Education in a COVID World

Covid Classroom

With back-to-school quickly approaching, we’ve been talking at Williams + Paddon about what the classroom of the future might look like. While we don’t have clear guidance in this ever-changing environment, I wanted to share a bit of our student-centered thinking and the insights our team members are envisioning. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic forces educators to adapt to distance learning instruction, we don’t feel that this will be the new normal. Some of our Education clients are adopting staggered schedules where half the class is physically in the classroom with an instructor while the other half is at home interacting via digital resources. The teacher/student connection, physical or virtual, is at the heart of effective learning, and we’ll need to monitor the pros & cons of distance learning as we design for the future.

It was true before the pandemic, and it holds true now; learning is a social activity.

The W+P Learning Environments Group circled up (virtually) during the early shelter-in-place days of the pandemic to start a dialog on how the learning landscape was changing. We ideated about materials, programming, and the adaptability of existing classrooms in this new COVID world. One common thread in our discussions was the idea of indoor vs. outdoor learning. Was the later even feasible? Perhaps outdoor learning will become the more desired “classroom” with the inclusion of exterior fans, shade sails, and misters to keep the environment comfortable. The understanding that connecting to nature is innate in our human psyche inspired a lot of clever, unconventional thinking. 

A few more rational ideas from the past rose to the top of the conversation as well. The finger plan schools of the ’50s and ’60s had classroom door access from the exterior only – this would alleviate narrow interior passing corridors with hundreds of students in close proximity. What was old may be new again?

We’re hopeful that a new normal will be realized soon, as learning in a school setting is inherently important for the proper development of our youth beyond just the academic curriculum. Our children are not well suited for distance learning or six feet distancing from peers. Children learn best when immersed in a classroom environment and while interacting with teachers and friends. We owe it to them to design environments that inspire their growing curiosity while engineering the safeguards that will allow kids to continue being kids.

Cody Carpino, AIA
Principal, Learning Environments Group