Learning from lockdown: how the environment of education is evolving

Croft Architecture School Design

Shelters specialist Broxap explores how the use of canopies can future proof schools

SCHOOLS across the country have risen to the challenges of the last 12 months to continue providing interactive and valuable learning experiences. There’s many lessons to take from this time. One of the outcomes for sure will be the continued evolution of educational settings and how they are put to use.

Blended learning for example will call for blended spaces, where the physical and digital combine and students can immerse themselves in e-learning through cutting edge technology. But equally important in the blended approach is the role of traditional classroom support and familiar teaching methods.

Driving Transformation

The idea of creating a safe zone where pupils interact not virtually, but with each other and their surroundings in reality, cannot be written off just yet. And there is a happy medium. Advances in the design and function of outdoor shelters and canopies have been crucial in accommodating these dynamic developments at all levels of the education system.

Who can forget the image of a young student in New Mexico sat outside his closed school as he tried to pick up a wifi connection so he could continue lessons online?

Think of an external canopy not just as offering overhead cover but as the basis of a learning hub and anything is possible. If a cycle hub for example can be equipped with seating, CCTV, lighting and access control, why not incorporate the relevant furniture and hotspot technologies needed for a state-of-the-art outdoor teaching facility?

Benefits of outdoor learning

At the other end of the spectrum of course is time away from electronic media.

Pop-up lecture or tutorial space, open air classrooms and forest schools, even outside libraries. There is a lot to be said for moving offline learning outside, away from digital distractions. A bandstand, gazebo or pavilion structure is sometimes what first springs to mind and these can support timetabling. But investment in a thoughtfully engineered shelter or canopy can turn an awkward or underused space into a valuable and purposeful part of a school estate.

A canopy can bridge outside areas between premises, for example, or can extend out from buildings forming a natural and sustainable part of existing educational space. A shelter can include features such as side panels and roller shutters to better protect equipment and belongings.

It can also allow for the sharing of facilities with the community when schools are traditionally closed. A shelter, canopy or covered walkway can literally create opportunities on the doorstep.

Smart design

School buildings need to work smarter if they are to be future ready. The emphasis is on space with flexibility and problem-solving functions. So it’s time to think creatively. If more indoor space is needed, what can be moved outdoors to free up that room?

Outdoor dining is proving increasingly popular in high schools with modular shelter options offering cost effective, customised cover and the potential to expand. Outdoor performance space can provide inspirational backdrops as well as a safe way to host events post pandemic.

Even indoor storage can be transformed into a more useful area with lockers moved outdoors under large showpiece canopies, or caretaker equipment transferred to a smart outdoor compound. Being innovative in shelter and canopy design means we can improve the educational experience for everyone – now and in the future.

About the author

**Broxap is a UK leading designer, manufacturer and installer of street furniture; shelters, canopies and covered walkways; and outdoor play, sport and fitness equipment. Broxap is a third-generation family business, with all divisions operating under one roof from a manufacturing and sales site in North Staffordshire.**


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