We realised that the trick was to be clear on what key activities, mindsets and cultural values we wanted to promote, and then understand how they could be manifested in a specific space solution.
The key principles that they identified and ran with were:
- Embrace imperfection. 'Getting it right' is an evolutionary process and to be welcomed.
- Make the default stage state high energy, lean forward and collaborative. The active state of mind that is necessary for the generation of ideas and energy is encouraged through mobile, upright furniture, standing-height desks and mobility in the work space.
- Celebrate getting out into the world. A crucial aspect of entrepreneurialism is engagement in the wider world, discovering problems and testing solutions. This means the space needed to be designed for churn, with people coming and going. It also signalled an opportunity for ongoing work to be displayed for the other members of the program to view, consider, respond to and act on.
In light of Yong Zhao's call for education to cultivate entrepreneurship (about which I have blogged here, here, here and here), the question I am asking is "What mindsets are encouraged by our learning spaces?" I find the embracing of imperfection particularly challenging - I like the school to look good, which can imply a 'finished' message. But does a buffed and polished space discourage creation and innovation, through its implied perfection and completion? How free do students feel to tinker and tweak and 'have a go' with all the risk that doing so implies, when the built environment around them is just lovely. And, in the context of a fee-paying independent school, what are community expectations? What do parents expect a learning space to look like?
I love that learning spaces for students in the younger years are more likely to be characterised by this embrace of imperfection. The spaces speak of creativity and 'having a go', work is displayed at varying levels of finesse and finish and there is frequently an improvisational dimension to the room. Somewhere along the way, we get nervous about displaying work whilst it is in progress ....