In this insightful episode of "Laying the Foundation," we sit down with Architect Joe Copley to explore the intricacies of designing educational environments for K-12 students. From the importance of first impressions to creating spaces that foster curiosity, Joe shares his expertise on how architecture can shape the student experience. We delve into the journey students take from the moment they approach the building, through safe and inviting entryways, to dynamic and collaborative learning environments. Discover how strategic design elements can support different learning styles, promote school pride, and create a welcoming atmosphere for both students and visitors. Join us for a deep dive into the world of educational architecture and the thoughtful design that supports the development and growth of young learners.

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Episode Transcript

Skyler: Welcome to another episode of Laying the Foundation.

Skyler: Welcome everybody to another episode of the Laying the Foundation podcast. My name is Skylar, I'm your host, and today joining me is Joe Copley from our Des Moines office. Joe, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks for having me. Absolutely. Joe is one of our amazing architects, uh, and today he is going to be going over a really interesting topic of designing the K 12 student journey.

Skyler: Um, Joe, the last time that I had you on the podcast, We talked about company culture and kind of creating positive company culture. That's right. And so this time we're kind of looking a little bit more towards the sort of educational side. We're looking at You know, creating those, those positive aspects within specifically K through 12, uh, grades and like the buildings and the spaces that they're using to, to learn and all that good stuff when it comes to education.

Joe: Absolutely. Looking forward to it.

Skyler: Yeah. Yeah, me too. Awesome. So the first kind of general concept that I, I kind of want to jump into and it's, it's one that you sent me, uh, to look over is just this idea of first impressions and how important. Yeah. First impressions are for the students that are entering the facility, and I'm sure probably to some extent the staff as well.

Skyler: But we can get into that a little bit later. But for kind of just the overarching question, and we can kind of obviously get more specific here as we go. But can you kind of give me an idea of what you mean by How crucial and how important those first impressions are for the students.

Joe: Absolutely. I think, um, it's an incredibly broad topic and, um, there's so many ways you can think about it.

Joe: But I think the one that stands out to me most is just creating an environment that kids feel excited to go to and somewhere that, you know, Builds on, uh, wanting to go be involved at school and being excited to be there, not just for the building, but also for the opportunities and the interactions that they're going to have there.

Joe: And I think, you know, I can remember back to when I was going to elementary school, and I still remember riding the bus with friends, walking through the doors, going to our pod and, um, Yeah, I just think it's a really powerful experience, especially when you first start your K 12 journey and you're not used to leaving the house.

Joe: So the first impressions are it's very, very new at that age.

Skyler: Absolutely. It's a new place. It can be a little bit intimidating and obviously that's not what we want to foster, right? We don't want to foster a fear or whatever the case, we want them to be excited. Um, and I think there will probably always be that initial, Aspect of fear, but I guess going right off of of this whole thing that we're going to be talking about that first impression Right when they see the school building or they see some of the the facilities obviously, we want them to have that fear go away and get replaced by excitement or Readiness to to learn or to get involved in the various things that they're gonna see at the school

Joe: Absolutely.

Joe: And I think, you know, there's multiple ways that, uh, the kids are having this experience. I was a bus kid, so I rode the bus with friends and then, um, kids that became my friends through the process and, and then came through the school and it was Terrace Elementary in Ankeny and my brother went before me and so I had some familiarity and, uh, but I had friends that parent drop off and that was a little bit of a different experience, obviously.

Joe: And then, um, And if you were in a neighborhood school, like that was, and some of the ones that we work on are, there's also the ability for parents to walk kids to school or even ride their bike to school. And so that, I think they're all different. Different experiences that, um, probably have, um, their own benefits and drawbacks, but, uh, I think the idea of being excited to go there and is the most important part, because if you're excited to go somewhere, it's not too different than us coming to work.

Joe: You want to be excited to come into work and feel inspired to. To go about your tasks and to learn. So I, I think just having that, that first impression of excitement, which, which also leads to curiosity. And when you're in grade school, you're always curious about a lot of things, but that's really the benefit.

Joe: And then you talked about, um, Entry into the building, I think, you know, that's something that we talk about a lot anymore, and that's your first kind of gateway through into the building. And so what do you see? What is that experience? We talk about that a lot as architects and trying to create a cool wow moment as you come in.

Joe: And there's also security that we need to be thinking about in this day and age. And so how do you mesh those two together to have a welcome inviting space? And, um, A secure, safe space. Those are things that, uh, we're constantly working through with, with our districts and different projects.

Skyler: Absolutely.

Skyler: And I know David, uh, Brock, just one of our other architects over here. Yeah, he, and I actually, uh, one of the first episodes of the podcast that we did for those listening, if you want to reference back, we actually did a whole episode on, um, how to design schools, not prisons. And so we talked a lot about that aspect of, you know, you want it to look Inviting and positive and all this other stuff.

