Modeling Education for Global Friends
When an international group of educators, journalists, engineers, and advertisers wanted to see how high tech and design thinking have been incorporated into school facilities and programming, they came to MPCSD for a tour of our newest campus, Laurel Upper School. Former school board member Laura Rich connected a diverse group of stakeholders from Brazil to see how Menlo Park City School District incorporates flexible and collaborative spaces, environmentally sound building techniques, and use of education technology. The visitors were interested in what are our concerns for elementary aged children, how we manage transitions and what we’ve learned, and how to teach young children about technology.
Laurel Principal Linda Creighton, Tech & Innovation Coordinator Theresa Fox, and Superintendent Erik Burmeister explained how the chance to build a new school from the ground up was a unique opportunity to make the physical campus reflect the values and mission of the school. Laurel uses a Project Based Learning model in its curriculum, which emphasizes collaboration and coming together around common problems. Just as the school focuses lessons on PBL now, the actual design process of the campus used many of the same ideas as it brought together all stakeholders - parents, teachers, students, community members - to empathize and plan for what would be the best environment in which to learn and grow collaboratively.
While touring the campus, the group viewed one of two STEAM lab spaces. Filled with natural light, custom ventilated drying cupboards, an in-room kiln, and abundant display space, the room is easily able to accommodate any type of project the students are working on. The school’s two-story, open central space offers collaboration space for small and large group work outside of classrooms. Classrooms themselves have sliding doors between them which allow teachers to team together for lessons, and students from different classes to partner up on activities. Easy access to outside space adjacent to classrooms gives students more choice in where to work.
The group asked Superintendent Burmeister for his advice on what one thing would have the most impact on improving education in a developing country like Brazil. Mr. Burmeister stressed the importance of investing in teacher education to properly prepare and develop a pipeline of skilled and supported educators to serve the population. When teachers are well trained and respected for their expertise, they will be empowered to revolutionize the system and bring hope to the families that have struggled to gain access to quality education.