Student Achievement Opinion

Build Learning Spaces That Inspire Innovation

By Starr Sackstein — July 08, 2018 4 min read
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Dynamic, flexible seating. Bright, inviting colors. Functional workspaces that inspire movement and tinkering. These kinds of learning spaces foster the curiosity in students we want to see and yet because of so many different factors, they don’t often happen.

We can create all of the best curricula and formulate authentic situations, but how much easier would it be if learning could happen inside of spaces that were specifically designed to see education differently.

Recently, I spoke with Danish Kurani of Kurani Architecture and he shared his vision for how he hopes to help impact education moving forward, creating dynamic, unit learning spaces for underserved populations. Most recently, he worked on building a tech lab in New York City for Black Girls’ CODE.

“According to Kurani founder Danish Kurani, “We designed the lab for kids to see how technology works inside. What’s inside a smartphone, how does a circuit board use copper, are there similarities between cameras and computers. The design takes us back to breaking things open and exploring how they’re made. When you remove the mysterious shell, the girls can see that tech is just parts and pieces, hardware and software they can tinker with and design themselves,” excerpted from the Press Release about the new space.

Every child deserves the opportunity to explore how things work in an environment that supports that kind of learning. With all of the innovations happening in education right now, it seems foolish to think that we shouldn’t reconsider what our school spaces look like too. Classrooms are often unsuited for the kinds of learning we want kids to experience and Kurani sees a way to help change that.

Kurani is partnering with different companies and schools who are looking to the future and see the need for this innovation. People who push beyond the status quo and question what needs real change and then how to achieve it. It simply isn’t enough to talk about ed tech and where to bring it in the classroom if the infrastructure doesn’t support the learning we want to happen.

In addition to the Black Girls’ CODE project, Kurani is currently working on a literacy lab in Brooklyn. Once these spaces are complete, educators will be able to visit them to be inspired and potentially consider new designed spaces of their own.

When I was in the classroom in Queens, NY, although I was lucky enough to have tables and chairs in lieu of rows of one-armed bandits, I was still limited in what I could do in my space. The desks were often arranged and rearranged based on the activities we were working on and the wall coverings shifted with the learning as well. Students had the ability to sit on the floor and/or in the hallway if that suited their individual or group needs at the time. Frankly, I did the best I could with what I had, but that wasn’t often very much.

My classroom was a giant box, with no windows and limited space. We did have wifi and a Chromebook cart, as well as a Mac Lab to visit if need be. If I could have flattened that space or reimagined it with new furniture and redesign, I would consider everything, just like Kurani has in his efforts to design the learning lab for Black Girls CODE.

“Black Girls CODE faced the challenge of transforming a generic open-plan office and cluster of executive suites into a tech lab where girls from all over New York could come to learn computer science and coding. Removing workstations and painting walls wasn’t going to be enough. The space had to be awe-inspiring and fill girls with excitement and curiosity. We worked closely with the BGC leadership and staff to translate these big aspirations into physical space,” Kurani said.

Much like my idea of creating a seating arrangement that would create a “cafe-like” feel for readers and writers in my classroom, Kurani made a play space as a part of the design. “One part of the lab is dedicated as a “Play Pen”. Before every workshop, the staff curates the pen with everyday objects like toasters, radios, Bluetooth headphones that have been cracked open so the girls can tinker and play. A primary wall of the computer science classroom is plastered with graphics chronicling the history of technology, showing decomposed anatomies of various seminal tech inventions - the CPU, mouse, digital camera, mobile phone. There lab balances teaching girls about both hardware and software. We’ve designed one area specifically for girls to have a step by step guide to coding their first HTML website.”

Schools don’t have to keep doing things the way they always have, not in terms of curriculum, assessment or learning spaces. There are ways to start making changes that can truly inspire and reinvigorate the learning process.

If you’re interested in more of Danish Kurani’s work, check out the website or reach out to them directly for a proposal at info@kurani.us.

How can you reimagine the learning spaces you currently exist in to create better learning? Please share

*Image rendering courtesy of Kurani

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.