Engaging the Community
The way a community goes about building a school helps to determine the quality of the finished structure, helps to determine whether or not that structure will continue to inspire that same community over time. The act of building a school sets a tone for years to come.
The people who will live in a school must be the ones to undertake the work of determining outcomes and crafting the means to reach them, and even then, the process must be ongoing as new staff is hired and new students are enrolled.Teachers, administrators, and community members must join together in answering some important questions:
- What makes a school significant?
- How do we know when a school’s physical structure reinforces the established goals of teaching and learning?
- Do we understand why certain spaces work and others do not?
As participants debate what is most important and necessary, parents and other community members come to appreciate educators’ knowledge of learning and teaching. Further, the experience taps the interests and skills of citizens.
Planning teams, composed of informed users, must
- Document the existing conditions of a problem,
- Define its context, and
- Collect relevant data.
Any solution will be linked to how the problem is perceived, defined, and articulated. Early on in the process, community engagement is important for reasons of exchanging information and building community ownership over the project. The convening of public forums and planning workshops is more efficient than relying on information gathered piecemeal. They allow for the identity of points of consensus as well as points of conflict.
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