Schools That Teach 

Every building tells a story. Every building reveals things about itself. It tells you about the people who built it; it tells you about the values those people lived by.

In fact, all buildings tell the truth. They can’t lie. They are fundamentally honest and even if you program them to lie, they reveal that to the sharp eye.

So, what story should a schoolhouse tell? What stories can they tell. That depends on just what you want to teach.

They can tell a story of integrity, of durability, of capability; things all children should learn. In fact, it’s valuable for a building to tell a story of how it was made. More important, that story is most valuable if the schoolhouse was made well, by people who wanted it to last for a long time and serve children well.

But can it teach, actively teach? Can an art lab teach kids to see the world more clearly and help them tell a story of what they see? Can science lab help explain physics and biology? Better yet, can it stimulate curiosity in kids? Can it trigger questions now and then? Can it supplement the things a teacher shares?

“Why are the floors colder in the morning, why do the lights dim when the sun comes out? Why are those angled beams up there? Why are there so many books on the shelve? Actual books?

Can a classroom teach history, ethics, mathematics? Can a school house, by its design alone, teach kids to get along, to work out relationships and resolve conflicts?

It can directly, through physical cues and components: Like a pattern of tiles that look like a cool graphic but actually represent a Fibonacci sequence.

They can do it indirectly by housing both students and teachers in a comfortable, dignified manner. Like proximities that mix teachers and students, older kids and younger kids, in diverse interactions that mimic real life. They can teach by ensuring that all the humanity of teaching is accommodated so that teaching can always, above all else, remain a fundamentally human undertaking.