To help describe what educational innovation looks like for BVSD, our district leaders, building principals and a group of teacher leaders spent time last summer developing our Innovation Guiding Principles. These principles identify fundamental elements of learning that we want to foster and support through instructional practice and learning environments. This work goes hand in hand with the priorities and initiatives of our strategic plan, the Success Effect.
Through the opportunity provided by the Bond Program, BVSD will create flexible and modern learning environments to support the type of learning described in the innovation guiding principles. Flexibility will be achieved through a variety of learning environments that will allow teachers to be creative in how and where they provide instruction to differentiate for and personally engage each student in his or her learning. Traditionally, schools have been designed to meet the instructional paradigm of teacher directed, lecture-style learning. BVSD’s new learning spaces will allow educators to meet students where they are.
These next-generation learning environments will provide opportunities for students to learn from experts (more “traditional” teaching); learning from peers in small, collaborative groups; giving presentations; individual reflection in quiet spaces; hands-on learning; teacher collaboration; and large community gathering. The goal is to create learning environments that are agile and multi-functional to support the learning needs of students for years to come. This new approach to teaching and learning is not restricted to new and remodeled learning environments. With creativity and professional learning support, many of these principles can be actualized in our existing learning environments too.
We have not been doing anything wrong! We are very proud of our high performing district and our hard working employees. In the world today, access to information is ubiquitous and learning happens everywhere. To meet the needs of each student in a rapidly changing world the way we teach needs to be flexible, differentiated and engaging.
Innovation is a process that can be used to continually improve our environments and practices to support further student success. This shift in practice goes hand in hand with the work we are doing to implement the Success Effect. Innovative practices will support excellence and equity for our students as we seek to actualize our vision of providing a “comprehensive and innovative approach to education and graduate successful, curious, lifelong learners who confidently confront the great challenges of their time.”
This is not a repeat of the Open Classrooms of the 1970s. Innovative design in educational spaces seeks to be flexible and agile. The traditional school design of single or double loaded corridors are designed to meet the instructional paradigm of teacher directed, lecture style learning. In addition, corridors (hallways) are a single use space that is only used for a fraction of the time each day. Re-thinking how we can innovatively design schools to maximize learning space will allow us to support different modes of learning. There are spaces that work well for learning from an expert (more “traditional” teaching), collaborative spaces where students can work in small groups to learn from each other, presentation spaces, teacher collaboration rooms, spaces that allow for individuals to work and reflect quietly, and gathering spaces for larger communities. The goal is to have a learning environment that can be agile and multi-functional depending on the learning needs of the students.
Security is a significant concern for any school today. It should be integrated into new school design in a way that creates a safe and welcoming environment. Creating a positive culture and climate is imperative for schools to function effectively. Not only does the school need to be safe, students should feel that they are in a safe environment.
The design teams for BVSD’s new schools are familiar with and reference the extensive body of research available concerning security and school design. In addition, BVSD’s security staff bring the perspective of law enforcement experience to the process. Staff and security consultants review and provide input on the designs. The following security principles will be applied in the design of the BVSD replacement schools:
All major entrances will have controlled access. Visitors will be directed to a main entrance that is welcoming and allows them to be checked-in before entering the building. All other entrances will be kept locked and will have intruder detection to alert staff if a door is open.
Buildings will be designed to allow for passive supervision by adults inside and outside. There should be clear sightlines from the administration area to the main entrance. Having spaces that can be easily observed by adults can allow for early detection of a threat and mitigate problems such as bullying or undesired loitering in obscured areas.
The buildings will be compartmentalized to enable large areas to be locked off with cross-corridor partitions. These partitions can be activated by a “panic” button or closed manually. Creating secure zones also strengthens security after hours by limiting public access to certain areas of the building.
Learning Communities have a variety of spaces that allow for many different learning activities to take place. Openness and transparency create a flexible, collaborative environment and allow for passive supervision. Within each learning community there also will be spaces where students and staff can get into a secure area and out of sight behind locked doors. These spaces shall provide cover and concealment from outside threats.
