Post-pandemic schools

For safety reasons, we are using schools very differently during the pandemic. Air circulation, room capacity and group transitions all had to be reconsidered. Teachers use more electronics than ever, namely for virtual teaching and so do students. The need for breaks from screen time is felt by everyone. Each time the school goes to lockdown and reopens is an opportunity to reconsider whether we prefer to attend school from home mask-free, or at the school masked all day.

Will our school buildings feel increasingly obsolete as the post-pandemic era will set in and we gradually wake up from this collective nightmare? That is a question school trustees, policy makers and unions will certainly be addressing and debating. It is important that parents and their children also take part in this discussion.

Architects as much as anyone else should make their voice heard and encourage new ways to envision future learning spaces that are more adaptable to transitions from regular use to crisis situation. We came across the interesting website on architecture and education, edited by Adam Wood and Emma Dyer. They present over twenty interviews with fellow architects, teachers and other education professional on the subject. They also have a page on school museums around the world, like the Museum of Schools and Children’s Book, in Turin (in Italian). Revisiting what schools were like in the distant past, is one way to reconsider what they should look and feel like in the future.

Header banner, website. Museum of School and Children’s Book, Turin. Source: Fondazione Tancredi di Barolo, 28 February 2021.

Twigs with a twist

Just last month on this very blog, we paid homage to the stickman figure. Many told us it was a good move. So, for the fun of it, let’s keep it moving with renowned British artist Chris Kenny. See his dancing twigs and other uplifting works. Next time you go for a nature walk, let us see what you find. We also liked his other works, particularly where he mixes text and images.

Twelve Twigs 2019, by Chris Kenny. Collection of Kalmthout Arboretum, Belgium. Source: ChrisKenny.co.uk, 23 February 2021.

Paper cut

In a large urban setting on Earth, 2060. Sophia, 10, is watching her grand father clean up and sort things from a dusty closet. “Papi, what’s this?” she asks. “This my dear, is a crayon” he answers absentminded. She continues, “And that?” He realizes that he must pay attention. “Oh that is a sheet of paper with a drawing” and he sees that she waits to know more, but he is not sure if he could find a blank sheet of paper so that he could demonstrate further.

Is it too far-fetched to muse that in 30 years from now, we could find a ten year old child who will have never seen a pen and paper combo ? It is not hard to imagine if you consider the increasingly paperless world many of us live in, be it at work or at home. Computers and mobile devices proliferate and allow us to produce, authenticate, share and store documents without any paper or ink. Even office and home printer sales are decreasing steadily. We now make each single printing device print less than before. That is if we bother to own one at all.

Is there still “trash paper” in the homes, on which children can draw? Do blank sheets of paper now only come from the school? In their play, children often mimic what they see adults do. If grown ups at home or at school no longer use pencils and paper, what will inspire kids to do so?

In 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Michal S. Rosenwald. It describes how the paper industry was developing a campaign and public relations in order to keep the “brand” paper relevant against the odds, and to protect production levels or at least slow down its decline. The article explains how harmful digital culture has been to this product, and how the industry intends to fight back, namely by incrasing paper visibility online, of all places. Now a few years, plus a year of pandemic down the road, and the decline of print and writing paper accelerates. At least that’s what we see in industry reports such as one at Fisher International. As for office and home printers, all bets are off. In the past year, journalist Roberto Torres wondered in CIO Dive Will the pandemic spell the end of the printer? Shortly before that “predictionists” Duncan Stewart and Nobuo Okubo foresaw a rosy future for home printers in the new work from home era: Printer Charming: COVID-19 TMT Predictions. As our relation to the pen and paper combo changes, so it does for children. Print “single sided” and let them draw, for art Sophia sake.

The eye of the beholder

Thanks to their own perseverance and that of dedicated educators, therapists and policy makers, visually impaired and blind people have been increasingly able to appreciate the visual arts. Not only as spectators but also as creators. It will be a surprise to many that visually impaired and blind people can also draw. They do and it can even be quite interesting for everyone in a classroom to discover some of their techniques and materials. It can be a real eye opener for everyone and foster empathy and inclusion in the community.

A good place to start for educators is the well established Art Beyond Sight organization which has been bringing “arts and culture to all” for well over 30 years. They published a Handbook for Museums and Educators full of inspiring sample programming descriptions, though it is undated.

Teacher turned consultant/publisher Carmen Willings also has much to offer on her website Teaching Students With Visual Impairments. Registration is required but free. Jump straight to the Creating Tactile Graphics page and see for yourself.

Australia: Annual rainfall, sample tactile drawing. Source: The Braille Authority of North America. Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 8 February 2021.