BVSD Strategies for Student Success

Innovation Resources

Expand each item to discover articles, videos, and other resources that explain each principle in depth. Resources that are highly recommended are marked with an asterisk (*).

  • 1. Learning is founded in inquiry

    *Powerful Learning: Studies Show Deep Understanding Derives from Collaborative Methods: This article is co-authored by Bridget Baron and Linda Darling-Hammond that cites a number of research/studies supporting the powerful impact of collaborative, inquiry and project based learning that ask students to engage and solve authentic problems.

    Schools that Work: Case Study – Casey Middle School: Casey Middle School in Boulder, Colorado, is a dynamic learning community of students, parents, and faculty from an array of cultures. Its bilingual education program supports academic growth and relationship-building within a diverse student population, and many of its classes apply an inquiry-based learning approach. This video highlights the Inquiry Based Learning approach used in science classes. What the school is achieving:

    • 22% increase in student test scores in all subjects over the past 9 years
    • A Colorado School of Excellence on Arts Education
    • 70% of the 8th graders in the Bilingual Program test into Level 4 Spanish in high school

    Teaching for meaningful learning: A review of A Review of Research on Inquiry-Based and Cooperative Learning: An excerpt from “Powerful Learning: What We Know About Teaching for Understanding” (Jossey-Bass, 2008) by Brigid Barron and Linda Darling-Hammond, seeks to expand the authors’ knowledge of the benefits of inquiry-based learning, as well as to deepen their understanding of the components of an effective inquiry-based lesson or unit. The excerpt explores three approaches to inquiry-based learning: project-based learning, problem-based learning, and learning by design, highlighting key research and unpacking important elements of each approach.

    Focus on Inquiry – Galileo Educational Network: Focus on Inquiry, a resource for teachers, was created to provide support for educators in designing intellectually engaging learning environments for today’s students. The website contains a broad research base along with current video examples of effective teaching practices with voices of educators and students.

    Teaching Channel: Inquiry Based Teaching Series: In this video series, instructors talk about their tips for inviting all students to participate when using the inquiry based teaching method.

    Inquiry Based Learning Resources from MindShift: A curation of resources that includes teaching strategies, big ideas, and digital tools that support the need for and implementation of inquiry based learning environments.

    Inquiry-Based Learning: From Teacher-Guided to Student-Drive: At Ralston Elementary School, teachers build toward student-driven inquiry throughout the course of the unit. Starting with teacher-guided inquiry, teachers model how to develop questions over a series of lessons, showing students that there are multiple ways to solve problems. This prepares students to lead their own inquiry by the end of the unit. Ralston educators are building a culture of inquiry, empowering students to ask questions like:

    • How do I problem solve through this?
    • How do I persevere?
    • How do I understand the cause-and-effect relationships that occur in every field?

    “We want kids to leave Ralston afforded every opportunity in the world, equipped to do whatever they want to do in their life,” says Anne DiCola, Ralston’s instructional coach. “When we open that opportunity at this early stage in their education, it empowers them to love learning, and to continue on in their K-20 education.”

  • 2. Learning fosters a culture of curiosity and risk taking

    Mistakes are Not All Created Equal: A Growth Mindset blog post that describes four types of mistakes that help to raise awareness of their place in learning and implications for risk-taking.

    Linked Learning: The James Irvine Foundation chronicles an approach to student-centered learning in California, including reports of how students are connecting to fields that they love while engaging in rigorous academic experiences.

    *The CASEL Guide: The CASEL Guide provides a systematic framework for evaluating the quality of social and emotional programs and applies this framework to identify and rate well-designed, evidence-based SEL programs with potential for broad dissemination to schools across the United States. The Guide also shares best-practice guidelines for district and school teams on how to select and implement SEL programs.

    Edutopia Schools That Work: Innovation and Risk-Taking Across a District: This case study profiles Albemarle County Public Schools’ initiative to build a culture of innovation and risk-taking at the core of their approach to teaching and learning. From makerspaces and curriculum to the use of social media, flexible classrooms, and instructional coaches, Albemarle gives students the life-long learning skills they’ll require to succeed as 21st-century learners, workers, and citizens.

