My favorite presentation at the NSSEA conference was put on by Ali Watson and Gareth Long, two Brits.  Their presentation was titled “The Power of Students Voice in Connecting Learning to the Design of the Physical Environment”.  It was very well attended considering it was at the far end of the Convention Center and difficult to find.

Gareth started with a well-illustrated talk about typical problems with school designs in which the designers failed to connect with the desires and needs of the students who will learn there.  Unfortunately, far too many new school buildings suffer from this problem.  Sometimes the problems are minor and could be corrected, but occasionally the issues are so deeply embedded in the design that it is nearly impossible to fix them.

Ali then gave an impassioned talk about her work to actively involve students in the design of their future learning spaces.  She has a particular interest, which is to promote the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) community to educators and students alike.  She shared one example in which a school principal believed that auto mechanics represented a typical career outcome for a student interested in engineering.  She is out to change that misconception, as well as to promote the widespread use of Building Information Modeling (BIM) by students in our schools.  More power to her!