Skyler: You also have to have a lot of those security features to keep people inside safe to keep, um, you know, people out, potentially, uh, whatever the case to mitigate that. And so, yeah, how do you find that balance? And I think we're going to talk about that here, um, as well. Kind of just touching on that. But I think that given, given the concept of, you know, the student journey, right, you're a new student, whether you're in kindergarten or maybe early level, or maybe you're transferring, maybe you're at a higher grade and you're coming to a school for the first time.

Skyler: Um, and we're, we're going to walk through that, that student journey, um, from sort of point a all the way through to point Z or whatever we want to call it, right. The end point. And then from an architect standpoint, kind of look at how we. Prioritize or or create that positive experience for for the students.

Skyler: So starting off with the approaching your approach in the building. Uh, it's your first time seeing the building and like you had mentioned you. We create that building to have that kind of spark of excitement that implants into him. Um, let's talk about the. Drive in the drop off the school bus like you were mentioning before.

Skyler: Um, obviously we want to create these these areas that are sort of well organized to make sure that you know people are able to drive through people able to do so safely. Cause you've got students walking around. How do we, how do we kind of put all this together? What, what is their design or what are some kind of key design, uh, considerations that we make when it comes to those like driveway layouts or whatever you want to call them?

Joe: Yeah, that's a good question. And this is something that we tend to work through with our civil engineers who we try to, Really kind of guide that and have the conversation just like you described it on having a really be thinking about your approach to the building and having a similar experience for both parent drop off and bus drop off and obviously safety is always the biggest thing.

Joe: So visibility and how the buses are are dragging through traffic. Those are things that. We've actually learned some new methodologies through the years on how to do that, that I think are really great. But, um, most recently what we've done is have a kind of central promenade that divides two different parking drives, one for parents and then one for buses and the kids get off the buses.

Joe: They're on this promenade, which is, um, Maybe 30 feet wide, think of it as like a hard scape, maybe some trees, and that is your approach to the building. We try to align that. So it's very clear how you're going to approach the building. And on the other side, you have parent drop off, which is obviously a longer line of cars that are constantly in and out.

Joe: And those those kids are getting off onto the same promenade. And so, They'll start there, although they came to the building differently, they'll start their approach walking the building the same. And then when you're there, you know, I think it's very important. And obviously, this is how we think as architects, but you want to make it very obvious where you're going, especially at a young age group.

Joe: Um, and so that, that entry, um, we might try to do something a little more grand there. Maybe the building has something, an arch that, that brings you in or some type of vaulted, um, situation and, and then also signage. I think that's pretty obvious to make that, but I think those are the things that we try to do to build excitement for kids coming in, but also pride.

Joe: Because I think you have to have, uh, some pride in your school and you're kind of striving. You know, for me, it was, uh, DCG Mustangs is, you know, we're proud to put on our red shirts and, and play sports and, you know, do whatever it was. I did some art competitions or, uh, if you were in debate, you know, I think having pride in your school is really important, uh, both individual success, but also the school as a whole.

Skyler: And that usually goes into, you know, a lot of the, the external You know, things that people are seeing, right? The colors of the school are going to be represented and, you know, maybe there's some implementation of like a mascot or something along those lines that kind of probably goes into, like you said, making that entrance pop and making that kind of area really, really stand out and show what, you know, they represent.

Joe: And I think, you know, we have to be really strategic about that because, um, School colors vary for every district, right? So if you have a school district that has green and orange colors, maybe those are not things that we necessarily want to do a whole lot of inside the building. Maybe we just want to accent it.

Joe: And because we're not trying to design buildings that are, are too trendy or what are the current colors of 2024, we need to be thinking ahead. And even, you know, we, we work with certain clients that. You know, principal teacher groups, and then leadership, the superintendent, the school board, um, this building is going to be there, uh, long after they are and probably long after you and I are done with our careers.

Joe: And so we really want to try to design buildings that are very sustainable as far as just, uh, holding up long term, but also things that aren't going to look dated and then, um, require a lot of renovation down the road, things that are, you know, You know, and we work on these buildings too, through a lot of renovations.

Joe: So you get to see certain trends that have passed through that we might want to renovate. And then you see some that are, are more timeless that still look great 50, 60 years later.

Skyler: That's right. That's right. And obviously, yeah, we want it to look good. We want it to look up to date. We want it to look nice, no matter how old it might be.

Skyler: You know, obviously having the ability to say, you know, this school's been around for a hundred years. That's, that's great in, you know, bragging rights, but we don't want it to look like it's been around for a hundred years.

Joe: No, or perform like that. I mean, exactly. Those are the buildings we love to look at because it's, uh, historical architecture.

Joe: But sometimes, sometimes they're just, uh, part of the past and need to stay there.

Skyler: Yeah, exactly. Awesome. So you've got the, um, The younger students, you know, getting brought by their parents or being brought by the school bus, but all unified on the same walkway that leads up to the entrance of the school that they all share.