    Spark Truck: A Maker Journey: This short documentary tells the story of SparkTruck’s inaugural road trip across the United States in the summer of 2012. SparkTruck is a big red truck filled with cutting-edge maker tools, and it travels from school to school teaching kids about design thinking and hands-on learning. As the co-founders of the project Jason Chua and Eugene Korsunskiy travel across the country making little vibrating robots, creature-launchers, and laser-cut stamps with the kids; they discover how the act of making and building can teach kids that they can make a real impact in the world.

    Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions: This book, co-written, Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, founders of the Right Question Institute, outline a simple but powerful approach to put classroom questions where they belong: with students. Instead of organizing learning around teachers’ questions, they suggest letting students’ questions drive the learning experience. Drawing on twenty years of experience, the authors present the Question Formulation Technique, a concise and powerful protocol that enables learners to produce their own questions, improve their questions, and strategize how to use them.

    Character Lab: Build Connections Playbook: A 30-minute class activity that encourages students to link school subjects with their existing interests. This research-backed strategy supports the development of curiosity, and helps students to engage more in class, take more courses in their subject of interest, and pursue related careers. The resource is free and available for download here.

  • 3. Mastery of learning is demonstrated in multiple ways

    NMC Horizon Report 2015: Shift Students as Consumers to Creators: The NMC Horizon report is a yearly collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking.  The research is jointly conducted by these two groups.  This portion of the report identifies the Shifting Students as Consumers to Creators as a “mid-impact trend” to be adopted in the next 3-5 years in K-12 education.  Additional research can be found on page 2 of the pdf.

    Mastery Based Assessment at MC2 Stem High School: This STEM HS uses a Mastery Based Assessment system that requires students to demonstrate competency on benchmarks of learning. Links to their resources are included.

    Performance Assessment Bank: A project of the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Innovation Lab Network has compiled a bank of performance assessment tasks at all grade levels. Reviewed by educators, they are offered as examples for teachers of meaningful learning experiences. Instructions for students and teacher are included as well as rubrics.

    Teaching Channel: Deeper Learning Video Series: The 50+ videos in this series showcase 10 Deeper Learning networks that are preparing students for success. The networks collectively serve more than 500 schools and 227,000 students. The videos in the series highlight innovative teaching models that emphasize real-world experience, academic mindsets, and collaborative project work.

    Assessing Deeper Learning: A Survey of Performance Assessment and Mastery-Tracking Tools: This report reviews, evaluates, and identifies tools and technology that make Deeper Learning student assessment systems efficient and effective for networks, districts, schools, and teachers.

    Making Mastery Accessible: This open source project developed by Springpoint and the Carnegie Corporation of New York offers school districts a how-to guide for mastery-based learning. The toolkit includes learning activities, performance tasks, teaching resources, and skills development guides.

  • 4. Learning is a social process

    NMC Horizon Report 2015: Increasing Use of Collaborative Learning Approaches: The NMC Horizon report is a yearly collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking.  The research is jointly conducted by these two groups.  This portion of the report identifies the Increasing Use of Collaborative Learning Approaches as a “mid-impact trend” to be adopted in the next 3-5 years in K-12 education.  Additional research can be found on page 2 of the pdf.

    Teacher Collaboration in Instructional Teams and Student Achievement: This study draws upon survey and administrative data on over 9,000 teachers in 336 Miami-Dade County public schools over 2 years to investigate the kinds of collaborations that exist in instructional teams across the district and whether these collaborations predict student achievement. While different kinds of teachers and schools report different collaboration quality, we find average collaboration quality is related to student achievement.  Teachers and schools that engage in better quality collaboration have better achievement gains in math and reading. Moreover, teachers improve at greater rates when they work in schools with better collaboration quality.  These results support policy efforts to improve student achievement by promoting teacher collaboration about instruction in teams.

    Where Good Ideas Come From: With Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson pairs the insight of his bestselling Everything Bad Is Good for You and the dazzling erudition of The Ghost Map and The Invention of Air to address an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? Answering in his infectious, culturally omnivorous style, using his fluency in fields from neurobiology to popular culture, Johnson provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how we generate the ideas that push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward.

    Beginning with Charles Darwin’s first encounter with the teeming ecosystem of the coral reef and drawing connections to the intellectual hyperproductivity of modern megacities and to the instant success of YouTube, Johnson shows us that the question we need to ask is, What kind of environment fosters the development of good ideas? His answers are never less than revelatory, convincing, and inspiring as Johnson identifies the seven key principles to the genesis of such ideas, and traces them across time and disciplines.
    Most exhilarating is Johnson’s conclusion that with today’s tools and environment, radical innovation is extraordinarily accessible to those who know how to cultivate it. Where Good Ideas Come From is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how to come up with tomorrow’s great ideas.

