Schools of the Future

By: Arch4e | 1 Aug 2001

Brave New School

Brave New School
Ten years in the future, learning could be more integrated into our everyday lives and communities.

Alicia wants to be a teacher. She has known this since the first day of her second grade class, where Mrs. Beckner greeted her with that warm smile and loving heart. As she begins her freshman year at Aurora University she has opted to participate in an intense teacher apprenticeship program sponsored by Aurora University at Fern Elementary School in Aurora, Illinois. As part of this program she will be in the classroom working with students mentored by a veteran teacher a few weeks into her university studies. This program will allow Alicia to pursue her passion for teaching and to fulfill her lifelong dream.

Harry Wake is an eleventh grade student at Moorpark High School. Ever since his brother was stricken with leukemia at the age of eight he has wanted to be a doctor. Seeing his frail brother respond to competent care and attention revealed to him that this was his calling. Many friends, teachers and even sometimes his parents have questioned his ability to reach this lifelong goal. However, through his attendance at the Health Science Academy at Moorpark Community College he feels closer to his dreams than ever. Through the Health Science Academy he and four hundred other Moorpark High School students will spend their eleventh and twelfth grades participating in an intense integrated curriculum program where students learn English, math, science and history through the metaphor of medicine. Students receive credits for high school and college level classrooms taught by collaborative teams of instructors from high school, college and allied health professions. Harry will go on to receive his Associated Arts degree as a medical technician, and from there to the integrated transfer program at California State University, Channel Islands. Once Harry is accepted into the transitional program and he completes all prerequisites, a spot will be reserved for him at the UCLA Medical School.

My name is Hector. I live on the south side of Chicago. I always thought school was for punks. That’s what my older brother told me. He went to P.S. School #128. His school had holes in the roof, the heater didn’t work very well, and he learned things that didn’t help him at all. I love school. I now go to the new Englewood Charter School just a couple blocks away from my house. It’s the first new school built on the south side of Chicago in twenty years. My teachers really care about me, and my parents come to school often to learn about what I’m doing. I belong to the Business Cluster. Me and a hundred other kids who are good in math learn how math is used in our neighborhood and throughout the city of Chicago. We take field trips to local businesses and to big companies in the Financial District. When I grow up, I want to be an accountant and work on the top floor of the tallest building in Chicago. I love going to school.

Imagine a community where education is a lifestyle. Where residents are drawn by commitment to family and continuous improvement. A place where institutions, businesses and residents work hand-in-hand to improve the quality of life and the resources available to everyone within the community. There is such a place. It is currently on the drawing boards; Califia, a planned community in northern California, is slated to start construction in less than five years. A cradle-to-grave educational community is being planned which will meet the needs of all learners.

Anne Bell is an eleven year old who has elected to attend the Califia Environmental Community School as her home base. She is an “N-Gener” who has grown up surfing the net and is as comfortable on the computer as Baby Boomers were watching television. She wants, no she demands access to an excellent education. She realizes that she must be a lifelong learner, and that education is a passport to success. She needs the guidance of a good teacher who serves as a guide, mentor, coach, counselor and collaborator in the development of a personal education plan. At 8:30 in the morning her personal communicator reminds her that she has a meeting at 10:30 with her learning group to finish up their presentation on natural ways to control pests and insects. Later that day they will be giving a presentation to farmers in the area and University of California farm advisors who will judge their work. Anne is nervous, but excited at the potential of sharing their hard work of the last three months, and potentially improving farming methods for the Central Valley.

At the Califia Environmental Community students don’t all arrive at the same time, but come and go based upon their activities and the most opportune use of their abilities and resources. As she quickly pulls on an aerobic outfit, her personal communicator reminds her to grab a glass of orange juice, bran cereal and a bowl of fruit. These items will balance out her diet from yesterday as she celebrated Kevin’s birthday over dinner. By 9:00 she’s hurrying off to meet Keith at the fitness center for a quick workout. She meets all of her physical education requirements and her fitness program database is quickly updated by connecting to her personal communicator. Timing and exertion rates are quickly noted, calibrating a suggested weight program for tomorrow, which will balance out today’s aerobic session. She looks around the fitness center and says hello to her mother’s friend, Jane, and her Sunday school teacher and a couple of friends from school. The community fitness center is open 24-hours a day and is available to students and members of the community. By 10:15 she is showered and dressed and is boarding the tram which will take her to the Environmental Community. As she walks on campus she is again inspired by the environment that surrounds her. She also sees a variety of landscapes on campus, depicting different plant species and native plants, on which she can quickly access information through her personal communicator.