Skyler: What about for high schools when you have student parking? How do we kind of look at that?

Joe: That's a, that's a great question because I think we have to look at it differently. Obviously the kids are getting to school differently from K 5 to middle school, to high school, high school. You've got a lot of, a lot of drivers, a lot of students that are driving and commuting themselves.

Joe: And there, the conversations we're usually having are on visibility and safety. So we want to make sure that we're creating an environment that, uh, there's not going to be any, uh, vehicle incidents, obviously, but you also have to have a lot more parking and you have to have a, the ability to, to, to To have all these kids.

Joe: And in a lot of the communities we work in are growing districts. So you have to be thinking long term and then at the high school, that's usually when your sports events and, um, any type of choir music events are held. So you have to be thinking about, uh, overflow parking for those major events. Right.

Joe: So if you think about that approach, there's kind of, that's kind of a twofold question. If you're a high school student. You're going to have a different schedule as you, as you get older, you might not have first period. So you might come in differently, but you also have independence. And so I think it's still just as important to have that school pride when you're walking in and the grand entrance and, and some type of feel of, of.

Joe: Just overall pride and excitement for your school, but then you have to think about the parents and the visitors coming to these events there too. It has to be very clear where they're going and so how we're going to organize a building is always going to be thinking about, um, how people are going to use the space and how they're going to access it.

Joe: Right. Yeah. I mean, that's a whole rabbit hole. We could go down. I was going

Skyler: to say, that's always the tricky thing when we do some of these episodes is like one aspect of discussion could be its own podcast podcast episodes in and of itself. So yeah, it's just, you know, knowing to keep that aspect in mind and keep that in consideration.

Skyler: Like you said, you know, when it comes to high school, all the kids, Typically that are going to K through 8th grade are going to be moving on to the high school and so you got to be able to have this amount of space that's necessary to hold the, you know, however many hundreds of student driven cars, um, and space for all that and then like you said, when you have those extracurricular activities, I would say even, you know, more when it comes to high school, having space for those as well is obviously a, a key aspect.

Skyler: One thing that I would say before we move on to, you know, once they've walked past the, the entrance of the building is obviously jumping over to that concept of being safe and inviting. If I'm a student and I'm going to high school or whatever for the first time, this brand new high school and I walk up or drive up or whatever the case.

Skyler: And I see the like gates with a security guard who's, you know, scanning people with their, uh, their metal detectors and all this other stuff. I mean, that's kind of intimidating. Um, what, I mean, what kind of stuff are we looking at as far as that ability to make a school, at least the entryway specifically safe, right?

Skyler: But also inviting,

Joe: right? So I haven't worked on a school yet that has a metal detector and I hope I never have to the goal that we're always pushing on projects and it's always going to depend on user feedback because every district is different and leadership is different and they have different goals and interpretations of how best to do this.

Joe: So what we tend to. To push is how an entrance can work as far as maximizing visibility so you can see people coming from a distance and ideally you'd have a direct line of sight through glazing. We also use camera systems for that as well. If it's not an option, especially on existing buildings were retrofitting with a secure entrance.

Joe: But then there's also little things we can do here and there with access control on how, how the door locks work. If they're on a system, does it lock after hours or does it need to stay open after hours for a open gym or practices, et cetera. And there's multiple different ways we've done that with vestibules, either locking from the outside, locking inside, but you always want to try to have visitors directed through the reception area to check in before they're admitted to the building.

Joe: And those locks would stay locked so no one could just come in and go through. Right. Right. Um, Right. And that's really common anymore. And I'm sure, I'm sure David probably went through a lot of that, but you know, the, the conversation that we tend to have is how much visibility, because I think when people see too much glass, they feel like, well, you know, someone that might want to harm people can see through that glass just as well as we can.

Joe: But from the studies that we've seen, and we do a lot of continuing education, specific to K 12, disability and natural daylight are usually the goal, uh, both for safety and just for academic performance. So there's certain types of glass that we can look at or treatments to glass that, that help. Make it a lot safer space.

Joe: And really you're, you try to think through these different scenarios and talk through them with, with your clients, because they're going to be the ones using the space. Right.

Skyler: And right. Absolutely. And, and we're going to get into obviously more about the, uh, the bonus aspects of the windows when it comes to like learning and encouraging that obviously as well, but yeah, no, absolutely.

Skyler: Keeping that visibility high for. Any, any of the scenarios that could happen. Um, and there are many, which is unfortunate, right? Of different things that we have to kind of protect ourselves against. But knowing that, like you said, as architects, you guys are constantly doing research and constantly checking on studies to see what's working, what's not working.

Skyler: How we can implement the things that are working into the projects that we're doing, um, is obviously so key to, to be able to keep up on that. So that's absolutely, and

Joe: we also have to be thinking about the users that are using this basis daily and, and their experience and trying to maximize their comfort in there as well.