Spaces will be designed to allow for multiple means of egress either directly outside, or to adjacent learning areas. This applies to the overall building, Learning Communities and individual learning spaces. All exterior doors out of learning spaces will have automatic door closers and will be self-locking.
It is also important to remember the physical design of buildings is one component of a multi-part strategy to keeping students and staff safe. BVSD’s approach to security includes other measures such as creating a school culture that fosters a sense of community, conducting threat assessments and providing students with resources to help keep their school safe, such as the Safe2Tell anonymous hotline.
Every school building in BVSD is unique and has its own needs in terms of security. BVSD’s School Safety and Emergency Operations committee, which is part of the Systems of Support priority action area of the strategic plan, is tasked with designing and implementing a comprehensive building security plan based on current best practice. Building-specific Emergency Operation Plans are developed for each school. Staff and students will be trained regarding the specific security features for their building.
Libraries are not going away, but their purpose as traditionally understood is transforming. The BVSD Library Mission is this: “to provide equitable access for students and teachers to 21st Century Libraries staffed by 21st Century Librarians in order to create a culture of lifelong learners and a community of digital citizens.”
The library functions as a learning hub or heart of the school that reaches beyond its four walls to include online and blended resources. A library contains books and resources, but as a “curiosity commons,” it will also provide a place for students to learn, collaborate, think, create, read, investigate, tinker and much more. This space will personalize learning for each member of our community.
Part of our mission is to create lifelong learners, and this includes lifelong readers—which is why reading will still be a focus for our libraries. The goal with the space is to make it flexible for the new learning landscape. Information and technology should be ubiquitous so students have access to the tools needed to realize the innovation principles of connections with experts, inquiry based learning and student publishing using digital tools. In addition, the library should always be within “reach.” Our 1:Web program extends the library experience for students to the rest of the school and at home.
As access to technology has become ubiquitous in our world and our schools, the need to teach computer skills in an isolated lab has diminished. In addition, computers have become more compact and mobile making them easier to integrate into the classroom. Many of the past computer skills (word processing, math and reading skill work, presentation design) can be incorporated quickly and easily into the classroom through hand held wireless devices. By migrating away from computer labs, technology use can become student focused and targeted based on learner needs to complete a task.
Please see the Innovation Guiding Principles and Resources page. It contains many different resources (research, videos, books) that support the new innovative design of our schools.
We are working on further developing our Innovation Guiding Principles through the creation of a learning continuum. This progression will be used as a tool to measure growth in individual classrooms. We will have other data such as student achievement scores, attendance data, and student behavior data. Our Educator Effectiveness data can also be used to measure the improvements to teacher practice.
We will gather quantitative data and feedback through the use of student survey, observational and anecdotal data.
BVSD’s innovative learning spaces are fundamentally designed to support each learner’s most preferred style of learning. Flexibility and the ability to differentiate learning for each student’s needs and style is created through the availability of a variety of spaces. Aligning with David Thornburg’s research on “primordial learning metaphors” each learner will have access to a variety of spaces. There will be spaces for small group learning (watering hole), individual learning (cave), presentation learning (campfire) and experiential learning (life). In addition, the learning environments will be designed with a high level of detail to acoustics and audio enhancements.
In the November 2014 election, the taxpayers of the Boulder Valley School District generously passed the largest Bond ever in the history of the state of Colorado. The $576 million bond package will help provide much needed capital improvements to our district’s buildings and includes significant funding directed at creating innovative learning environments.
The bond includes Innovation Funds for each school ($200,000 for elementary schools, $400,000 for middle schools, $600,000 for K8 schools, and $800,000 for high schools). These funds will become available to schools during the implementation of their bond projects. The Innovation Funds Guidelines and Processes will help schools develop their projects and align them with The Success Effect and the BVSD Innovation Guiding Principles.
In addition, BVSD is committed to providing professional learning for staff to support the implementation of the Innovation Guiding Principles into classroom practice. We are currently developing a long term plan to ensure that our teachers are supported as we move forward.