May 01, 2002 2 min read

Future Building

What better way to expose students to architecture than have them redesign the buildings they spend most of their days in—their schools.

With that thought in mind, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Council of Facility Planners International teamed up with several federal agencies and private groups to host “School Building Day” on April 19 at the National Building Museum in Washington.

The groups wanted to expose students to the field of architecture. However, they also hoped to emphasize school facility design as a tool for learning, while publicizing the need for new school buildings and renovations to existing facilities.

“School building is an essential function of community building, and ultimately, nation building,” said Howard Decker, the chief curator of the National Building Museum. “We must continue to focus our thoughts on the best designs we can achieve for educational facilities.”

The groups gave awards to five middle schools and high schools in Washington for taking part in the competition. The students used everything from leftover paper-towel rolls and Styrofoam packing peanuts— to make chairs—to slick, 3-D computer models of their creations.

The students added several innovations seldom found in schools, such as escalators, to improve their buildings’ learning environments.

A group from John Philip Sousa Middle School in Washington also learned the compelling history of their school.

Elizabeth A. Davis, who teaches mechanical drawing and drafting at the school, said she used the activity to teach architectural skills as well as the history of the building. Sousa Middle School is a national historic landmark considered a symbol of the battle to desegregate public schools in Washington. The school was part of a court case that was decided in tandem with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down policies segregating public schools by race.

“They learned an awful lot—not just the architectural design of their schools,” Ms. Davis said. For instance, they studied the process of gaining admission to the National Register of Historic Places, she added.

Federal officials at the conference also discussed topics such as school size and energy efficiency—one of the most closely watched aspects of school construction.

“We will soon move to a day where schools use zero energy, or produce energy to give back to communities,” said Mark B. Ginsberg, the director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of building technology.

—Joetta L. Sack

A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2002 edition of Education Week