Joe: So, you know, Glazing is good. And I think back to when I went to high school, my high school was built in 2003. So just over 20 years ago, but how different things are even from them, just from, just from everything that we've learned. And, and you mentioned daylight and we'll get into that, but that is a major shift in the last two decades.

Skyler: Absolutely, absolutely. And I know, uh, you know, the kind of, all the studies and everything that I've gone into, uh, Lee would probably really get upset with me if I didn't say biophilic design and kind of using those natural elements. It's a fancy

Joe: way of saying you can see nature through the glass. Yes, exactly.

Joe: Make sure you can see trees and grass.

Skyler: Yes, yes, absolutely. And like I said, we'll get into that here in a moment. But, uh, in the meantime, all right, so you walked into the school. Um, we've gotten through the entrance, which is both safe, but also kind of promotes the school, the school's identity, all of this other good stuff.

Skyler: It's, it's directed you to it, and you have entered the school. Let's talk about, um, common areas, because I know recently, uh, I did an episode with Kent and Brent on, you know, Uh, higher education spaces. And I know Brent was really, um, excited about talking about some of the common spaces, um, and how important those are for students.

Skyler: And that doesn't start at higher education. We also do that in K through 12, right? So talk to me about what you mean by kind of these common areas and what we know about common areas that are, that are beneficial.

Joe: Common areas are another thing that we have a lot of conversations with clients about because people have different opinions.

Joe: Yeah, we. You always have to be thinking about, uh, cleanability and acoustics and lighting. That's for every space, probably more so in common areas, because when you're looking at schools, you're, you're largely talking about commons areas where there's food consumption and, uh, lots of talking and noise.

Joe: Right. So I think we have to think about those from a more technical side, but from a student experience side, um, I think you want to have a, you know, Bright, cheerful space, a space that kids want to be, and we'll engage with others. If you think back through your days in school, I, a lot of my memories are sitting in those common areas, just hanging out with friends and enjoying the environment or having open study halls in those areas and having multipurpose use, um, So I think common areas, I'm a social butterfly.

Joe: So that's my favorite place to be is in an area that kind of promotes that, but you have to really consider those things I talked about, which is the acoustics of the space, the flexibility, how it's going to be used. Maybe it'll be used one day as a commons. And the next day, um, you have a presentation in there and you're going to rearrange furniture and you've got the equipment to do so.

Skyler: Yeah.

Joe: Um, So those are things we really try to work through with clients to understand how best can we use this space. And also those common areas are large in our projects have budgets and construction costs are not going down. So if you can find a way to use these spaces in a multitude of ways, that's always a win.

Joe: Absolutely.

Skyler: Absolutely. The more I can, the more different or variety of activities and educational opportunities that you can put into one space. I mean, saving you money and to say the least. So obviously, yeah, designing, designing for spaces that can have that multi purpose use is, uh, is obviously ideal if we can.

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Skyler: To learn more about our available positions, visit the careers page at CMBAarchitects. com and apply to join the CMBA team. Over to, and I think you made a good point that I kind of want to go into, which is obviously comparing a lot of Schools today with kind of our experience personally, and I actually, uh, I went to a really small school and it was kind of just being, it was another building and it was being repurposed as a school on this.

Skyler: I don't want to say on the side, primarily school. And then it had another entirely separate function as well. Um, and it was super traditional. It was very like classroom has a bunch of seats. Professor or teacher at the, at the front, uh, with their desk. And I mean, that was basically the gist of it. Like every single classroom was basically that.

Skyler: So for me, um, you had talked about, or you mentioned this concept of like pods and neighborhoods and home classrooms and all this other stuff. Completely foreign to me. So give me kind of a rundown on, on what all that means and what ways we, um, within CMBA and the architects are kind of looking at those aspects to try to implement them.

Joe: Absolutely. So that's, that's more targeted probably at, uh, Elementary type schools and maybe into middle school as well. But the idea there is that you have a common area for kids of a certain grade level, and you want to make it really clear. So if you're coming through your entry, uh, wayfinding needs to be very clear.

Joe: Not all these kids can read yet. And you want to just have an area that's there, their space. So I'll just talk about a recent project because we have three different age groups, kindergarten, first, second, and they each have their own pod. And that pod is a space that you walk into. And it's, it's kind of a shared area with classrooms radiating around it.

Joe: And this is a space that is primarily theirs, but also the classes can break out, they can do joint activities out there with multiple different classes. If they ever had someone come to give a presentation, uh, that's how they would use it. And it's, we design it in a flexible way where there's breakout areas to do one on one learning or mass group learning.

Joe: And, um, We try to make this kind of a more grandiose space, kind of a higher ceiling, if we can bring in that natural light, like we talked about, let it filter into the classrooms. I think it's a really fun, exciting thing that kids will want to go experience. And, and, um, we talk a lot about excitement in these spaces, but also curiosity.

