School of the Future Competition Spotlights Students’ Vision and Ingenuity

June 27, 2012

By Mark Bishop, HSC vice president of policy and communications

Students can change the world – I saw it happen one day not long ago.

University Middle School

University Middle School students display their project

Earlier this year, I had the honor of serving as a judge on CEFPI’s School of the Future competition. In HSC terms, the School of the Future competition is like Cooking up Change, but for student architects. CEFPI challenges middle school students to design, build a model of and articulate a vision for the school of the future: a school that facilitates learning, challenges our sense of complacency, and does it all sustainably.

What these students did was incredible.

Highfield Humanities College - UK

Highfield Humanitites College students share their School of the Future project

The day-long judging panel included presentations from six teams from as far away as the UK. But the ones that touched me most were the two winning teams from Tucson, Arizona and Wasilla, Alaska.

Teeland Middle School

The Teeland Middle School team’s project

The team from Teeland Middle School in Wasilla, Alaska saw their school of the future as an opportunity to look into their community and use their school for change. In their community they saw a crisis of homelessness, they saw an ever-expanding landfill eating up valuable land, and the saw challenges in creating opportunities for outdoor activity because it’s just so cold. Their vision for the school of the future tackled these issues by building a school on reclaimed landfill space, incorporating public housing into the school complex, and creating running and walking paths in an indoor space flooded with natural light from windows made with transparent solar cells and aerogel.

Imago Dei Middle School

Imago Dei Middle School student team

The team from Imago Dei Middle School in Tuscon, Arizona took a different approach. Rather than looking in, they looked out and chose to tackle problems facing students in Africa. Rather than looking to technology to solve their problems, they strived to identify simple strategies that would apply in an environment so far from their home. In the end, they created a building from materials that are readily available in the local environment -– plastic bottles with metal mesh to create supporting walls (which simultaneously addressed a big waste problem) and bamboo for interior support. By orienting the building to face the prevailing winds, their school of the future was able to harness the wind to keep the classrooms cooler and minimize mosquitoes. The students shared their lessons on the importance of simplicity and only using what is needed for design and for living.

Seneca Middle School

Seneca Middle School presents their project before a panel of judges

As the day progressed, I could only think about how these students were being given tools and skills to change the world. I teared up a few times thinking about what my son will be doing when he hits the sixth grade and what he might learn that will help make our schools and our world better.

Newtown Middle School

Newtown Middle School students showcase their project

I was so impressed throughout the day at the level of work, dedication, and knowledge that these students exhibited. Congratulations to them as well as to CEFPI for another wildly successful competition.