Letter from the Editor

Dear Readers,
As teeth are chattering over the current economic crisis, I felt it appropriate to focus on one word in this month’s e-newsletter...cost. Perhaps considering today’s situation, cost directly equates to money for many readers. For schools, that certainly rings true, and always has. But schools must also consider what cost means in terms of sustainability, long-term benefits, aesthetics, maximized value, investments in technology, human life... and the list goes on.

I joined a book club this past spring. The first book that we chose was “Three Cups of Tea” (see Bookshelf), the true story of an American mountaineer who falls in love with Pakistan and decides to help build a school in one of the villages he accidentally fell upon during his travels. One school gradually turned into over 78 schools (as of 2008) in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 28,000 children, including 18,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before. The minimal amount of money it takes to get these schools up and running is truly astonishing.

Curious about other programs that provide educational support on an extremely low budget, I visited one of my favorite websites – TED: Ideas Worth Spreading (see On Tap). A recent talk by Nicholas Negroponte, creator of One Laptop Per Child Program, shares a terrifying statistic. Most of the nearly two–billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated, or receive no education at all. One in three does not complete the fifth grade. Negroponte’s laptop is another incredible example of how to begin thinking about investing in the right places for long-term cost savings. Read on for more news in sustainable learning environments, schools as malls, new books and school facility events happening around the world.

We are indeed witnessing a financial crisis, struggling to understand what it will take to buoy up the economy again, but we can’t afford to neglect our schools. If we do, imagine what kind of innovative programs we could be missing out on. Imagine the difference a new laptop makes in the life of a child and how this piece of equipment transforms the entire meaning of a classroom. Imagine how good a roof over one’s head feels in the frosty Himalayan schools. Imagine what else is possible.


Clare Vogel, Editor

On Tap

Video: Out of This World: Students Take an Eco-Friendly Field Trip to Mars
A focus on energy conservation brings the sciences to life in an art class at Redwood Middle School, in Napa, California.

Video: Nicholas Negroponte: The vision behind One Laptop Per Child
Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Laboratory, describes how the One Laptop Per Child project will build and distribute laptops to some of the world’s poorest students.

The Optimal Learning Environment: Learning Theories
This article is the first in a series of articles that will explore various learning theories, the description of the learning environments associated with each theory, and the physical contexts designers have created to support them. By Bukky Akinsanmi, LEED AP

Lessons from the Mall: A School with Commercial Aesthetic Makes Young Minds More Receptive
Any educator walking through a well-designed mall will see kids of secondary school age who are far more actively engaged with their surroundings than when they’re in school. Here are some ideas for how to turn your school into a marketplace of ideas. By Randall Fielding and Annalise Gehling

A ‘Dose of Nature’ for Attention Problems
Parents of children with attention deficit problems are always looking for new strategies to help their children cope. An interesting new study suggests that spending time in nature may help.

One Corner of the World

U.S. Mountaineer Builds Schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan (see Bookshelf)

Photo Credit:


Specialized Learning Communities: Jewish Architecture Website
A new site was brought to my attention last month,, aimed at sharing Jewish architecture with the world. Jewish institutions, especially synagogues are, broadly defined, lifelong learning communities. Many of the case studies and articles in DesignShare’s archives are relevant and will be useful for the creator of this site. If you are a school principle, administrator, teacher, architect or planner with photos of Jewish schools that you would like to showcase on the website, please email me. is a mission-driven site, always looking for opportunities to share information about great schools. If you know of any other websites where DesignShare could spread our seeds, please email me as well!

Charter Schools Face Financial Challenges, National Economic Crisis a Factor

Australian Schools’ Cross-Cultural Exchange of Ideas
In January 2007, around 20 principals, teachers and administrators from Victorian schools traveled to Minneapolis to tour a number of schools 'doing things differently' with their pedagogy, timetabling and physical structure. Just 18 months later, Victoria has become a destination of choice for educators in Australia and Asia seeking to view examples of innovative schools in action. This October 15 principals and administrators from Queensland headed to the slightly colder southern state for two jam-packed days of tours and discussion.

The tours contrasted three public schools (two secondary and one primary), including one primary and one secondary that had driven their renovations with sustained, extensive changes to pedagogy and timetabling. The third school had simply changed the spaces. The differences in quality between the three approaches was striking, reminding me of Prakash Nair's comment that 'Good school buildings are really about good schools.' Buildings, even where they are designed to facilitate team teaching and student-directed learning, cannot actually make changes alone. Perhaps we have become conditioned to thinking in terms of a quick fix — wanting to buy a solution rather than work really hard at changing a culture, which is by far the most difficult part.

If you are interested in checking out some examples of good schools in good school buildings, in Victoria, Australia, please contact FNI's Australian representative Annalise Gehling at

Changes Coming to DesignShare

  • Updated online Directory Profile Pages available THIS MONTH!
  • Online Manufacturer’s Directory coming soon
  • Sponsored monthly case studies beginning next month
  • DesignShare Awards Program schedule changing...stay tuned for more information next month


Linking Architecture and Education: Sustainable Design of Learning Environments
By Anne Taylor
Click here for more information

Three Cups of Tea, One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace...One School At A Time
By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin "Three Cups of Tea is one of the most remarkable adventure stories of our time. Greg Mortenson's dangerous and difficult quest to build schools in the wildest parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan is not only a thrilling read, it's proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world."
-Tom Brokaw

Event Calendar

3rd Educational Facilities Forum & Exhibition (Atlanta)
November 03 - 04, 2008
The 3rd Education Facilities Forum will create time saving opportunities for you to meet and evaluate suppliers for your cleaning, catering, refurbishment, maintenance and FM needs.

