Graham S. Wyatt Presents Designs for New Learning Environment at Aspen Ideas FestivalJune 30, 2011
Graham S. Wyatt, Partner of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, presented a game changing concept in environmental education at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado on June 29. The two-week Festival, in its seventh year, gathered some of the most interesting thinkers and leaders from around the US and abroad to discuss their work and their ideas. The program track, entitled "Game Changers: How Do We Design Learning Environments for the Future," included two other speakers: Greg Farrington, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, and Sandy Speicher, who leads IDEO’s Design for Learning Domain. Linda Tischler, Senior Editor of Fast Company, was the moderator. Mr. Wyatt was interviewed immediately following the session by Dana Chivvis for NBC's Education Nation.
The "game" that Mr. Wyatt discussed was the Kohler Environmental Center at Choate Rosemary Hall, a 9th through 12th grade boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut. This 32,000 square-foot living/learning center located within a 265-acre nature preserve, that includes a spectacular and environmentally-diverse mix of meadows, mature second-growth forest, and wetlands, was conceived and generously underwritten by Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., Chairman of Choate Rosemary Hall’s Board of Trustees and Chairman and CEO of Kohler Co. The school is developing an interdisciplinary course of environmental study that the building will support.
Students will live and study at the Center for stays that vary between a few weeks and a full trimester. During this time they will study a multi-disciplinary curriculum, currently under development, that will focus broadly on mankind's place in the natural environment.
The Kohler Center has a mission that is both physical and virtual. As a building it is designed to achieve a LEED Platinum certification (an exceptionally high level of resource efficiency as determined by the U.S. Green Building Council). It also targets "Energy Net Zero" (consuming no more energy during a calendar year than it produces). Both of these physical goals support the Center's mission of providing an immersive environmental education.
Achieving the mission is where the game begins. The building is highly resource-efficient through design—the basis of its LEED Platinum certification. Achieving energy self-sufficiency, however, cannot be achieved through building design alone but requires the intelligent and cooperative behavior of the Center's users. How do I cook? How do I light my space? How long a shower do I take, and how much hot water do I use? Energy self-sufficiency is dependent on these and hundreds of other behavior-related decisions. In his illustrated presentation, Mr. Wyatt described how the building empowers its occupants by providing real-time feedback on its energy consumption and production—all of which contribute to the center's multi-disciplinary curriculum.
Mr. Wyatt pointed out that the result is far from the "classroom of yesterday." It is a round-the-clock educational game with specific and quantifiable outcomes. In short: "education through a day filled with teachable moments."