Spaces That Work

The planner's challenge in designing spaces that work for science teaching and learning is to create structures that encourage and enhance a vibrant natural science community. A well-planned facility should provide a rich environment where students and faculty can engage in research and classwork that demonstrates the wonder of doing science. The spaces in which students learn to think like scientists should be a part of the process; upon entering, everyone should experience what the building is about, what the community of science is about. To attract students to disciplines with the reputation of being difficult, forbidding, and impersonal, spaces for science should provide a humane environment, one where students feel welcome to take an active role in a true intellectual community.

"A learning space has three major characteristics, three essential dimensions: openness, boundaries, and an air of hospitality. When we understand what each of these means we can find specific methods to create the space for learning."

From Experience: Kentucky University

When Kentucky University wanted to create a community to foster a sense of closeness in a group of students who had been alienated by the standard approach to teaching Calculus, they decided not just to change how the subject was taught, but where it was taught. The math department located, repaired, and prepared an old university-owned house on campus (professors did renovation work themselves) and gave each student the access code to enter anytime she or he wished. The house is used for studying, conversing, and socializing with others in the program and teaching assistants. The Math House, as a structure, serves as a kind of teacher itself, its informality enabling the students to grow in their community. In this case, design of an appropriate structure for a particular educational goal didn't have to be brand-new or state-of-the-art: an old house turned out to be a far more appropriate solution.

Asking the Right Questions

Compatibility Questions To Ask:

Does the building plan reinforce the academic plan?

Are spaces welcoming to students, especially non-majors?