    Teaching Channel Video Playlist: Teaching as a Team Sport: This video playlist showcases rich practices and protocols for engaging teachers in meaningful collaboration.

    Edutopia Schools That Work: The Power of Collaborative Learning: This case study highlights The College Preparatory School’s (Oakland, CA) success with collaborative learning and includes videos and downloads.

    Partnership for 21st Century Learning: What We Know About Collaboration: Part of the P21’s 4Cs Research Series ( Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication), this brief outlines key research findings, and best practices about embedding collaboration into practice in classrooms and beyond to boost 21st century learning acquisition.  Intended as a guiding tool for both education practitioners as well as policymakers, the brief provides plain-language descriptions of current research in practice, successful interventions, assessments, recommendations, and more.

  • 5. Learning is powerful when students create solutions to authentic challenges that impact their local, national or global community

    NMC Horizon Report 2015: Creating Authentic Learning Opportunities: The NMC Horizon report is a yearly collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking.  The research is jointly conducted by these two groups.  This portion of the report identifies the Creating Authentic Learning Opportunities as a “Solvable Challenge: One that we understand and know how to solve”.  Additional research can be found on page 2 of the pdf.

    Green Bronx Machine: Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx teacher/administrator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes they have never imagined while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx, Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown over 25,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance. His Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. His students, traveling from Boston to Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earn living wage en route to graduation.

    Koh Panyee Soccer Team: This film is based on a true story. In 1986 a football team that lived on a little island in the south of Thailand called “Koh Panyee”. It’s a floating village in the middle of the sea that has not an inch of soil. The kids here loved to watch football but had nowhere to play or practice. But they didn’t let that stop them. They challenged the norm and have become a great inspiration for new generations on the island.

    The Sockket Ball: Through pure innovation, two Harvard undergrads created an energy-harvesting soccer ball that quite literally empowers communities by converting motion into energy.

    Challenge Based Learning: This website features a growing set of resources created by educators practicing Challenge Based Learning.

    Coalition for Community Schools: Community-Based Learning: Engaging Students for Success and Citizenship: This paper highlights six models of community-based learning: academically based community service, civic education, environment-based education, place-based learning, service learning, and work-based learning. Appended are: (1) Theoretical Foundations of Community-Based Learning; (2) Community-Based Learning Approaches; and (3) Resource Organizations and People.

  • 6. Learning is personalized and learner led

    NMC Horizon Report 2015: Personalized Learning: The NMC Horizon report is a yearly collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking.  The research is jointly conducted by these two groups.  This portion of the report identifies Personalized Learning as a “Difficult Challenge: Those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive”.  Additional research can be found on page 2 of the pdf.

    Rand Research: Impacts of Personalized Learning: The achievement findings in this report focus on 62 public charter and district schools that are pursuing a variety of personalized learning practices. All of the schools received funding from the Gates Foundation, either directly or through intermediary organizations, to implement personalized learning practices as part of at least one of the following three foundation-supported initiatives: Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), Charter School Growth Fund’s Next Generation School Investments, and the Gates Foundation’s Personalized Learning Pilots. Each of the schools was selected to participate in these initiatives through a competitive process, which included a rigorous evaluation of its leadership team and its instructional vision.

    Educator Competencies for Personalized, Learner-centered Teaching: The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Jobs for the Future (JFF) are proud to release a set of educator competencies for personalized learning, a guide to help teachers lead and thrive in personalized learning environments.

    Changing Systems to Personalize Learning- Teaching to Each Student: This workshop guidebook introduces teaching methods that allow students with different skills, aspirations, and interests to succeed in meeting the same standards. The guidebook contains topical discussion materials, instructions, graphic organizers, exercises, protocols, and facilitator’s guidelines.

    Winning in the Classroom with Your Personalized Learning Playbook: From frameworks to white papers to professional development activities, EdSurge has assembled numerous resources that can be used to build personalized learning in schools and classrooms.

    Lighting the Path to Personalized Learning: Inspiring Stories from Next Gen Schools: This report tells the stories of 14 schools across the country that are challenging the traditional model of school to present students with next gen learning experiences that are personalized and engaging.

