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3 Examples of Inspiring School Interiors

Posted on Apr 26, 2017, by Mike Patrick

Research has repeatedly shown that school design has a significant impact on student outcomes. With learning no longer confined to the classroom, it's important to consider the entirety of a school, not just the classrooms, when planning a school redesign.

To help inspire your school redesign project, today I'm sharing three school design ideas that will help you create learning spaces to motivate and excite students and teachers alike.

Featured image: Cornelius Innovation Lab at Cornelius Elementary, Cornelius, North Carolina, USA. Design firm: Gensler

1) Brighten Learning Spaces

If it's been a few years since your last redesign, classrooms, libraries and other learning spaces can start to look tired and neglected. Something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can help to create an inspiring learning environment.

Bright colors will particularly appeal in elementary schools: "Younger children tend to be more active, so you can use a brighter color scheme" - Coloring the Classroom, School Planning & Management.

in high schools and colleges, you may prefer a more muted color palette in cooler tones: "In high school, you want softer colors... You want students to be able to concentrate more and be more introverted in their studies." - Coloring the Classroom.

For students of all ages, a fresh coat of paint can help refresh learning spaces and create a sense of pride in the school and its facilities.

Best in Class: Cornelius Innovation Lab at Cornelius Elementary, Cornelius, North Carolina, USA.

Designed by world-renowned design firm Gensler, the Innovation Lab at Cornelius Elementary is a library, that offers a variety of learning spaces outside of the classroom. The bright colors on the walls, complemented by the furniture and the carpet will be particularly attractive to young students, as will the murals on the walls. Photography courtesy of Belk.

2) Refresh Common Areas

Maureen Edwards' 1991 study found a direct link between the condition of the school building and student outcomes: “improvement in the condition of the building is associated with improvement in achievement scores."

However, this doesn't mean that all areas of the school building are treated equally: it's typically learning spaces like classrooms and libraries that see the majority of design investment. It's important to consider common spaces like corridors and dining areas in a redesign too - students spend a lot of time in these spaces as they travel between classes, so it's important to create a positive environment outside of the classroom.

Best in Class: Gateway Elementary, Omaha, Nebraska, USA

When you think of school corridors, you probably envision something dull and uninspiring - most likely in shades of gray.

Designed by RDG, OPS Gateway Elementary opted for something completely different with brightly colored walls and ceilings. This is an excellent way to brighten up a part of your school's facilities that is traditionally more neutral - giving you the opportunity to make a noticeable difference to the aesthetics of the space at a relatively low cost.

Additionally, using carpet instead of hard surface flooring means that corridors will be quieter, due to carpet's improved acoustic profile: carpet tiles absorb three times more noise than hard flooring. Students will have less disruption from noise in the corridors than if the school had hard surface flooring. Photography by Tom Kessler.

3) Design for Flexibility

Active learning is much better at engaging students compared with passively listening to their teacher. As a result, modern classrooms are increasingly moving away from the traditional, lecture-based setup, or are finding ways to transition between different layouts, depending on the students' task at hand.

Flexibility is key: you want furniture that is easy to move around, to facilitate different sized group projects. Flexible power distribution would be an additional benefit - for example, having power sockets embedded in the floor. This would enable students to use technology throughout the classroom, without being restricted by access to power.

Best in Class: Scholars Academy, Conway, South Carolina, USA

Designed by UWPD Architecture, Scholars Academy has a great flexible setup. While this photo shows a traditional, lecture-based room layout, both desks and chairs are on wheels, allowing students and teachers to quickly and easily change the classroom setup to facilitate group work and class discussion. Photography by Brian Dressler.

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Mike Patrick

Written by Mike Patrick