How should schools and places of learning be designed in the year 2030, 2040 or even 2050? VUCA is an acronym that is sometimes used to describe our future: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This future will present opportunities that we have not yet experienced. There will be jobs that have not yet been created, political and social dynamics that are unprecedented and all kinds of complex and intriguing variables that are sure to contribute to a fascinating set of life experiences for our students.
How can we prepare students for a VUCA future if we continue to teach them based on an education model designed for a past era? What do we need to do now to prepare our students and our learning spaces for the future? If we look at our current school facilities, the average age of a Hopkins school is 50 years old. As such, these schools were designed around the notion that learning is best achieved in self-contained classrooms with a one-way transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. As they are designed, these “cells and bells” spaces are meant to contain and control learning, while minimizing transparency, collaboration and connections. The goal of Hopkins Vision 2031 is to transform this model and prepare our students to successfully navigate a complex future.
Where we are now
While the original design of our facilities was based on the educational paradigm of delivering siloed content knowledge, we have simultaneously improved, upgraded and meticulously maintained all of our schools. Across the district, we offer light-filled, welcoming preschool classrooms and media centers; beautifully designed and tended courtyard gardens and outdoor learning spaces; several unique and inviting cafeterias; and newly renovated innovation labs and flexible learning spaces that align with the learning goals outlined in Vision 2031.
Yet, our goal is to move from “Great to World Class,” settling for the status quo isn’t an option. There is much more that can be done to reconfigure Hopkins’ schools to reshape learning in a way that empowers each student, enriches their learning experiences and gives space for them to discover and develop their talents while creating members of the greater Hopkins community who are fully prepared for whatever tomorrow brings.
Imagine if large, flexible spaces served as communal learning areas by connecting several classrooms. Imagine a sense of home created within students’ classrooms, broadened to a sense of community beyond the classroom walls. How might a group of teachers rethink their individual and collective schedules? How might a teacher’s role evolve in this collaborative environment? Would these changes help to inform different measurements of student success?
These are the types of questions Hopkins is exploring within our partnership with Fielding Nair International and Unesco. The facilities study currently underway in this partnership will help us explore the role that design plays in creating physical spaces that will support and enhance the instruction and learning shifts required in Vision 2031. Hopkins is committed to the school and learning design changes that will be needed to help us deliver our promise of a brilliant future for all Hopkins students.
If you would like to get involved in our facility exploration, there are a number of ways community members, parents and staff can participate. Look for more information on how you can get involved in the weeks to come.
Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed is the superintendent of Hopkins Public Schools.