    What Do We Really Mean When We Say ‘Personalized Learning’?: This blog post discusses the difference between personalized learning as supported by technology tools and personalizing learning through student voice and choice.

  • The ‘Why’ of Innovative Learning Spaces

    The traditional school is designed to meet the instructional paradigm of teacher-directed, lecture-style learning.  Re-thinking how we can innovatively design schools to maximize learning space will allow us to meet many of the different techniques we use to learn. 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.

    David Thornburg on the Evolving Classroom (video): The noted educational futurist describes his “holodeck” classroom — an environment that supports project-based learning — and makes the case for why the role of the teacher must change from lecturer to exploration guide.

    Trending Towards the Future: 10 trends driving successful school and university design: A great article from American School & Universities group that highlights the top 10 trends for university and school design.  Each trend includes photos and examples.  A great resource for educators looking to see what kind of learning spaces recognize and address the evolving needs of 21st Century students.

    World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students: Written by International Educational Leader Dr. Yong Zhao, this book seeks to help us understand that In the new global economy, the jobs that exist now might not exist by the time today’s students enter the workplace. To succeed in this ever-changing world, students need to be able to think like entrepreneurs: resourceful, flexible, creative, and global. This book unlocks the secrets to cultivating independent thinkers who are willing and able to use their learning differently to create jobs and contribute positively to the globalized society.

    The Third Teacher: (Book by Cannon Design) The book is the resulting collection of ways to use to transform teaching and learning through the design of the learning environment – Loris Malaguzzi’s “third teacher.” Our goal with The Third Teacher book was to show that the design of a school is intrinsically linked to learning, and to even go a step further by demonstrating that design directly impacts teaching and learning. The book lives on, however, as a tool for participatory design that allows school stakeholders to enter into our design process. The “79 ideas” serve as a common language between learning communities and designers. Educators, students and parents can identify specific, tangible design techniques that support their visions.

    Transforming Classrooms and Schools for 21st Century Learners By Design: An article written by Bob Pearlman for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills that tackles the driving question of “How can we design new learning environments that support 21st Century Learners?”

    Next Generation Learning (CEI): The Colorado Education Initiative’s Vision for Next Generation Learning states “The Colorado Education Initiative believes that increased student achievement in Colorado requires that every student is prepared and unafraid to succeed in school, work, and life, and to take on the challenges of today, tomorrow, and beyond.”

    How does the physical environment impact the learning environment?: OECD – This paper argues in favour of challenging “best practice” generally accepted by the architectural profession by embracing a responsive design approach for creating learning environments. This approach should focus on the role of the social environment and how the physical environment may be structured to support learning.

    Schooling Redesigned Towards Innovative Learning Systems: What does redesigning schools and schooling through innovation mean in practice? How might it be brought about? These questions have inspired an influential international reflection on “Innovative Learning Environments” (ILE) led by the OECD.

    How Classroom Design Impacts Student Engagement: Whitepaper: Steelhouse Education, New data from ongoing Steelcase Education studies shows that classrooms designed for active learning—i.e., where physical space supports a focus on engaging experiences for students and faculty— have a significant effect on student engagement.

    Perspectives from Finland – Towards New Learning Environments: see pages 63-77 “Physical Learning Environments, Learning in the Future. This paper explores the question: what will tomorrow’s physical learning environments be like? It also presents the conclusions of the research and product development projects that in a development of the physical learning environment. The examples of learning environments will particularly focus on development projects funded by the Finnish National Board of Education (FNBE). The main goal of the study is to contribute to the quality of education and to promote new methods, networks and tools, both locally and globally. Our project also aims to provide flexible space solutions that can adapt quickly and easily to changes in the curriculum, making a link between pedagogical theory and practice adapting the demands of today’s school community to the rapid and constant developments in ICT.”

    Innovative Learning Environments Research Study: The Innovative Learning Environments Research Study takes the position that focusing on the social practices of teaching and learning and the use of learning spaces and technologies is the next step in research on Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs). The key question for this study is: To what extent do innovative learning environments contribute to improved cognitive, affective and social learning outcomes for students?

    Clever Classrooms: Summary Report of the HEAD Project (University of Salford, Manchester): This report released by the University of Salford shows clear evidence that well-designed primary school classrooms boost children’s learning progress in reading, writing and math. The research reveals how differences in the physical characteristics of classrooms, such as air quality, color and light, can together increase the learning progress of primary school students by as much as 16% in a single year.

