As modes of learning progress, buildings need to as well.

It’s time to change that, says Dan Mader in a recent School Planning & Management article. Space is becoming integral to the learning experience. And in many ways, we are finally seeing learning environments deliver that advanced flexibility and technology needed to enhance the educational experience. But all too often, challenges arise to prevent these collaborative learning environments from becoming a reality. These environments must support the development of many 21st-century skills, with a growing emphasis on project-based learning. But in many cases, school buildings remain the same. Mader states:

With the economic challenges of the past five years, and the continued funding challenges facing many school districts, it is easy to justify waiting on educational facility improvements. We wait until the economy improves. We wait until new revenue streams arise. We wait for a successful bond issue or referendum. But as we wait, the physical environment that our students inhabit becomes more of a hindrance with each passing day.

Rather than dwelling on obstacles, Mader emphasizes a focus on creative solutions. Old buildings must no longer be seen as an excuse for inaction for teachers, facilities directors and architects. And while price remains a large roadblock, school districts, private schools and other educational organizations must become aware that creating an environment conducive to project-based learning is not necessarily an expensive proposition. “One doesn’t need to build a new building to implement change,” states Mader. In fact, the transformation of outdated learning environments through cost-effective means has as of late led to the most creative and widely acclaimed school construction projects in recent memory.

Read more about next generation learning at School Planning & Management.