At Avenue Road Public School, the classrooms in a new grade 7 to 8 wing connect students to the world around them. We used architectural principles like transparency to allow people to see and experience each other and their various activities—which is key to developing empathy and understanding. Seeing into the classroom is also a useful tool for the principal, who can walk the hallways for 30 minutes and get a rich sense of what's happening. Teachers can signal to and cover for one another and observe what's going on—a useful support for their work.
Flexible learning pods We added flexible work spaces by creating learning pods within the interstitial space between the classroom and the hallway. From the classroom, a small group can discuss a project without disrupting other students. From the hallway, it's an impromptu learning and meeting space.
Circulation spaces as social arteries In the hallway we've added clerestory windows above and glazing onto the courtyard to allow for lots of natural light—not typical of most school hallways. The benches and niches offer more gathering places for both students and staff.
Even lockers were an opportunity to draw connections, by using colour to connect spaces. Above each locker is a pin-up board allowing students' work to be showcased—a low-cost solution to bringing character and community into the school. There's also an acoustical benefit.
A building that strengthens relationships The new wing creates a three-sided courtyard with the perimeter connected by windows to interior hallways and classrooms. The staff room, with its large bay window, is positioned prominently to give teachers a place that acknowledges their important role. It's an opportunity to observe students outside of the classroom, to protect them with passive surveillance, and, more positively, to see and be inspired by students at play. It's also good for students to see teachers taking a break and 'being human'. Fuller, stronger relationships can be developed between student and teacher, which is integral to student success.