    To Inspire Learning, Architects Reimagine Learning Spaces (Blog): As K–12 schools refocus on team-based, interdisciplinary learning, they are moving away from standardized, teach-to-test programs that assume a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. Instead, there is a growing awareness that students learn in a variety of ways, and the differences should be supported. The students often learn better by doing it themselves, so teachers are there to facilitate, not just to instruct. Technology is there as a tool and resource, not as a visual aid or talking head.

    Successful Shifts to Innovative Learning Spaces (Blog): Raechel French tries to answer the question “What is working, and what are the struggles of transitioning to innovative learning spaces?” by visiting schools in Texas and Australia.

    Flexible Learning Environments (video): Explore the benefits of flexible seating and learning environments and hear from kids about why they like learning in these spaces.

    EdLab Seminar—Learning Without Boundaries (video): The Australian Research Council has invested an unprecedented amount of funding into a study that will help teachers improve their teaching. The Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change Project is being run over four years in Australia and New Zealand. This project is helping educators better understand the way the physical learning environment affects quality of learning and teaching.

    The One-Teacher, One-Classroom Model Needs an Upgrade. Here’s What’s Next. : Emerging school models are supposed to ease the transition to personalized and blended instruction—or at least make it possible. But new ways of teaching like station rotation and fluid-schedule flex models can hit a snag when they run up against the familiar one-teacher-one-classroom setup. According to the authors of a new report, it’s not schools that need a “rethink” as much as school staffing.

    The Finished Beginning : Empirical retrospective of the impact of different learning environments on teaching and learning from the 2010 to 2018 New Generation Learning Spaces project.

    Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change: Defining Key Concepts: Defines key concepts of Innovative Learning Environments to ensure a common understanding of terms

    Heavily Decorated Classrooms Disrupt Attention and Learning In Young Children: Study about students’ focus in heavily decorated vs sparse classrooms

  • How Learning is Changing

    The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley: In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. Inspired to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed­ded in these countries for one year.

    The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need—and What We Can Do by Tony Ripley: In The Global Achievement Gap, education expert Tony Wagner situates our school problems in the larger context of the demands of the global knowledge economy. With insights gained from visits to classrooms in leading suburban schools, he analyzes performance by considering the skills needed to get a good job and become a productive citizen. Highlighting discussions with young people and the adults who work with them, Wagner also explains the ways in which today’s generation is differently motivated to excel.

    Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink: Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

    Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn by Larry Rosen: Are we effectively reaching today’s technologically advanced youth? Rewired is the first book to help educators and parents teach to this new generation’s radically different learning styles and needs. This book will also help parents learn what to expect from their “techie” children concerning school, homework, and even socialization. In short, it is a book that exposes the impact of generational differences on learning while providing strategies for engaging students at school and at home.

    *Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner: In this groundbreaking book, education expert Tony Wagner provides a powerful rationale for developing an innovation-driven economy. He explores what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators. In profiling compelling young American innovators, Wagner reveals how the adults in their lives nurtured their creativity and sparked their imaginations, while teaching them to learn from failures and persevere. Wagner identifies a pattern—a childhood of creative play leads to deep-seated interests, which in adolescence and adulthood blossom into a deeper purpose for career and life goals. Play, passion, and purpose: These are the forces that drive young innovators.

  • The Power of Teacher Collaboration

    The Collaborative Teacher: Working Together as a Professional Learning Community by Richard DuFour et al:  Using insights from a variety of experts who have implemented and sustained collaborative cultures of continuous improvement in schools around the nation, this anthology offers best practices, expert insight and testimonials, and supporting research to show the benefits of collaboration in creating a school that reaches all students. Specific techniques, supporting research, expert insight, and real classroom stories from experienced practitioners combine to illustrate how to work together for student learning, create a guaranteed and viable curriculum, and use data to reach all students.

    Instructional Rounds in Education: A Network Approach to Improving Teaching and Learning by Elizabeth A. City et al:  Instructional Rounds in Education is intended to help education leaders and practitioners develop a shared understanding of what high-quality instruction looks like and what schools and districts need to do to support it. Inspired by the medical-rounds model used by physicians, the authors have pioneered a new form of professional learning known as instructional rounds networks. Through this process, educators develop a shared practice of observing, discussing, and analyzing learning and teaching.

