Planning to Learn: The Role of Interior Design in Educational Settings
This design case is about re-engaging with the fundamental role of the built environment in order to support the educational process and overall learning experience in a private Catholic school. Advanced level interior design students were provided an opportunity to work with a school whose administrator had requested assistance in setting priorities for needed changes to their grade school facility. The current building presented limitations in reflecting the high quality curriculum teachers delivered to their students, and they sought ideas for improvements that would support their goals. The design case describes a sequence of pedagogically based steps that were strategically employed through a service-learning project to help students explore user experience, apply theory, and develop design solutions using an evidence-based research framework. The goal was to plan learning spaces for pre-kindergarten through third grade school children. The interior design students first explored the theoretical perspectives of early childhood education and the role of the built environment as a significant component of the educational process. They then analyzed the existing conditions to create priorities for change, verifying this information with multiple user-groups. A comprehensive design program was developed from this information. Finally, student teams prepared design solutions that visually represented potential answers to the identified problems. Student, faculty, and client perceptions of the design process are presented in text and audio formats. Outcomes of the case study are discussed in the context of the benefits to the various user groups and participants, as well as the value of returning to the fundamentals of the educational experience through the human perceptual and physical interactions with the built environment.