Joe: And I think when you're creating a space. You know, I'm an architect, so I grew up drawing floor plans and mazes and things, and I like to wander through and experience both the building and the playground. But I think this is another opportunity for that, that kids can kind of go have that curiosity, wander around and use the space differently, and we all know that.

Joe: Kids learn differently. So having the variety of different areas that they can use and learn from or, uh, different teaching opportunities, that's always fun to design and experience. And then when we have these pods, I mentioned kindergarten first and second, we try to make it so, you know, kindergartners.

Joe: Eventually you're excited to go to first grade, there's something slightly different about their pod. And when they're in first grade, they're excited to go to second grade. And so that you kind of create that excitement. It's almost like graduating grade levels and you're, you're kind of moving on and advancing.

Joe: And I think that's just kind of a subconscious excitement that it gives them to continue their education. Right. Because

Skyler: you, you'll be walking through the hallways and you'll be seeing the, the second grade pod and you'll be thinking to yourself, man, what are they doing in there? Yeah. Can't wait to be a big kid.

Skyler: What are they up to in there? That looks like fun. I mean, I know, um, we talked about recently some of the people over here did a like Lego STEM program with one of the schools that we work with. And they would have, they had like a lot of high visibility area where they were doing this. And so kids were walking past and they'd see.

Skyler: Um, the kids that were part of this, this program using Lego sets to, to build these like really ornate, you know, projects and they were like, man, what do they do? And I want to be a part of that. And so like you said, just that excitement of, I can't wait to, and not to say like, um, I don't want to do what I'm doing right now.

Skyler: I want to go do that. It's just. I'm excited. a situation of I can't wait to move on to that next level as opposed to again what we talked about earlier, which is that fear of I don't know what's coming. Uh, i'm scared of of the future. I'm scared of progressing into the next level Whatever the case we want them to be excited about that and not Fearful of it.

Skyler: So by seeing what the next, that next level is up to, we're able to create that excitement as opposed to fear.

Joe: Yeah. And I, you know, we were talking about elementaries a lot, but that also progresses onto middle schools too. You know, having the variety, uh, if teachers like to have small breakout areas or, uh, larger community areas that they can share.

Joe: You know, you're getting into different programming at that age because you're starting to get more into some of the STEM, uh, items in the middle school that maybe you wouldn't have at younger age group. And that changes again as you go into high school, because you're going to have a lot more opportunities in tech departments and voc ag and, and computer programming.

Joe: But I think a lot of that is kids are kind of starting to find their passions and starting to create career paths that are kind of shaping. And ultimately I think, um. That's a really good goal for us and for districts to have. So there's a lot of, a lot of us that go into college and aren't sure about what we want to do.

Joe: But if you start to shape that early on, and you know how you want to contribute to the community and where you want to go with your career, I think, I think that's great.

Skyler: Absolutely. So, and is that going into, because I had the notes that you sent me here, is that kind of going into this concept of the group disciplines, um, when it comes to the high school students and how we kind of design spaces to promote that idea?

Joe: Absolutely. And, you know, we've worked with some districts that have really great, uh, STEM and vocad CAD art music departments. And that's really cool to see, because I think back to when I was going into high school and, you know, not that I didn't enjoy social studies and math and English, those are all important, but when you start to have these passions, like for me, it was a lot of, uh, shop class and CAD, once you start doing that and you start doing it for fun.

Joe: And art, you start to connect the dots on, Oh, here's what I want to do with my life. Here's where I want to go to college. And so having those opportunities for kids, and sometimes those are, um, challenging for districts. Maybe if, if they really don't have that in their curriculum, if they don't have teachers, they don't have the ability to do that.

Joe: But if you can do it, or we can find creative ways to promote those. And, and maybe that's multi use spaces. Like we were talking about earlier, I think you're really giving students a great opportunity to start shape who they want to be. Yeah,

Skyler: yeah, absolutely. I'm sure there's probably a, a whole, I don't want to say like political side of, of talking about, you know, the way that our, our current education system is structured and all that kind of stuff.

Skyler: And obviously we don't want to really have to get too much into that per se, but definitely the, I, I personally love the idea of a more focused, uh, direction when it comes to high school students, right? Like we get to college and obviously by that point, yeah. Hopefully you figured out kind of an idea of what you want to do.

Skyler: And then you're going to take classes and stuff that really focus you in towards that versus kind of more of the general education concept. Yeah. You

Joe: don't, you don't want to spin your wheels on gen eds. You want to have somewhat of a plan. It doesn't mean you have to stick to it, obviously. And I, I agree with you the way that education is shifting.

Joe: And we talk a lot about flexible classrooms and a lot of that goes to, uh, different teaching environments and flexible seating and different areas of learning. That's, I mean, that's a major shift since you and I were even in high school. And, um, I think it's more of a, of a better understanding on how people learn.

