Education Market Association, in order to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry and speak to educators and A/E/C professionals about their experiences.
With a theme of “Revolutions in Learning,” this year’s LearningSCAPES event featured more than 50 educational sessions highlighting topics such as flipped classrooms, social and emotional learning, and designing to unlock students’ creative curiosity. It also recognized outstanding examples of forward thinking school design.
The organization’s James D. MacConnell Award went to the $125 million, 220,000-square-foot Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus in Bridgeport, Conn., and architecture firm JCJ Architecture of Hartford, Conn. The 1,500-student school is divided into three 500-student learning communities focused around a rigorous and interactive STEM curriculum.
Meanwhile, A4LE’s SchoolsNEXT competition annually brings student voices into the planning and design of learning environments. Teams of middle school students reimagine 21st century learning environments, developing prototype schools that address sustainability, economic and social issues and the future of education. This year’s top prize went to Lake Oswego Jr. High School in Lake Oswego, Ore., for its school design, which included a space for virtual field trips, vertical green walls, CO2-sequestering concrete and flexible classrooms.