Thursday, January 28, 2010

School of the Future Interview Pt. 3

A follow up interview with Kate Cahill, architect, about the building of the School of the Future:

What is the relationship between student and teacher in the School of the Future?
Is their an implicit hierarchy of space? Do all students need direct access to the teacher? Or to each other? At what point does a gathering of people become a learning environment?

-Good questions, but the building of the school house is a hub, more of a meeting place and the activities will be happening in the park and the world. Answering your questions:
Students are often teachers and I think there will be a cycle of teaching and learning happening that is hopefully intergenerational. So we would all sit around a table more than a teacher would likely project upon a group. Speaking of projection, WE DON’T YET HAVE A POWER SOURCE and this means that we might not be projecting very often, which is fine, which means we should be able to write on something big. Big white boards?
Classes will probably be pretty small. Teacher access is key- I hope to see a lot of one on one interactions, or small groups. Students will definitely be collaborating as a single body in many classes, at other times working separately. The whole park is a learning environment.

How are you going to measure success and failure within your curriculum? Is this important to you?
This is really important, but the process of making the school will lead to a version of assessment. We could have a scoreboard to measure the success of the whole school though! I think we are measuring the school and not the students. I believe that teachers know how to teach and students know how to learn, and everyone has the capacity to do both. But I definitely do not know how to run a school, so this is a process that will show us what does and doesn’t work. Make sense?

What is a curriculum? vs. a list of classes? (I have a lot of follow up questions to this one but let's get your first impressions here)
A curriculum is a plan. It’s got a learning goal with a list of steps that will define a process that will reach that goal. The example of what I am teaching now: I want to teach kids that we are organisms, constantly reacting and adapting to our environment. To show this, we are constructing a mountain they can fit inside, which is the perfect habitat to grow mushrooms. We will construct this environment, study what type of biosphere it creates, and then see how mushrooms react to the environment. Blah blah…

Within an art-based curriculum, what is the distinction between self-expression [ that learning?] and education? Self expression is the most important kind of learning. But your self extends to your context (environment and your surrounding community). And the process of self expression is super duper important, because the making of things (even a watercolor self portrait) offers the opportunity to complete a task, refine a skill, experiment with materials, solve a multitude of little problems, have faith in a process and in your own abilities, etc etc. Here is another example. Say there is a figure painter that wants to teach a class. Could they adapt to painting a portrait of the neighborhood? Perhaps they could create an army of painters to paint portraits of local people so we have a map of portraits of the neighborhood. Or could they paint portraits of the park? Before and after the makeover? How do you show personality in a portrait and how does that translate to the rendering of a place? Eh?

What are your personal assumptions about why anyone would want to come to the School of the Future?

To meet people, to experiment with teaching, to learn something new, to try a new process, to be a part of a community, to get attention for what you do as a teacher, to witness yet another artist run school, to see what that glowing box is in the park…

What are all the best things about the school of the present?

Elementary Schools feel like little microcosms. The teachers’lounge is often a haven of snacks and support (in good schools). It really feels like everything you need to exist (as a child) is inside those schools.
Every surface is used (sometimes it can be a problem, other times it can be amazing use of space) I have some images of class rooms that are packed from bottom to top with the learning process and it looks really exciting and warm.
Scale changes to respond to different sizes of people.
I love swinging doors.
Display cases inserted in walls in the hallway are good.
Old auditoriums with big curtains and lots of old seating in a rounded orientation: beautiful.
Old gym floors. Glorious.
New playgrounds seem to have a blue track with green astroterf in the center with a covered gazebo thing. Beautiful!

It would be great to ask some questions of the Parks Dept rep like: What features do you design into park fixtures to make them vandalism-resistant? Or, a litmas test-type question like: If we bought a garden shed at Home Depot and plopped it in the park, would that be an allowable structure?

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