    *The Missing Link in School Reform by Carrie R. Leana: This article by Carrie Lena provides a persuasive and research-based argument for focusing attention and resources on establishing collaborative networks among educators.  The research points toward professional networks as being vital for strengthening the educational system, and potentially even more important than the traditional focus on the individual teacher.

    Learning is the Work by Michael Fullan: This powerful article written by Michael Fullan outlines the benefits of collaborative work in and between schools. Fullan frames suggests that it is the learning that happens on the job, day after day, rather than what happens at workshops and courses, that is the “work” of change and improvement. While it might be “easier” to go to a workshop or course, the learning that occurs at school with colleagues is much more powerful in terms of underpinning sustainable pedagogical change.

    Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan: Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan show how the quality of teaching is captured in a compelling new idea: the professional capital of every teacher working together in every school. Speaking out against policies that result in a teaching force that is inexperienced, inexpensive, and exhausted in short order, these two world authorities—who know teaching and leadership inside out—set out a groundbreaking new agenda to transform the future of teaching and public education.

  • Impact of School Facilities on Learning

    *Blueprint for Tomorrow: Redesigning Schools for Student-Centered Learning by Prakash Nair: In Blueprint for Tomorrow, Prakash Nair—one of the world’s leading school designers—explores the hidden messages that our school facilities and classrooms convey and advocates for the “alignment” of the design of places in which we teach and learn with twenty-first-century learning goals. The book  provides simple, affordable, and versatile ideas for adapting or redesigning school spaces to support student-centered learning.

    The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools by Prakash Nair, Randall Fielding, and Jeffrey Lackney: Written by FNI founding partners Prakash Nair, Randall Fielding, and Jeffery Lackney, The Language of School Design includes best practice case studies culled from some of the most widely recognized school facilities the world over. Drawing from a vast treasure trove of award-winning, innovative school designs from 20 countries, the book defines a new graphic vocabulary that synthesizes learning research with best practice in school planning and design.

    From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments by David Thornburg: Author David Thornburg, an award-winning futurist and educational consultant, maintains that in order to engage all students, learning institutions should offer a balance of Campfire spaces (home of the lecture), Watering Holes (home to conversations between peers), Caves (places for quiet reflection), and Life (places where students can apply what they’ve learned). From the Campfire to the Holodeck is designed to help schools move from traditional lecture halls (Campfires) where students just receive information to schools that encourage immersive student-centered learning experiences (Holodecks).

    Teaching the Digital Generation: No More Cookie-Cutter High Schools by Frank Kelly, Ian Jukes, and Ted McCain: Teaching the Digital Generation examines how educators can address the learning needs of secondary students immersed in a digital world by designing and implementing new instructional models and technology infrastructure. The authors explore ten alternative high school models that address 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and digital literacy, and pose five critical considerations:

    • What should instruction and learning look like in a 21st-century school?
    • How can technology foster this kind of learning?
    • What noninstructional components are required?
    • How can time be used differently to support our vision?
    • How can new facility design turn this vision into reality?

    Incorporating issues of facility design with curriculum and instructional planning, the authors offer educational leaders a new vision for schools.

    Evidence-Based Design of Elementary and Secondary Schools: A Responsive Approach to Creating Learning Environments by Peter C. Lippman: The contemporary school must be a vibrant, living extension of its community. Evidence-Based Design of Elementary and Secondary Schools instructs design professionals on how to successfully achieve this goal. With assistance from research-intensive principles grounded in theories, concepts, and research methodologies—and with roots in the behavioral sciences—this book examines and provides strategies for pooling streams of information to establish a holistic design approach that is responsive to the changing needs of educators and their students.

  • Videos

    21st Century & Student-Directed Learning

    *Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms: In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools’ dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers.

    Future Learning | Mini Documentary | GOOD: Students are the future, but what’s the future for students? To arm them with the relevant, timeless skills for our rapidly changing world, we need to revolutionize what it means to learn. Education innovators like Dr. Sugata Mitra, visiting professor at MIT; Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy; and Dr. Catherine Lucey, Vice Dean of Education at UCSF, are redefining how we engage young minds for a creatively and technologically-advanced future. Which of these educators holds the key for unlocking the learning potential inside every student?

    Kiran Sethi: Kids Take Charge: Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents.

    *Sugata Mitra: The Child-Driven Education: Education scientist Sugata Mitra tackles one of the greatest problems of education — the best teachers and schools don’t exist where they’re needed most. In a series of real-life experiments from New Delhi to South Africa to Italy, he gave kids self-supervised access to the web and saw results that could revolutionize how we think about teaching.

