David Henebry, AIA NCARB ALEP, 2016

The traditional process of locating schools has consisted simply of mapping attendance areas and meeting with realtors to discuss and choose an available property. Today, however, due to a stronger understanding of the socioeconomic impacts of the development of schools on communities, there is a desire to explore a smarter approach to identify sites for schools. The objective of this essay is to provide a comprehensive, long-term strategic approach for siting schools in growing communities. Now that we have a stronger understanding of the socioeconomic impacts of development on communities, we want to explore a smarter approach to identifying sites for schools. This paper is focused on a comprehensive long term strategic approach to identifying sites for schools in growing communities.

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Dr. Michael Bishop, 2015.

“We shape our buildings: thereafter, they shape us.” – Sir Winston Churchill

Every educator has experiences that shape his or her personal and professional opinions about the profession of teaching: the ways in which students learn as well as the optimal conditions that enhance student achievement. As an educator, who worked in both older and brand new facilities, there is a perceptible difference in feeling among students and staff in a new building compared to that noted in an older building. Having worked in three brand new high schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1993, as well as two older high schools, the people working in a new building appear happier, students in a new school generally are on their best behavior, and achievement in a new building can be improved markedly.

The author’s first visit to a new high school (1993) in which he would be employed as an educator resulted in a sense of awe and wonderment at the facility and its design and layout. Similar experiences followed in 2003 and 2006: first as an educator at a new school and then as a member of the administrative team that opened a new high school. In 2010, as the planning principal of Patriot High School located in Nokesville, VA, the opportunity to implement some of the design ideology about furniture, classroom layouts, and student and staff interactions with technology were realized.

Patriot High School was designed by Moseley Architects of Richmond, VA and was designed to hold 2,053 students. Currently, there are 2,750 students enrolled, but that is another story. When I was named as the principal, the enormity of my work was not clear at the time; and in some cases, I had to learn as I went. I had ideas about classroom furniture, technology in the classroom, and the type of staff members I wanted to hire. What I was not prepared for was the process to procure those items, the process to secure their delivery and installation, and the multitude of information that was going to be presented about which I had to make a decision. Things such as the school logo, mascot, school colors, cafeteria furniture, classroom computers and technology, as well as office furniture, file cabinets, and landscaping were all decisions in which I was to be involved.

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Marable, 2015

There are times when local education agencies (LEAs) go to their governing bodies for funding for school designs that include construction of a green school—a school that supports sustainable practices or has environmentally friendly facilities.  While this type of construction can be supported in the research for reasons that include health, safety, and planet friendly practice, there often is little said about the instructional components of such facilities.  This paper will explain how the components of green schools can enhance the implementation of environmental education curricula that help support 21st century skills.  Currently, there is no set standard for the implementation of environmental education in green schools or for schools that utilize the building as a teaching tool for students. A recent study (Marable, 2015) was conducted in Virginia to help establish pedagogical best practices for environmental education, while describing how educators currently use LEED buildings as a teaching tool to support sustainable practices. The findings from the study indicated teachers employ practices that are consistent with current emphases on environmental education.  Data also supported that educators take pride in their buildings and incorporate the facility as a teaching tool in a variety of instructional practices throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The findings of this recent study and other relevant research explain and provide real examples of current environmental education practices being utilized to support 21st century skills within LEED certified schools.  Examples of how the facility may be used as a teaching tool in environmental education are provided by school grade levels (elementary and secondary) and by building features in LEED construction.

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