D.C. school renovations harness the “transformative power of architecture to improve lives”

– D.C. has been renovating and modernizing nearly a third of the city’s public school buildings over the last decade. Some of the buildings in the worst condition are being completely transformed into schools that are architecturally notable, designed to enhance students’ experience and create attractive community gathering places: (WBJ, 5/6):

At Ballou, students will experience “an explosion of space,” predicts [architect Brian] Hanlon, as they enter the building under a huge archway filled with curving glass. Large windows and expanses of glass will brighten learning spaces with daylight and visually connect them to the outdoors.

Nearing completion is the brick-clad academic wing where collaborative learning spaces are interspersed among classrooms with computer stations. Students will be able to share ideas with classmates and learn at their own pace in comfortable surroundings open to hallways.


Build a new school and the children will come… The community will come, too, for adult education classes, recreation, performances and public meetings in spaces designed into the new and remodeled schools.

Through such resources, the modernized D.C. schools fulfill a broader civic purpose in serving neighborhoods. They are contemporary in design, but built on an old-fashioned idea — the transformative power of architecture to improve lives.

– A program in D.C. middle and high schools teaches kids how to use public data to create maps that can identify problems and inform advocacy for social change. (GGE, 5/8) Kids today!

– Related: One such map created by students showed where homeless students in D.C. attend school. (GGE, 5/6)

– While national high school graduation rates are at an all-time high, 12th graders continue to do pretty terribly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam. The results are especially troubling when it comes to the racial achievement gap – a 30 point black-white divide on the math exam. (NPR, 5/7)

Congress to consider charter-school legislation (WaPo, 5/7)

– The Humanities Council of Washington, DC and the Schimel Lode are accepting nominations of D.C. teachers for the Abraham Lincoln Schimel and Beatrice Schimel Award for Excellence in Teaching Leadership to High School Students through the Humanities. More information here.

HOMELESSNESS | The effort to build a playground for kids living at the homeless shelter at D.C. General, financially supported by Pepco and other donors and community groups, is getting tangled up with the D.C. Council’s attempt to close the homeless shelter for good. (WCP, 5/7)

HOUSING | Tenants of an apartment building in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in D.C. that was destroyed in a fire in 2008 are finally getting their building re-built – no small feat for an affordable project in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. (WaPo, 5/8)

IMPACT INVESTING | Judith Rodin, the head of the Rockefeller Foundation, reflects on 7 things the foundation has learned in 7 years of impact investing. (HuffPo, 5/6)

Related: Earlier this year WRAG and the Aspen Institute convened a panel of funders who similarly related their lessons learned from their experiences with impact investing, particularly in affordable housing. (Daily, 2/24)

How to never lose at rock-paper-scissors (or at least, win more often than you lose). You never know when this might actually come in handy.

– Rebekah