Is this really the right time to be talking about learning space design?

by Dr. Robert Dillon and Rebecca Hare

Is this really the right time to be talking about learning space design?

This was one of the questions that kept coming up as we discussed setting the release date for The Space: A Guide for Leaders. (It will be live for purchase the first week of February). It was a fair question seeing that school and learning as we know it has been turned upside down by the pandemic that has dominated the planning and conversations of school leaders since March 2020. Most schools have taken short-term counter measures to battle against the spread of the virus. We watched as the distance between desks was carefully set, movement was limited, and signage about new rules and mandates filled the halls.

Seeing this retreat from optimal space design, yet knowing the positive impact of many of the ideas within the pages of the new book led us to push for a publishing date that would allow the teachers and students to benefit now and beyond the pandemic from well designed spaces throughout the school building. So after four years of discussion, collaboration, and design with teachers and leaders from schools and districts around the globe, we are ready to share the follow up to The Space: A Guide for Educators.

Please consider reading the new book if any of the following apply to you and your work to support students and teachers to be their best during these difficult times.

  1. You are concerned about the Social/Emotional State of your students and staff. Research continues to show that small changes to the learning environment can have a big impact on lowering stress for students and teachers while promoting things like joy, wonder, and creativity. Many of the ideas in the book don’t need to wait for the end to pandemic precautions.
  2. You are future focused and care about best practices. Planning has already started for the new school year. This includes master schedules, budgets, and changes in instructional models. Waiting another year to consider the ideas in the book will further distance the power of syncing learning spaces with instructional practices and the overall mission of the school.
  3. You care about your school’s culture. We can’t let the significant get lost in the urgent. Though much of our energy has been consumed by the redesign of school for the pandemic, we know that intentional design of spaces has a huge impact on the culture and energy within a school. How we design every space speaks with clarity about whether our words about who we are as a school are supported by our actions.

The Space: A Guide for Leaders came from listening to teachers who had experienced the power of changing their space to support their students. These educators continued to tell us that if space design work became a priority for everyone in the building deeper or meaningful change was possible. This book begins to examine every space in the building, and how you can make impacts on learning through design in three ways.

  1. Strategic removal of items in the school. This can include things that are broken, old or incongruent with the mission.
  2. Small additions that have a big impact on culture and learning while have small to no impact on budget.
  3. Strategic purchases that begin the long-term prioritization of space design throughout the school building. These purchases begin the momentum for larger, consistent changes in the effort to modernize and optimize the entire building.

Finally, we wanted to be thoughtful about this release as it related to the overwhelming demands that are the current reality for teachers and leaders. The conversations and subsequent actions related to the intentional learning space design can feel like another thing to do on a plate that is already overflowing, but the design of this book like the first makes change practical, sensible, and doable. It creates a momentum and inertia for taking the first steps, and it makes the work less like something more to do, but a different approach to getting our schools to care for students and teachers in their journey to make learning the best that it can be.

The exact release date is coming, but we believe it will go live the first week of February on Amazon and other great places to purchase books.

Learner, Leader, Dreamer, Pursuer of Happiness, Arsenal Fan, Dad, Author of @spacethebook, Director of Innovative Learning, Supporter of @learningSTL