Joe: It's more of a, probably a psychology or sociology understanding. And that, that is one of the great things that we get to go. Uh, do continuing education conferences about and learn and start to see the data on, um, there's actual test scores that show, you know, these flexible spaces and, and different learning environments give back and, and they, they prove that that is better than some of the ways we might've learned.

Skyler: Yeah. I mean, I'm definitely jealous when I hear about it. Um, and as, as an expecting father, definitely excited to see what, you know, school is going to bring for, for my son when he grows up. Congratulations. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. That's going to be quite the journey. Well, and that's the thing that's, uh, you know, looking at this and thinking to myself, you know, what's, what's his student journey going to look like as he kind of moves on.

Skyler: So, um, definitely exciting to see that, you know, we're as architects, you know, who are kind of at the forefront of these big education changes within our school systems and stuff like that, and designing spaces to, to better benefit what we know and understand.

Joe: Yeah.

Skyler: Um, it's definitely encouraging for me to know that, you know, we're Although I might've missed out, uh, you know, my son has the opportunity in the future to, to jump in on some of this stuff.

Skyler: Well, it'll be

Joe: interesting what you see when you don't have kids yet, but when you start, uh, taking him to school and going through the spaces and reminding yourself of, Oh my gosh, I totally forgot. That's how this was. I totally forgot about these paper cutters are off limits, things like that. And then what's changed and say, wow, this is just completely different.

Joe: Absolutely. Anytime. Yeah, that it is really interesting.

Skyler: Yeah. So we've talked about also, um, Sort of those collaboration spaces, right? When we were talking about the, the, you know, younger aged kids and having that kind of neighborhood space. Um, that's surrounded by their pods and such. And then we've talked a little bit about breakout areas, but when we're talking like higher education or not higher education, but just like, you know, the more high school, uh, level, what are we looking for when we go for those collaborative spaces versus small breakout areas?

Joe: Yeah, high school is going to be a little different, and that's typically going to be conversations that we have with the principal and leadership and teachers on how they want to operate. Most high schools that, uh, we either work on as new builds, or if we're looking to renovate or put additions on existing buildings, they'll have some type of breakout spaces that's usually for one on one learning or maybe a small group learning.

Joe: But if that's something that students now are working their way up through neighborhoods and they have a certain way of learning, let's say it's one on one rooms, and then they also have flex spaces, which maybe is a small classroom. Oftentimes, a district wants to carry that. Through middle school into high school and have those opportunities.

Joe: And so it's really not too different. You want to be able to provide those spaces that are flex use and they don't have to be, they don't have to just be for teachers in small group learning or students in small group learning. They can also be, you know, a space that teachers can go in and collaborate lesson plans on, you know, if there's a science department that's got four teachers and they want to work through, or they schedule around a one lab.

Joe: And they need to understand how, how they're going to do that and what the curriculum is, or they want to be able to, um, talk about how they're going to store certain materials for chemistry, biology. It's just nice to have a variety of spaces and small breakouts for different types of interactions. So, um, High school is definitely different, but, uh, some of those things really do want to carry through.

Joe: And if you have a student that has a certain way of learning, and that's kind of ingrained in them at a young age, you don't want to just take that away. And that's, um, we have seen that in certain districts where in elementary, they have these opportunities in middle school, they might have some, but reduced and then nothing in high school.

Joe: And it's really the same thing. It's really not the goal. It's something we want to review with the district to make sure that, uh, we're, we're have the same goals that they do, but technically or typically you want to probably have a similar type of learning environments all the way through. Right.

Skyler: Absolutely. Now, we talked about, and we, we've kind of mentioned this a couple of times, these ideas of these flexible spaces and the importance of having these. Um, spaces that are capable of being flexible, right? Having a variety of different things. But what about when we're talking about sort of these special areas, especially when it comes to, you know, art is going to be a different room than the music room, which is probably going to want some kind of acoustic, uh, design, You know, very specific acoustic design to it.

Skyler: You know, how are we going to be able to, how are we implementing these? Um, when you also, you know, obviously we mentioned before, you know, financials is kind of a big challenge and, and having these variety spaces, um, can be a lot more bang for your buck than the special spaces, but we can't leave these special spaces out, right?

Joe: Right. And, and when those spaces specifically, you have to do exactly what you said. You have to be thinking about what is unique about the space for art. You're going to have a lot of equipment. A lot of storage needs, um, drying racks, maybe a kiln and a kiln room, uh, plumbing. You probably need multiple sinks in that space, but you also, you need a certain amount of space for the room, but you, like you said, you have to keep budget in mind too.

Joe: So you can't go too crazy. And also a lot of these buildings that we're renovating and, and the buildings that we're building new that'll be renovated eventually. You have to think about how can that space be used down the road. And so, um, music is kind of a unique one in the acoustics standpoint, but.

