Cutting-Edge SoCal Schools Receive Honors

The traditional classrooms of your youth are obsolete. Instead we now have safe, high tech, green learning environments where kids learn how to be resourceful.

This is what classrooms and covered walkways at Lincoln Elementary School look like after a complete redesign by California design firm BCA Architects. Notice there are now two levels of classrooms, so more students can be accommodated and more outdoor learning space could be added.

This is not your grandmother's schoolhouse. Some lucky kids these days are being educated in remarkable facilities that bear little resemblance to the chalkboard and asphalt jungles you might remember.

California design firm BCA Architects, which specializes in cutting edge educational projects, has received five nominations for the Design Journal's prestigious ADEX Awards, two of them in Orange County: Lincoln Elementary School in Anaheim and the Brea Olinda Unified School District Master Plan. Their extraordinary features will amaze you.

To begin with, the simple word "school" just doesn't suffice for these "21st Century Learning Environments," explains BCA President Paul Bunton. He says the goal of education today is not to spoon feed information to kids who memorize it and spit it back out on tests, but to teach students to be resourceful in finding and applying the knowledge they learn. The schools created today facilitate that.

Gone are the days of traditional classrooms with the teacher lecturing up front to students seated in desks lined up in neat rows. Cutting-edge classrooms have interactive screens instead of chalk or white boards, and seating is arranged in flexible "learning studios" where students can interact on projects.

After a complete redesign by California design firm BCA Architects, desk/chair combos at Lincoln Elementary School are ergonomically designed for enhanced posture and support, and they're mounted on wheels so they can be easily reconfigured into groups. There's also plenty of room to store backpacks underneath.

Even the desks are different: the chairs are ergonomically designed for enhanced posture and support, and the desk/chair combos are on wheels, so they can easily be rearranged into groups. They also feature spacious backpack storage below.

Speaking of storage, lockers and heavy backpacks will be a thing of the past when everyone reads their texts and does their assignments on tablets. That will mean paper waste and expenses will be severely reduced as well.

But just imagine the bandwidth required when hundred of students are using personal computers all at the same time. The new schools are equipped with 10 gigabyte fiber optic cables.

After a complete redesign by California design firm BCA Architects, students at Lincoln Elementary School can enjoy a much larger covered lunch area. Assemblies can be held and presentations made outside when the weather is nice, which it often is in Southern California.

Since there's ample of sunshine in California year round, BCA schools feature plenty of outdoor learning, recreation and dining areas. Covered walkways protect students from rain, and constructing more two-story classroom buildings allows for more open space, green space.

Student safety has also become an issue of late — since fewer students are walking to school and more parents are dropping them off, pick-up areas have to be bigger and more efficient, while easily observed. Administration buildings need to be situated right up front, and access to the school grounds has to be much more limited than in the past.

All these improvements do not come without a price, however. It would be nice if every student in America could attend schools like these, but funding and bonds vary from community to community. When a school bond is on a ballot, Bunton likes to let voters know that an entire school district can be updated for about the cost of one or two lattes per month. When you put it that way, funding doesn't seem quite so daunting.

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