Green Charter Schools Conference (Madison)
November 07 - 09, 2008
Conference goals include professional development for educators; opportunities for collaboration among green schools, environmental scientists, and eco-organizations; and public education regarding green charter schools.

Architects/Planners/Purchasing Officials: Gather, Learn, and Grow at The School Equipment Show (Baltimore)
November 13 - 15, 2008
Timed to lead into the prime specifying season, the School Equipment Show is the perfect place to source new products, earn AIA credit, network with your peers, and discover the latest trends affecting facilities, construction, and design in the K-12 education marketplace. See products from over 200 companies displaying innovative furniture, fixtures, and equipment. Bring your entire team (school district decision maker, architect, engineer or construction manager) for training, education, and networking. Showcase outstanding school design projects at the Learning Environment Awards competition.

International Conference on Education: "Inclusive Education: the Way of the Future" (Switzerland)
November 25 – 28, 2008
"Inclusive Education: the Way of the Future" is the theme of this conference, a major international forum for education policy dialogue, organized by the International Bureau of Education. It will enrich debates about the concept of inclusive education, explore how governments can develop and implement inclusive policies, draw attention to education systems that offer opportunities for life-long learning and emphasize the role of teachers in meeting learners' diverse expectations and needs.

1-4 December, 2008
For the past three years, education leaders from around the world have gathered to debate and discuss issues and challenges facing our education systems. Last year over 350 leaders traveled to Helsinki, Finland and together, gained a better understanding of the issues facing innovation in the age of accountability. More than 90% of attendees felt the event met or exceeded their expectations!
This year, we will be exploring the theme: What's possible. We will bring together dynamic and thoughtful speakers who will provide others with insight into possibilities in the areas of instructional and organizational design as well as technology integration. We will also provide an environment where practical strategies will be discussed and demonstrated so that attendees can leave this gathering with real world solutions to real world challenges.
Registration for this event is by invitation only. If you would like further information, please email

7th Annual High Performance School Symposium (Tampa)
February 6 - 7, 2009

National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference (Chicago)
February 25 - 27, 2009
The NAIS Annual Conference is the largest gathering of independent school leaders, administrators, and teachers. The conference provides for attendees opportunities for invaluable personal and professional networking, and for the attainment of practical skills and tools. In addition, it strives to be an event that spurs forward-thinking dialogue about the future that faces independent schools.

"The World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development – Moving into the Second Half of the UN Decade" (Germany)
March 31 – April 2, 2009
The conference will review what has been achieved during the first half of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and will look ahead to strategies that further promote awareness and progress in this field. Special emphasis will be placed on enhancing North-South and South-South dialogue and cooperation. The conference is organized by UNESCO and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO.

June 2 - 4, 2009
If you're planning new schools, designing a new school, or renovating a school... If you're an architect designing schools and colleges, if you're a campus planner, a university architect, or you're an educational facilities planner... If you're building new schools, if you're building a college building, if you're building a university campus... If you're a member of AIA Committee on Architecture for Education, if you're an educational facilities planner or your direct capital projects for a school or college, if you're in school construction orcollege construction... If you're a member of CEFPI and interested in educational facilities planning... If If you want to know more about Green Schools, solar power in schools, or LEED for Schools, then School Building Expo is for you.

September 27 - 29, 2009
6-Degrees of Connection

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E-Newsletter Sponsors


Fielding Nair International designs school facilities for today and tomorrow with one primary goal in mind — to improve learning. With consultations in 26 countries on 5 continents, dozens of important publications, and numerous industry awards for excellence, FNI is the global leader for innovative school architecture. Underlying all the architectural design, planning and educational change management work they do is a strong belief in diversity, high performance, technology infusion, global connections and personalization. Web:

VS’ history goes back to the late 1800’s as the first company to provide comprehensively designed school furniture. Their dedication to ergonomics applies to every type of workplace - be it in the school or office. The entire VS product development is based on expertise in ergonomic principles to support dynamic work, collaboration, and study environments. In particular, VS offers the PantoMove, the ultimate ergonomic classroom chair. Its 3-D rocking mechanism allows for movement in all directions. Easy height adjustment makes this chair the perfect fit for K-12 students. Web: General Info Email:

C/S GROUP (Construction Specialties, Inc.) is committed to design innovation and the improvement of educational environments. C/S manufactures impact-resistant wall covering and wall protection products, entrance-flooring systems, expansion joint covers and daylight management products for schools. With more than 70 registered patents, C/S is skilled in listening to architects and developing innovative new products to meet their projects’ specific requirements. Complete Design Manual is available at (888) 621- 3344. Download product drawings directly from the C/S Web site.

The School Building Expo is the industry event for people responsible for the construction and renovation of K-12 and Higher Education school facilities. Mark your calendars for the School Building Expo, June 2-4, 2009 in Pittsburgh, PA! It is the only event that truly brings together today's evolving Educational Institution marketplace in one place where they can learn about new trends, be inspired by exciting keynotes and discover the latest products and solutions. Information is available at our brand new website,, be sure to check it out and visit again in the coming months as more information will be available. For more information about participating as a sponsor, speaker, vendor, or participant in 2009, contact Joel Davis.

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