Center for Learning Ecologies, Graduate Thesis
Designing a Meadow of Minds
This project is the culmination of the concurrent master's degree programs in architecture and educational leadership as part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative.
The City of Springfield currently owns and operates the Booth-Kelly Center, which includes 17 acres of land and over 200,000 square feet of large industrial building spaces currently renting to Springfield businesses. Once a very productive lumber mill, Booth-Kelly was situated on the Springfield Mill Race Pond, which is currently being restored and reconnected to the Willamette River. Students examined potential redevelopment scenarios and identify how the site can become a destination location with a pedestrian-friendly appeal.
The studio focused on a post-industrial brownfield site in Springfield, Oregon. After a series of meetings with City of Springfield officials, site analyses of wetlands, and three-month research term of the social, economic, and environmental contexts of the site, students developed designs for the Booth-Kelly site.
My familiarity with the Springfield School District leadership from the graduate program at the UO College of Education informed my proposal for the site. I was shocked to discover that one out of every three students in Springfield does not graduate high school. I wondered what underlying influences could change this trend: perception of the school system? Timing and relevancy of information access?
There are many challenges facing schools today, including the process of redefining the set of skills this generation will need to become employed. American schools are transitioning their teaching content and assessments to the Common Core State Standards, a national initiative to standardize an American education. In the Educational policy world, we’ve opened Pandora’s box of new expectations for high school students by quantifying “college and career readiness.” What will the educational landscape look like for today’s first grader, who will graduate in 2027? Will there still be stuffy institutions that deny people the opportunity to learn? Will people need a degree to get a job? What is the future of higher education?
This is a center for learning ecologies: a library, coffeehouse, digital media center that represents my vision of the future of learning.
This is a place for peer-to-peer instruction, intergenerational dialogue, unexpected working groups, hyper-local digital storytelling, and international collaboration. Everyone who enters this space pledges to be a lifelong learner, ready to recruit people in other disciplines for their innovative projects. They are approachable, committed, teachers-in-training ready for new intellectual encounters and business endeavors.
I imagine a 3rd grade class coming here to rent iPads and complete an ecological treasure hunt activity as they traverse the millrace park.
This 3rd grader finds a leaf and wonders what kind of tree it came from. She takes a picture of it and the device recognizes it as an oak leaf. She picks it up and shows her friend, who tells her a story about the oak savannah behind her house. When they find the oak tree, she and her friend sit under its canopy, type up the story, and digitally tag it to the tree. Now next year’s third graders, and anyone who passes the tree for generations to come can read about this girl’s experience. When the class returns to the Forum, the teacher can download the content from the devices to the digital infrastructure that the Center for Learning Ecologies staff manages. It is a comprehensive learning mapping system, much like a portfolio, that integrates state assessments, allows teachers to visualize student data, and provides a long-term tracking system from grade to grade and beyond. The student can continue to add new experiences, link to their mentors, and use this portfolio to apply to college, jobs, and reach out to new collaborators.
The prisms in the building not only serve as a lighting and ventilation system, but display building-level data that people look up to for reference, much like a clocktower or scoreboard. Not only could they display the time, schedule of events or question of the day, but other metrics related to sustainability of the building, such as gallons of water collected, treated, the flow of the millrace, or the rate of rainfall in realtime. People could pose questions like, what is the correlation between the number of coffees served and the number of emails sent on site?
Access to Information
I imagine the Booth Kelly site to be a place that Springfielders return to again and again for inspiration and to discover the richness of their local community. The project seeks to increase ones chances of meeting someone new, learning something new, and creating something new. It is a space for people of different disciplines to co-mingle, to come together for a common cause. Where a dropout and a veteran with complimentary skills and shared interest can work together.
With the United Nations declaring that internet access is a human right, I now firmly believe that education is in your own hands. I believe Booth Kelly is an access point for the community to find information, to reach other communities, to document their achievements, and to understand one another. I’ve integrated 5 levels of information display to help people find the right scale of engagement.
The Center for Learning Ecologies
+ provides a setting for different types of unexpected interactions
+ is a space that illustrates the learning continuum
+ is a scaffolding meant to inspire people to engage with the world
There are thousands of applications created each day for mobile devices that can enhance our decision making, that allow us to ride our waves of curiosity, that allow us to understand the world and its opportunities differently. I believe we need to be teaching the ethics and etiquette surrounding technology in addition to the mechanics of how to operate them. The forum can provide rental, repair, and training for digital learning tools.
The metaphors we live by and the settings we learn in are changing. This architectural proposal is a system that provides constant incentives for change, supports the serendipitous nature of learning and celebrates the environment’s interactive role as a factor affecting knowledge construction, creative revitalization of cities, and our relationship with each other and with nature.
During this year long terminal architectural studio, we were trained in site analysis, user research, schematic design, graphic design, and presentation.