|■_ Schools are typically built around curriculum, which may become outdated over time.|
|■_ The design of Khan Lab School, however, enables adaptability and evolution.|
|■_ As teachers update their curriculum, the space will evolve right along with them.|
For as long as humans have existed, our species has learned through doing. Making, debating, designing, and building. So how come schools are still so focused on lecturing? And what would a school look like if it were designed around how we actually learn?
Khan Lab School, which opened in 2017 and currently serves around 100 students, was designed as a way to extend Sal Khan’s vision for education into the physical world. It is a laboratory for education itself. There are no history classrooms or math classrooms. Instead, the school is built around ways of learning, so that as educators update their curriculum, nothing new needs to be built. The flexible learning environment can adapt right along with them.
“In my opinion, learning environments shouldn’t weld us to a single curriculum or way of doing things,” Danish Kurani, Kurani’s founder and chief designer, told Insider. “Education should be free to evolve and improve constantly.”
Khan Lab School’s design follows this philosophy. It features “micro-environments” over classrooms. It includes various labs for different kinds of work. And the structure itself can adapt to future technologies.
“For now, students are using iPads, Chromebooks, digital displays, and a rolling TV,” Kurani said. “When their technology changes, the learning settings can evolve seamlessly.”
Some of the flexible learning environments include personal nooks and reading corners for quiet study or socialization. In addition, there is a Make Lab for design and fabrication, an Ideate Lab for brainstorming, and a Chat Lab for discussions and problem-solving.
Unlike typical schools or classrooms, there are no squeaky chairs, distracting decorations, or unnecessary tech that students don’t actually use. Every decision was intentional, focused on enabling specific kinds of activities, rather than appealing to tradition.
“Even with limited space,” Kurani said, “there’s plenty of distinct micro-environments that offer students a mix of tools and settings to work in.”
The result of these design choices is a school where students and teachers alike can test out new ways of working and learning. Students can peer through the labs’ windows to glimpse other projects in-progress. At the same time, they can look to digital displays of everybody’s work to gain inspiration for their own work.
The best part? The experiment can scale.
“If a school wanted us to design a campus for 1,000+ students, we would first seek to understand what makes that school unique,” Kurani told Insider. “After that, we consider how the architecture should be customized for them, taking into account their vision, culture, and needs.”
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