Posts in Education
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It’s hard to believe, but 2019 marks the 25th year of TECHNE. We have so much to be grateful for and so many exciting things to look forward to in the future.  Over the next several months we will be sharing TECHNE history, including an interview with our founder, projects that shaped the office, commentary from TECHNE alum, and inside stories from our current team as we approach our anniversary on August 15th.  (FUN FACT:  Three former employees share the same birthday with the office’s anniversary.  What are the chances?)  For now, we hope you enjoy a few photos of our last 25 years.    


Stay tuned! 

Hawken Brown Gym Innovation Lab

Hawken School approached us somewhat timidly with a need - “We would like to make a place of innovation where students will explore complex ill defined problems and engage in non-sequential iterative processes to solve essential questions” - a perfectly terrifying start to a Monday. Fortunately, we have been working for the last ten years with a variety of clients implementing places of innovation that allow students to develop skills in brainstorming, exploration, critical thinking and collaboration. The opportunity for students to define a problem, organize a solution, prototype, test, fail and repeat are critical 21st century skills and develops resilience and leads to true innovation.


“We would like to make a place of innovation where students would explore complex ill defined problems and engage in non-sequential iterative processes to solve essential questions”


Similar challenges were encountered by our design team—the space the client had in mind was an underutilized 1930’s era brick walled gymnasium. Our team met with educators and students in a series of discussions and sketch exercises to develop a set of design criteria focused on designing a learning environment that would engage students and foster a culture of playful but rigorous problem solving. The main activities required were a place to prototype, a place to collaborate, and a place for the students to present their ideas - definitely more program than the gym was able to support. The design team utilized the height of the gym, adding a mezzanine to create the collaboration and ideation area overlooking the fabrication and making equipment. studioTECHNE supported school leadership in the development of the project through open communication, developing inspirational drawings and images of the space that effectively conveyed the schools vision to their donors and the school community. The completed Innovation Lab met the curriculum + educational goals of the school,  and students are excitedly engaged in hands-on learning and making.



The 4 Cs of Classroom Design in the 21st Century

What is a 21st century classroom?

It is a place where students come alive. People need to think critically, solve problems and work collaboratively. Classrooms need to evolve so that all children have equal and equitable access to learning through active engagement. Here are the 4 Cs of a 21st Century Classroom: 


Owing to the shift from a memorization-based reading-writing-arithmetic process (drill and kill) to a more collaborative active approach, you’ll see critical thinking happen in any, truly modern classroom. Designed spaces support specific learning activities. The cooperative environment happens in a small conference room, an area with soft lounge seating and booths similar to what you would see in a restaurant. Students work collaboratively and develop and share ideas with their peers. Everyone learns, and creates, differently. A 21st century classroom design considers learning styles in Zones around the classroom. 


Creativity is the freedom to explore new approaches, recognize patterns, and invent new meanings. Designing a 21st century classroom means to critically, and creatively, think about spaces that promotes exploration and productive mistakes. A Studio dedicated to making, where students manipulate objects from available carts of foam balls, Legos, blocks of wood, and even toothpicks to solve complex problems. Students experiment and eventually 3-D Print prototypes. So much is possible through hands on learning (kinesthetics) – constructing, building mock ups, and testing theories, as a way to uncover completely new perspectives and insights. 

Critical Thinking

Developing habits of the mind - analysis, interpretation, precision and accuracy, problem solving, and reasoning are vital skills for students. Learning critical thinking leads students to develop higher levels of concentration, deeper analytical abilities, and improved thought processing. Today’s citizens must be active critical thinkers if they are to compare evidence, evaluate competing claims, and make sensible decisions. 


To foster critical thinking, creativity and collaboration … communication is key. Inquiry and sharing are elements of 21st century classroom design. Its important students learn how to present their ideas clearly and develop the social skills necessary to solve verbal conflicts. Communication skills are intertwined with information, media, communication, and technology skills, where peer to peer learning is a key element of social development.

How to implement 21st century classroom design

A truly modern classroom environment utilizes peer learning, so that the teacher isn’t just a fixture at the chalkboard. The 21st century teacher moves around a space that is flexible through design. Students critically analyze systems and apply strategies to solve real-world problems. Rather than a room of note-takers, they are Makers. 

Learning zones encourage different styles of learning and parts of the creative process. Clusters of students are active in zones of collaboration, independence, play, presentation … in the classroom and throughout the entire building. As architects, we help educational institutions from early childhood, K-12, to higher education reimagine their spaces and develop innovative active learner focused environments. It’s not just 1 + 1 = 2 anymore -- we’re here to find, discover and transform.