    Edutopia: Flexible Classrooms: Providing the Learning Environment That Kids Need: At Albemarle County Public Schools, flexible classrooms empower student choice, increase student engagement, and improve student participation.

    FNI-Designed Schools

    Fisher Steam Middle School, Greenvile, South Carolina:Greenville, South Carolina The 2015 CEFPI MacConnell Award Winner, Fisher STEAM Middle School, co-designed with McMillan Pazdan Smith, features six learning communities of about 125 students, with eight different instructional spaces for each learning community.The instructional program encompasses the four traditional areas of STEM-based education: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

    International School of Brussels (High School), Brussels, Belgium: The International School of Brussels is an English-language international school that provides an international education to over 1500 students aged 2 ½ to 19 from 62 countries. The new ISB high school, designed by FNI, is organized by curriculum themes with a learning commons and a wide variety of learning environments on each floor.

    PK Yonge Developmental Research School, Gainesville, Florida: Established in 1934, the public school is part of a district affiliated with the University of Florida and located on its campus. The school serves approximately 1150 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The school is designed as a special school district under Florida Department of Education funding and is given the responsibility to develop innovative solutions to educational concerns in the state and to disseminate successful instructional programs to other school districts. P. K. Yonge’s state-of-the-art elementary school building opened for the 2012-12 school year and changes the way students experience school.

    Douglas Park School, Regina, Sasketchewan: Douglas Park School is one of four new Canadian schools crafted to nurture Creative Age learners and support Regina Public School’s Structural Innovation initiative. FNI served as Planner and Design Architect, and the firm Number Ten served as Executive Architect for this school that accommodates 400 students, ranging from Pre K through grade 8.

    Anne Frank Inspire Academy Middle School, San Antonio, TX: The Anne Frank Inspire Academy is a master-planned charter school campus for elementary through high school students. The first phase is a 17,000 square foot middle school for 150 students, which includes  an outdoor learning amphitheater, dry creek bed and vegetable garden. The school’s open floor plan and elements of the site are intended to support the school’s vision of a collaborative and active learning environment. The plan allows students and teachers to move freely from one subject to the next without having to move from classroom to classroom; rather, the entire site becomes the classroom.

    Norma Rose Point School, Vancouver, British Columbia: Norma Rose Point School is one of three new elementary schools in Vancouver designed by FNI in association with Think Space, Architect of Record, to meet the needs of Creative Age learners. The design responds to a global economy that demands fluency in the basics of literacy and numeracy, as well as mastery in independent learning, creative collaboration, and emerging technologies. The design accommodates 500 students, from early learning to grade 7.

    Bloomfield Hills High School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: Bloomfield Hills School District commissioned FNI to develop a Master Plan for combining their existing two high schools on one campus. The new consolidated high school features small, technology-rich learning communities with a variety of learning spaces to encourage collaboration, student-directed learning, project-based learning, and interdisciplinary instruction.

  • Learning Through Construction

    Listed below are web resources to help students learn through the construction process:

    1. Construction Center of Excellence: a collection of websites for students
    2. TryEngineering: lessons plans for teachers
    3. Beyond Blueprints: education center for careers in design and construction
    4. Learning Construction: information on construction materials from people in the trade
    5. Engineering the Future: The Educator’s Guide to Building and Construction
    6. Teach Engineering Standards: lessons and hands-on activities for use in science, engineering, and math classrooms

    Green Building Design

    1. Environmental Protection Agency: Learning and Teaching about the Environment: lesson plans and class resources to help students build critical thinking skills and make informed and responsible decisions
    2. U.S. Green Building Council: resources from the creators of LEED certification
    3. BVSD: Green: sustainability initiatives in Boulder Valley School District

    School Construction

    1. (informational)
    2. (informational)
    3. (construction steel)

    Architecture, Engineering and Design

    1. (information)
    2. (architectural firm working with BVSD)

    Bond Program

    1. (BVSD website)
    2. (information on school bonds)
    3. (information on bonds)


    1. How steel is made 6:44
    2. How concrete is made 11:15
    3. How bricks are made 4:45
    4. How glass is made 6:37
    5. Help Build A Skyscraper: Kids Learn about Construction Vehicles (preK-1st grade) 4:28