In today’s episode, the Getting Smart team is exploring why environment matters — more specifically, why your learning environment matters. Joining the podcast today is Randy Fielding, the founding Chairman of Fielding Nair International — a global leader in designing learning communities. He is also the founder of DesignShare, a facilitator of ideas and resources about best practices and innovation in schools from early childhood through the university level.

Recently, Randy and Tom found a quiet corner on the Microsoft campus to talk about agency and how spaces and experiences can help learners cultivate and develop their own agency. They discussed why vistas are important to school architecture, the rise of flexible spaces and learning community concepts, variables and principles that are important in Randy’s architecture work (especially when designing school buildings), and more.

Listen in to hear more about how Randy and Fielding Nair are transforming education through design! You can also check out Tom’s blog on Forbes for more.

Key Takeaways:

[:15] About today’s episode with Randy Fielding.
[1:15] Tom welcomes Randy to the podcast.
[1:46] Randy talks about his education experience and what led him to become an architect.
[4:10] How did Randy come to focus his architecture practice on schools?
[5:38] Randy asks Tom how he originally became interested in poetry and what made him include poetry in his talks.
[7:59] Randy reads a small piece of poetry by Kipling and explains why it particularly strikes him and relates to architecture.
[9:38] Why are vistas important to school architecture?
[10:38] Randy’s favorite school building vista.
[12:29] The most important principles for Randy’s work when designing school buildings.
[15:25] What variables are important in Randy’s architecture work?
[16:39] Randy speaks about their contribution in helping Albemarle County Public Schools.
[17:33] The rise in flexible spaces and learning community concepts.
[19:46] Where did the idea of Pathfinder Spaces come from and how does Randy see communities using them going forward?
[23:52] Randy speaks about the importance of seating for students’ physical wellbeing.
[26:52] Why student agency is so important to Randy and to our future as a culture.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Fielding Nair
Microsoft Flagship Schools
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs
William Stafford
Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford, by Kim Stafford
Rudyard Kipling
Strathcona Tweedsmuir School
Design 39 Campus
High School for Recording Arts (“Hip Hop High”)
Larry Rosenstock
Albemarle County Public Schools
Singapore American School
Pathfinder Spaces: An Action Research Project At Singapore American School
Listening to Kids and Designing from Scratch for Timeless Learning with Pam Moran

For more, see:


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