Student-Led Interior Design

Student management became the main goal of a standard school somewhere in the mid-20th century. Get students from place to place in an orderly and efficient manner. Limit distractions and restrict all freedom (hall monitors…bathroom passes…bells). The floor plan supports student management: neatly placed classrooms, easily navigable hallways, not much natural light, few common areas (collaboration is the antithesis of efficiency). One should not find it strange that prisons and schools share architectural firms.

Ultimately, the physical organization, furniture, and fixtures in a school support the academic program. Alpha needs a space and furnishings that support our three promises (love of school, 2x learning, life skills). How do you design a space that does that? You don’t. You let the kids do it.

How do you let kids design a space? You do nothing. Let the kids use the space as it is for a year. Put wheels on the furniture and see where the kids move it. Give them freedom to work wherever. Ask a lot of questions about what they like, don’t like, where they feel focused and what is distracting.

That is exactly what we did at Alpha. From observations and feedback, we made a series of changes:

  1. Learning Lab has three distinct spaces: an anchor classroom; a flex space (for moving around, building things and getting messy); a quiet room (for reading support and small group work). The overall space dedicated to Learning Lab has been doubled in size.

We have increased usable square footage, maximized space for collaboration while simultaneously adding more quiet space. And the kids did it (they don’t know that they designed the space, but we were watching 😉).

K-12 private school serving students in Austin, Texas. We are a community that believes that success lies in hard work and innovation. www.go-alpha.org

K-12 private school serving students in Austin, Texas. We are a community that believes that success lies in hard work and innovation. www.go-alpha.org