Green Schools “Create” Learning Tools
By: - Thursday, January 20, 2005

The expanding popularity of GREEN design in our school buildings is good for the environment.  When properly handled educationally, a GREEN design can be much, much more.  Many GREEN schools are “creating” learning tools.

Examples in this article have been developed by Franklin Hill & Associates in numerous schools across the United States and Canada.  Several in this article were specifically recommended as part of the planning process for the Brookfield Zoo Immersion K-12 School planned outside of Chicago, Illinois.

Wherever possible, designers and educators are encouraged to look at the environmental design concepts as opportunities to simulate a hands-on “experiential” learning opportunity.  Properly planning exterior shade protection with high interior ceilings and elevated vent windows can be such an opportunity for winter and summer experiential learning.

The graphic below shows a winter “scene” where properly planned solar exposure can produce interior warmth.  Ceiling fans can return heat from the ceiling back down to student levels.

The next graphic shows a summer example where a retractable awning can then protect that same window, create a cooler exterior climate, and produce natural ventilation through the upper story windows.  Students can move in and out of doors, feel the breeze, and enjoy the learning experience.

This next example shows how a more complex learning tool may be implemented by placing peripheral temperature meters connected to computer-based learning stations.  Students will quickly see the different temperatures in each location, outdoors, in the ceiling, and elsewhere.  This allows students to measure and understand the flow of air based on natural factors that have been utilized successfully in southern climates such as old plantation homes from the 1800s.  Wow, integrated curriculum with science, geography, history, building design, and much, much more.

Importantly, the data analysis example allows the students to feel the kinesthetic learning opportunities of changing temperature and breeze and monitor it electronically.  This can be combined with practical physics phenomena such as understanding why hot air rises, etc.  Finally, it interfaces with more recently developed electronic peripherals that seamlessly blend technology with problem solving, data analysis, science, etc.  These applications can apply to a variety of grade levels as early as elementary school. 

Properly planning exterior solar light management through a “light shelf” can also prove to be a very appropriate and cost-effective method for providing indirect lighting to computer education areas.  Indirect lighting is often preferred as it produces less glare on the computer screen and generally enhances the environment of computer-based learning.

The graphic below shows the following:
• Design can be placed in a matter that directs light deeper into the classroom to save energy.
• Indirect lighting reduces multi-media glare.
• A light shelve acts as a demonstration model for passive solar influence upon computer-based and multimedia instructional spaces.

Educators and design professional are encouraged to see the entire school as a “Learning Tool” and part of a whole systems approach to education.

For more examples of integrating curriculum with facility design, please feel free to contact the offices of Franklin Hill & Associates, education facility planners located in the Seattle metro area.

Franklin Hill, Ph.D., is an international educational facility planning consultant and futurist.  His background qualifications are in both education, facilities management, and design.  Special projects include the Disney Celebration School, Brookfield Immersion Zoo School, Burnaby IBM Partnership School, and the recently planned Enloe “Magnet High School of America” outside of Raleigh, NC.  Frank planned 8 of the top 100 high schools referenced in US News and World Report.  Contact Frank at or visit his web site, 

Wight & Company of Chicago was the design build firm for the Brookfield Zoo Project.

Please send Frank additional examples where you have implements integrated educational concepts into the design of your building.


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