8 Strategies for Middle School Design

By August Battaglia and Robin Randall

The middle grades are crucial to captivating and keeping students as lifelong learners. These are the years when students become engaged in critical thinking -- or stop wanting to have anything to do with school. mm“Junior high students are the most difficult to teach and the neediest,” says Cliff McClure, superintendent of the Paxton-Buckley-Loda School District in Paxton, Ill. “This is when kids really become turned on or turned off. There need to be support systems that don’t let kids fall through the cracks at this crucial point.”

Those support systems must be in place from the start, something that we have taken to heart as architects who design middle school facilities. While we are not educators, we have interviewed building-level and central office administrators across the state of Illinois about their facilities and middle grades curriculum and how facilities support the curriculum.

Based on these interviews and our experience, we have developed eight strategies for designing middle grades educational facilities. These strategies directly influence how we develop our plans for middle schools.

Each school district has its own interpretation of curriculum principles and its own priorities for implementing those principles. Success comes when students, teachers, and administrators receive an individualized facility for their learning community.

What follows is a summary of each design strategy and an example of how that strategy has been put into practice.

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