The VillageTown as Campus: education of the young
For many parents their primary concern today is securing a good education for their children. Families will move home to enrol their children in a good school district; they will seek out communities that protect and inspire the young.
Schools face many problems, but perhaps the largest is the loss of support structures that prepare students for learning. Where once there was an extended family and supportive community, today's society isolates families into parents (or solo parent) and then look to teachers to fill the gaps. Due to tight funding, it is not uncommon for a teacher to face 30 children in which class control becomes a significant part of the job. The VillageTown changes this.
By its very nature, the VillageTown becomes a supportive community. As soon as people get out of their cars and slow down, they begin to recognise each other. This change has a significant effect on how children live, and how they learn about the world of adults and community:
- Children live in an adult world, not an artificial world of children
- Adults become role models... at work or relaxing on the plaza.
- Daycare comes to mean something very different.
- Parents don't hire babysitters, they buy an extra bed for sleepovers.
- Boredom is replaced by an enriched social and cultural environment.
- The plaza and the pedestrian streets are safe for young children to play.
- Children dine on the plaza among adults, or walk home to dine with family.
- Students witness the relevance of their studies, as they see adults applying knowledge and learning on a day-to-day basis.
- Predators do not find opportunities in such a community, there are too many people watching.
- Elders form natural bonds with young people - as humans did since the beginning of time until we invented retirement homes
- Teens have space, but not too much space to hurt themselves or other (such as no cars means fewer crashes)
These attributes come with the territory in the VillageTown. Can we then do things different to make education even better?
Yes. A core principle of the VillageTown is presence, being there.
To these natural characteristics, the VillageTown proposes a slightly different structure to formal education. Instead of carving off large parcels of land for walled-in primary & secondary school campuses:
- place about five primary (elementary) classrooms on each plaza, some as store-front and others in the Guild Halls. Design these to be multipurpose so when class is over for the day, the room may be used for community purposes.
- place the high school in the town center, and have at least three different schools - academic, creative arts and apprentice/technical.
- use the sports fields and VillageTown gymnasia & pools for school sports during the school day.
- use the gardens, the equestrian area and other outdoor space for specialised education.
- place classrooms in the Artist Guild Halls and invite the guild members to teach from time to time.
- incorporate apprentice learning in the industrial park and with selected businesses in work places.
- contract with the VillageTown Corporation to manage the "administrivia", the paperwork that the state demands.
- use Telepresence extensively.
If education consists of time, place, subject matter and social relationship, the element proposed to be realigned is "place". Do not segregate students, include them in the life of the community, but as students. This has numerous educational benefits and it saves millions in investing in a separate campus infrastructure that is then used less than 15% of the year.
For the Department, Board or Ministry of Education:
Objective: The VillageTown wishes to be part of the public school system, but wishes to change the place where learning occurs.
In a VillageTown of 10,000 persons, one may project 2,000 will be primary and secondary students. All will live in the VillageTown, and the VillageTown can be considered a safe place for the children because it has no cars, and because at all times there will be many adults keeping an eye on the children. Just outside the VillageTown walls, the greenbelt will provide sports fields, and it is desirable that these be allocated for students during school hours but used by the community the rest of the time.
- There are 8,760 hours a year, and the public school system occupies classrooms approximately 1,176 hours a year, which means the classrooms are reserved for use less than 15% of the time. This is inefficient use of resources.
- The educational benefit of learning within an active, dynamic community provides students with many role models to prepare them for adulthood. For some it provides a seamless transition to internship and apprenticeship as the plaza businesses will know the students, and the students will be familiar with the businesses around them.
- At one time schools were within the community, but as the world shifted to a machined-scaled environment, schools needed to be protected from the public street. This was both to protect against the hazard of cars running over children, and because the car brought anonymous predators where the safest solution was to separate the school from the community and build a fence around it. In the VillageTown, the need for these barriers is removed.
- While the VillageTown can build private schools, this tends toward an impression of elitism, whereas the VillageTown seeks to be a mainstream development representative of the general cross section of society. It would prefer to work with the public school system, where it proposes to change the location of learning - to shift the classrooms
Solution: On each plaza, in addition to the workplaces, the offices, shops and cafés, primary and secondary classrooms will be built. These classrooms will be designed for flexibility, with pocket walls so the teacher's work can be slid into a wall and locked away when the classes are over, and the room then used by the community for other purposes including meetings, adult education and community education. The administrative functions of the schools will be provided in the centrally located VillageTown Hall building (provided by school personnel, but in a purpose-build management building), to achieve efficiencies of scale. Classrooms can be equipped with telepresence systems to enable better learning and to enable better management by the principals and their support staff. Optionally, students moving from class to class within the VillageTown can be provided with electronic identification that tracks their location, so truancy would be immediately identified.
Precedent: This is how education used to work. Schools were in the community, not segregated behind high fences.
Incentive: Infrastructure costs will be less, and quality of construction can be higher, with more durable buildings and maintenance costs spread over multiple uses.