Taking the challenge that George Couros extended to us, I am going to design my dream school, department by department.
This is a DREAM. I realize that the realistic possibilities for full scale implementation are limited here, but the concepts are hopefully thought provoking.
Forgive the rudimentary design/photo editing, please!
Items in italics are from student suggestions.
Imagine each room designed with the decor of the country (or countries) where the language is spoken. Down to the texture of the walls, an immersive experience of culture. Imagine learning in a Spanish Hacienda, an Italian villa, or a Chinese temple setting. Each step into a classroom is like walking into a different land.
Going for grandiosity and easily accessible supply of books- then adding comfort. Twenty foot ceilings with wall to wall book shelves everywhere. Lots of natural light, think Ivy League libraries or even Hogwarts. But then, comfort. Instead of rows of tables and chairs, couches, floor pillows, bean bags, hammocks, and in the center, a small stage for presentations and acting out all the Shakespeare.
Lots of variety here. Imagine a geography class with interactive zones to discuss climate, a wide variety of cultural artifacts, one-to-one student computers for utilizing Google Maps. Ground floor with access to an open area to actually go and observe.
Sociology/Psychology classes that are in the middle of the school with all glass windows surrounding them, enabling observation of the school environment.
History classes need artifacts, but they also need space. Like Geography, open to the outdoors, allowing for recreations of key events- I have seen and used role play as a powerful review and teaching tool. For the artifacts, an open share with libraries, and/or lots of replicas because students getting to touch history has power.
Similar design for both. I imagine a setting like a cooking show in the round. Students are all around with workstations in a circle, rowed like stadium seating. They are raised above the instructor, who is in the center and demonstrates experiments and equations. The work they do with their hands are amplified onto a "jumbo tron" that students can look up to and see the detail and precision of they work being done.
Now for the earth sciences/environmental sciences- a learning environment not unlike a biome/greenhouse. Outdoor class space, opportunities to explore nature and the real world applications are right there. Literally.
Imagine an open air mall setting. Each class is designed to resemble the actual working environment of the students are preparing for. Culinary that looks like a restaurant, shop that looks like a woodshop, an automotive area that looks like a garage, a working flower shop. Perhaps have a section that can be open to the public to sell the arrangements and rooftop gardens. Business and accounting classes that mimic the feel of the work place- in a positive way.
Athletics/PE/ Fine Arts
Facilities that meet the specific need for each sport/activity, and no need to share the space because each class has its own room and space uniquely theirs.
Special Education (totally picked my wife's brain here- she is a Special Education teacher)
Special sensory classes for students with heightened sensory perception. Unique space for people with audio and visual impairments to perform daily tasks. Access to unique tools for each students unique needs. Like the CTE classes, some real-world scenarios for the Life Skills students to be able to practice skills they will need for independence- including a vocational skills room with a mock grocery store for life and educational development. Unique zones for specific types of therapy: pet, speech, music, occupational, physical.
I have learned from my own comparatively modest classroom redesign that these largely aesthetic changes are nothing without a unique teacher's hand and heart. So, the most important component of my dream school would be the staff that puts students first, takes risks, and would soon develop a vision that far out reaches what was once their dream school.
And of course, the likelihood of this being even remotely possible is low, but there are some ideas here that can still be incorporated on a much smaller scale.
Now, I really want to learn some better photo editing skills.