Joe: Depending on the age group, if you're in elementary, you might be able to have a similar size classroom as a normal, uh, just standard learning classroom that could be flexed out to that in the future if there's ever an addition and music got moved. Now, when you get to older age, you know, middle school is really when it gets popular.

Joe: So you have a lot of students in middle school music and you need a big space, uh, to house all them. Um, and I'd. Big space to house all the equipment and that's going to carry through to high school. So, and usually a high base base for, for acoustics. And you want to really work with the music teacher at that district to understand how they want it to function.

Joe: But once you get above that elementary level, those really need to be dedicated spaces. And if the district starts to grow, It's going to be a challenge if you can't add onto that room and make it bigger, because you might end up having to just build a whole new space. And so those are things we got to constantly be thinking out.

Joe: And, um, you know, we, we use a variety of ways to do that. And we look at enrollment projections and what's previous enrollment versus now, and how many kids are interested in music. Sometimes it's as simple as a music teacher gets kids really excited about it. And they have great turnout. It's no different than, you know, sports.

Joe: If you have that, then you need to really be planning for that, right? And

Skyler: then, so what do we do in situations where, you know, the music right now is where it's at, but it's projected to potentially grow. How do we design in such a way to make sure that we're.

Joe: Well, let's just say that you have, uh, an elementary, that's a five section building, meaning there's five classrooms per age group.

Joe: And then you have your specials on top of that. So you've got your art, your music, maybe you've got a STEM room, um, et cetera. You would just try to orient it in a way. That it would make sense. You know, we talked about neighborhoods earlier. You don't want to have a room that could be maybe down the road, another classroom that's way far away from this neighborhood.

Joe: Maybe it has a party wall that can be opened up and joined into this neighborhood. Uh, or maybe it's just outside in the corridor. But if, if you're planning ahead, you're, you're already looking at how would this building grow in the future? Is there, you know, a proposed addition maybe that you understand the site can handle, but you're always trying to grow it in a way that's not.

Joe: creating a different pod. So those five sections are stuck out to dry. You always want to be able to grow their environment. And sometimes we do run into that where there's a, there's a great arrangement for spaces when there's a hundred kids per grade, but when that school grows to 150 and we can't fit everybody in this pod anymore, that becomes the real design challenge because maybe the, the previous project just didn't think about how this would grow.

Joe: Maybe it wasn't a concern.

Skyler: And absolutely. I mean, obviously thinking ahead versus just thinking in the now is, is, I mean, that's what you guys are kind of experts on, right? Like, I mean, that's kind of what, why you get an architect. You don't want to just throw them together.

Joe: It can be the hard part, but it, it's extremely important, especially for districts that are, uh, that are changing size.

Joe: And that's really, really common in Iowa.

Skyler: Yep, that's right. So anyone out there that's, you know, kind of questioning the need of, of getting an architect involved, just remember that if you're thinking just too narrow focused, um, that's, that's what you guys do is think outside the box. Think. Big picture, think long term, um, and making sure that the project works for being able to expand or grow or whatever, uh, the needs kind of arise.

Skyler: So, um, let's jump into, uh, we keep talking about it a lot. We want to foster, uh, this concept of, of curiosity. Um, we want them to explore the possibilities of career paths and things along those lines. Um, what kind of ways do we promote that kind of idea of curiosity through the way that we design these, uh, these spaces?

Skyler: Whether it be kind of like we had mentioned before, creating. Um, natural lighting that's coming in through the windows or, you know, creating fun spaces in some way, shape, or form. How are we doing that?

Joe: Yeah, I think that's a lot of it. It's natural lights, very obvious in the forms of the spaces that you're going into, obviously colors comes into this as well.

Joe: One of the first things that you really have to think about is circulation. How are people. You know, pick a student and say this student's day, they start here, they enter the building, they go to their neighborhood, they go to art class, they go back to the neighborhood for two more classes, they go out to recess, they come back in, they go to music.

Joe: What is that experience like and how can we make it fun? Yeah. And how can you create curious moments? And to me, curious moments are, um, I'm staying here and I see a space and I want to know how that space works and I want to go in and see it. And it's obvious with kids, with playgrounds, because you get a new playground and you're always wanting to go check out all the different new toys that are on it.

Joe: You want to go to the top, you want to go down the slide, you want to climb with the ladders and try everything else. And I think, you know, kids are naturally curious, so it's not hard. I think if you can provide something that. Kids get excited to just walk around and explore and what's this for? What does this do?

Joe: And then you're creating learning environments and you're creating a space that kids are excited to go to. So I know for me, curiosity, even in adulthood, if you're curious about something, you're going to explore and you're going to, you're going to get pretty good at it. Yeah. Curiosity is probably as much a goal as excitement.

