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Designing an Environment for Learning

Throughout our lives, we develop strong connections to the places where we grow up, live and work. Our emotional and cognitive conceptions of these physical environments inform our understandings of ourselves, both as individuals and members of social groups (Knez, 2005).

Outside of the home, students spend the greatest portion of their time in school (Gump, 1978; Rivlin & Weinstein, 1995). Here they continue to develop a sense of self, a measure of their own competence, and an increased understanding of their ability to relate to peers and adults. Given its primacy in their cognitive, social, and emotional development, “school as place [warrants close] attention as a physical entity and continuing experience in children’s lives” (Rivlin & Weinstein, 1995, p. 252, 256, emphasis in original).

The physical structure of a school building, as a primary place for learning, introduces children to forms and ideas outside the range of their experience. When planner/designers are willing “to make judgments based on the overall quality of a facility rather than [mere] adherence to myriad individual standards”, school buildings, as structures, begin to provoke thought and encourage learning just as powerfully as they protect occupants from the elements (Genevro, p. 10).

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