There is no parking on site, and all the buildings are built of environmentally sensitive materials. The facility generates all it’s own power and has a closed water system, purifying it’s own water through a serious of ponds that are used by the students to explore the environment. As she walks across the bridge and past the museum and interpretive center, she is reminded of the important roll that the delta plays in the health and economy in her community of Lathrop. She can’t help being filled with pride as she sees the exhibit on local water fowl that her and four of her friends completed last year. She is also again impressed by the living computer model that Kevin and his friends developed last year that simulates life within the delta, and the daily impact that man has on the surrounding environment. She arrives at the Learning Center by 10:30, is greeted by her friends and quickly dives into finishing their multi-media presentation. As she walks into the Center, her facilitator is informed that she’s on the premises and heading for a meeting with her team. The Learning Center is home for 150 learners of all ages. This morning there are only about 50 people in the Center, but there is a hum of activity by students focused on their work. As the project is coming together they note that they are still missing a few images from their experimental garden, and some information they found earlier on a botanical farm in Saugus, California. Sherry and Virginia quickly surf the web, picking up information through the use of their personal communicators. How nice it is not to have bulky display units and keyboard. They quickly access information through voice-activated controls, a wireless earpiece, and retinal display. Information truly is available anytime, anyplace.

At 1:00, their preparation done, they head off to lunch at the food court. They can pick from a variety of foods. Sherry and Anne get a healthy salad from the plantation, while Keith and Virginia opt for Chinese food. Anne says hello to Maki, who is working in the restaurant as an apprenticeship as she prepares to transfer to UC Davis in the fall for their culinary arts program. It’s nice to see a number of members from the community eating with their kids, or grabbing a quick bite after they visit the interpretive center and eco-ponds.

At 2:00 p.m. they greet the review team at the Information Technology Center. They are utilizing one of the five virtual reality advanced simulation rooms to present their work to the team. Each member of the team is personally greeted since they’ve mentored the students throughout the project. As she greets Mr. Draa from the Department of Agriculture, his business card data is automatically transferred through her factoid and directly entered into her database. They are each handed a bound copy of the students’ report and are amazed at the depth of the students’ study, high-tech, personalized presentation. Anne leads off the presentation with an interactive PowerPoint presentation laced with streaming media and music. Keith describes a non-invasive mosquito trap they have invented, which relies upon an in-depth understanding of mosquitoes mating habits to trap mosquitoes without the use of pesticides or other invasive action. He describes their unique invention through the use of computer models and a rapid prototype developed through the use of a 3-demensional printer that allows the review team to quickly appreciate the team’s imagination and forethought. Sherry dazzles the group through the use of good old-fashioned story telling, describing how early settlers in the San Joaquin Delta understood and controlled insects without the use of 21st Century chemistry. The participants, review team, members of the community, and parents are all impressed with the work that students have done, far exceeding anyone’s expectations. Their project is already published on the web, being accessible along with the millions of other learners around the world.

After the presentation, Mr. Draa of the Agriculture Department asks Anne if he could visit the students’ experimental garden. Together they tend the small plot, picking many of the vegetables to take to the plantation to be incorporated into the healthy salads and side dishes for tonight’s meals. Anne then hurries off to the tram, which takes her to the Califia Olympic Community where she joins other members of the girls softball team, who are already hard at work building their skills for this weekend’s gamer. Many of her friends on the team have chosen the Olympic Community as their home base, where they focus on fitness and understanding the body as a way to learn the Califia core concepts.

That night Anne, her sister Deanna and their parents have a quiet dinner at home, sharing the experiences of the day and reflecting on how much more fulfilling their lives are since they moved to Califia and were truly part of a learning community.