Where Children Learn

March 1, 2004
One often does not appreciate how important a school building is to its occupants and community. But at a special celebration honoring the winner of American

One often does not appreciate how important a school building is to its occupants and community. But at a special celebration honoring the winner of American School & University's 2003 “Architectural Portfolio” William W. Caudill Citation — the top award for K-12 architecture and design — students at Thompson Middle School, Newport, R.I., made it very clear just how important their building is to them (see p. 61).

Prior to the award ceremony, students were invited to share their feelings about their new school in an essay-writing contest. At the special celebration, a number of them were asked to read their essays before a cafetorium full of people, from fellow classmates and teachers to community members and local dignitaries. The tales were passionate and inspiring, and possessed a sense of excitement and appreciation for a school they enjoyed coming to and felt was built specifically for them.

This is what a school facility can and should do. Like Thompson, a school should inspire, excite, reflect its users and community, instill a sense of ownership and pride, and serve as a tool rather than a deterrent to the learning process. Does your school meet these criteria?

A dozen years ago, AS&U published a groundbreaking series entitled “Facilities Impact on Learning.” It brought national attention to the poor condition of America's school facilities, as well as the impact the physical structure has on the learning environment. In this issue, we revisit the impact of facilities on learning, and renew a call to action to address a crisis that continues to grow exponentially (see p. 20).

Facilities do have an impact on learning. As a nation, we need to act now to ensure this and future generations of children are not forced to attend school in buildings that are unsafe, uninspiring and educationally inadequate.

For those expecting to see the annual Buyers' Guide & Industry Sourcebook, which typically arrives at this time, don't fret. The Buyers' Guide is now a special 13th issue that will be arriving at your desks shortly.

SCORECARD

At a special award ceremony at Thompson Middle School, Newport, R.I., students shared their feelings about the renovated and expanded building that was honored with the 2003 William W. Caudill Citation for architectural design and planning excellence. Some comments:

“Many of my fellow classmates from the Rogers High School annex have improved their grades. This might be because last year everyone was so excited about learning in the new building.”

“All of the bright colors and architectural designs make Thompson a cheerful place to be.”

“The thing about the building that makes [Thompson] such a great place to learn is the glass window on the ceiling, because you can look up and see the beautiful sky and the sun shining through the hallway. It makes you have a warm, fuzzy feeling. Like you're at home and don't want to leave … The warm feeling makes me feel safe in the school.”

“It's [the library] the best place to read. This is because of the windows and how the light gets in. Wherever you go, you can sit and read without straining your eyes because of lack of light.”

“I would say the new Thompson Middle School is one of the greatest schools for learning this world has ever seen!”

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