Joe: And so our whole career is architects and designing and Hey, what can this be? And how can we lay this out? I mean, that's all based on curiosity. So I know the importance of, of it and if we can create spaces like that for kids. And I think that's a lot of it with schools.

Skyler: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, they've come to the school, um, safely made it inside, they've explored, um, they know where they're going, they're familiar with their layout, which is both collaborative, but also has the opportunity to kind of specify within various classrooms.

Skyler: Um, as they walk past other things, they're made to be curious to, to want to explore different paths, find the path that works for them when they get to high school, that's going to help focus them into sort of their, their career plan or whatever it is that interests them to, to help go for that. So we talked a lot about the student journey, which technically, you know, this episode is.

Skyler: Modeled for, um, but I want to get one last thing, uh, before we end today, and that is what about when you have parents and visitors that explore the school, whether it be because they're there for like maybe a sports event or they're looking to possibly enroll their, their kids inside of the school, um, what kind of aspects do we like to, uh, design into the school to help, um, put that positive light on the school for when the parents are looking at it?

Joe: Oh, I think that's a great question because I think when we're laying spaces out, especially early on, and we're trying to mass out what a building is and understand what all the spaces it'll need. Obviously, you have your entry and admin area, you need a gymnasium, you need a common area, you need classrooms, a variety of classrooms, and then all the support spaces.

Joe: And so when we're trying to lay this out, you have to be thinking about those different experiences. And so parents and visitors, their experience is going to be different. They're probably going to see. A limited, have a limited experience of the buildings, except when they go on an apparent teacher night and they get to go through all the different classrooms and see the work and talk to the teachers.

Joe: But let's say they're coming in for a basketball game and they're kind of come in, you still want it to be very obvious for them, just like a student. Right. And you want to walk in and have, I keep coming back to prideful because I think it's real. I think if you are prideful in your, your school, you're going to Prideful in your community and you're going to work hard and maintain it.

Joe: And so they're going to come in and it needs to be very obvious because When they come into the space and they're going into the gymnasium or the auditorium, um, that's where their kids are all the time. So they want to make sure that their kids are having a great experience and that they're safe and that it's meaningful.

Joe: And, you know, and, and the part of this, we maybe don't talk about very much is, you know, the community members are, they pay taxes for these projects, right? That's true. And you have to go to bond and you want people to see that these spaces are working, that they're safe for students and they're getting a good education that they'll give back to the community.

Joe: And that's probably why I hammer on school pride so much, because the whole community needs to be able to see this and understand this, especially if you want to have them buy in and be willing to support the school district on upcoming projects. Absolutely.

Skyler: Absolutely. Those parents are part of the community and that community, you know, is what's there to serve both those families and the kids of those families and the school, you know, it's all just one big sort of ecosystem that all It relies on itself, right?

Skyler: Each aspect of it. So it

Joe: really is, it is an ecosystem. That's a good way to put it because it's, you know, we, we talk about parents, but, you know, outside of parents, you want people that, uh, are in the community that they still want to go to school events and support the school. And I, you know, they're involved too.

Joe: It is just one big ecosystem.

Skyler: Absolutely. And you want to be able to bring those people back, bring those parents back, bring those, you know, alumni back and help them keep supporting the school and. In whatever way it is that they, they can, whether it be financial or maybe even getting hired as staff or whatever the case, you want them to come back.

Skyler: So, um, awesome, Joe, that, I mean, really takes care of a lot of, I know the, the different aspects of everything that, you know, we had kind of pre discussed, um, about the, the student journey when it comes to these cave teams. K 12 schools. Um, and I really appreciate you, you know, sharing a lot of this amazing insight.

Skyler: You've obviously worked on a lot of K 12 projects and you've seen a lot of the, the ins and outs when it comes to all these different areas. And as you mentioned before, doing the research on a lot of like psychological elements and, you know, fostering all those, those emotions and things that we want to bring out those positive aspects, um, within the children.

Skyler: So I really appreciate, you know, sharing your expertise with me today.

Joe: Yeah. Thanks, Kyle. This is really good. And lots of great questions at, uh, Spark Thought and Interest. So I appreciate that. Yeah,

Skyler: absolutely. You know, if we're here at the architecture firm, we're also kind of an ecosystem, right? I might not be an architect, but I'd like to think that I can pitch some questions here and there that kind of make the architects think.

Skyler: Awesome. Well, once again, Joe, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. If you'd like to find out more about the laying the foundation podcast, you can head over to any podcast streaming platform, such as Spotify, iTunes, Google podcasts, and others. You can also find out more about CMBA architects through social media, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Skyler: Additionally, you can head over to the CMBA website at CMBA architects. com. If you're an architecture or design professional, or an intern looking for an internship within those fields, please be sure to check out our website and click on the careers tab to find out more about what opportunities we offer.

Skyler: This has been another episode of the Laying the Foundation podcast. We'll see you next time.

Post by CMBA
June 27, 2024