Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Community/Neighborhood School" Idea

Yesterday I watched Designing a Great Neighborhood, a documentary about creating a neighborhood in Boulder, Colorado.

I have a love/hate relationship with these kinds of things, sort of Utopia-ish. I'm fascinated with utopian/dystopian novels. I love reading them, but I can't ever sort out my feelings for their ties to the real world. On one hand, it's great to see so much effort going into the creation of this neighborhood--the windows are positioned to take in as much daylight as possible. The roofs, to not block the sun for other buildings. Everything's been planned with such precision. At the same time, you DO wind up with sort of cookie-cutter houses. Yes, they have been designed for efficacy, but the unification IS a bit unnerving.

Those personal feelings aside, I was still fascinated with the documentary and found myself immediately wanting to move there, planning certain details I would have done differently from a design aspect. "My" neighborhood would certainly need schools, of course, because that's where I would work.

At first I considered an elementary, middle, and high school, all in a row next to each other (which is how the schools in the small town I lived in for half of my childhood were positioned, now that I think about it). That way, all of the children could walk to school together with their siblings.

But the more I thought about it, would the high school be necessary? There wouldn't be enough students in the neighborhood to fully populate the high school, so others would have to be brought in--others that would be outsiders. Surely the children could gain enough independence to travel outside the neighborhood on their own to the high school. But then they'd be the outsiders. And they probably wouldn't even get a good education there, anyway.

But wait, if I'd trust that high-schoolers had enough independence to travel the city on their own, that means their former education would have had to create that independence in them. And what better way to create independence in a child than Montessori?

Yes, it's perfect because then the children could transition from a Montessori elementary to a Montessori secondary education. And because I'm not familiar with any secondary Montessori schools, in my mind it looks pretty much like a Free school (which I'll have to blog about later because I realize that I haven't yet).

Well, then, it'll be a three story building, functioning as a community building when school is not in session. The first floor would have the stage for performances, etc. and the early childhood center. The second story would be for elementary aged children, and the third story, for post-elementary. I hadn't determined whether an adult would need to be present on the third story or not. Ideally, the children would be so in charge of their own education that they could function completely independently and only need to visit an adult downstairs occasionally.

It's such a great model for a school, I wish all schools were fashioned after it. Right?