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How I spent the pandemic: Learning something new, of course.

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What to do with all that extra time when we no longer needed to commute two hours every day? Research, of course!

When we all suddenly found ourselves working from home last year and no longer commuting to and from the office, we also found some newly freed up time. Personally, I got back about two hours every weekday. And how exactly did I go about spending this additional time? Some of it went to work, some to leisure activities, but a fair bit went to research and learning – learning more about what it is we, as learning environment architects, planners and interior designers, put our heart and soul into: exceptional school design. During this past year, I’ve read an enormous number of articles and watched dozens of YouTube videos. Here are a few that I think were especially worth the time to check out and better understand what makes a transformative learning environment:

1. Yong Zhao’s keynote address at the 2016 AERO conference. This one is an investment at nearly two hours, but I promise it is worth it. He challenges us to rethink and examine all our assumptions about education, up to and including “21st Century Learning.” He is quite critical of the tendency to favor short-term instructional outcomes over the more important long-term learning outcomes and urges us to focus instead on teaching our students to create value for others and themselves. He’s also an entertaining speaker with an interesting personal story, plus you learn what “out-of-basement” means.

2. Clever Classrooms: Summary Report of the HEAD Project is another worthy investment of your time. We all intuitively know that daylighting and fresh air are good for students – the authors did the work to give us real data to use that supports our intuition. They found Naturalness, Individualization and Stimulation were more influential on student outcomes than other factors such as school size. Bonus – they include some ideas for how their research can be applied to design.

3. Edutopia is an incredible repository of short, informative articles and videos, and it is a website that I’ve bookmarked. I particularly liked this one: Singapore's 21st-Century Teaching Strategies (Education Everywhere Series) | Edutopia. Be sure to click through the links at the bottom of the page – there are additional quick videos looking at Canada, Finland and Germany. We are foolish indeed if we ignore the successes (and failures) of our peers around the world. To quote Kenneth Blanchard, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” 

Honestly, it was hard to pick just three, so here are a few bonus resources I would recommend:

Have you recently read or watched anything inspirational about school design? If so, I would love to know more about it.

Sara Schesser, RA, ALEP
Senior Project Architect

Sara Schesser is a Senior Project Architect at EUA in the Denver office working with the Learning Studio. In her spare time, Sara likes to maintain her rose garden and spend time with her family.

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