Hundreds turn out to imagine the future of learning in HISD


Kenneth Davis, principal of Dowling Middle School, discusses ideas on new school design with two of his colleagues at the Building the Future symposium on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. Dowling MS will receive a new campus as part of the 2012 Houston Schools program approved by voters in November 2012.

Savian Nugent will likely have graduated college and be starting his career by the time Yates High School is replaced with a new $59.4 million building under the Houston Independent School District’s 2012 bond program.

But the current Yates senior sees a lot of benefits for the students who will have the opportunity to attend a modern urban high school with all the latest technology and innovations, including reducing drop-out rates and improving academic achievement.

“It will give them something to believe in,” he said. “If you give them something to hope for, they will come.”

Nugent, along with four other high school students were panelists Friday at HISD’s “Building the Future” workshop. The half-day event, held at Kingdom Builders Center, gave more than 200 school officials, parents and community members the opportunity to share their thoughts on creating innovative educational environments, as the district kicks off its bond program to repair, build or replace 40 schools across the city.

Facilitated by Dr. Peter Bishop, the director of the Futures Studies Program at the University of Houston, the event was designed to get school officials, parents and community members thinking about what kinds of schools they want to create, before they start working with architects as early as next year.

The challenge, he said,  is to develop facilities that will equip students to compete with other countries in the future.

Click here to see more photos of the symposium

“We have to create an environment  that’s actually like the environment they  will be in when they leave school,” Bishop said.

Another presenter, Dr. Dieter Breithecker encouraged those in audience to think about how students learn and the importance of creating dynamic classrooms.

Breithecker, director of the German Federal Institute for the Development of Posture and Exercise, got the audience on their feet to help illustrate the benefits of getting students out of their chairs. “When the body is in a slump, the mind is in a slump,” Breithecker said. “That’s not a good condition for learning.”

He reminded the educators that young minds need time to move:  “Fidgetting is not naughty,” he said, “it’s necessary.”

Andrew Casler, a physical education teacher at Pilgrim Academy, didn’t need any convincing – his students already do a lot of moving in his classes . The challenge will be implementing those ideas across the campus. “I’m interested to see how all of this is going to translate into a real building,” Casler said.

Read more: HISD announces bond construction timeline

He was also interested in learning more about using the latest technology to augment his curriculum, including devices to help students understand their heart rates and the connection to exercise and good health.

“How could we add technology to our PE and multipurpose rooms to allow for that kind of [learning]?” he asked.

Dan Bankhead, HISD’s general manager of facility design, urged attendees to ask a lot of questions and imagine all the possibilities as they embark on designing new schools. “We have a chance in Houston to truly shape K-12 education in this country,” he said. “We’ve got to throw out the playbook; we’ve got to do something different.”

Reynold Decou, the PTO president at Wharton Dual Language Academy K-8 ,said the event gave him a lot of things to consider as he contemplated the future of his school, which is slated to receive more than $35 million in renovations.

“This is an exciting time for the district and Wharton in particular,” said Decou, the father of two elementary school students. “The 21st century environment is well on its way now.”

[vimeo w=500&h=281]

Bond Symposium from Houston ISD on Vimeo.