How can Interior Design improve the educational environment of Foster Care Youths?
This was my question.
There are over 400,000 children in the foster care system in America, and 75% of them are functioning below their current grade level. Only 2% ever attain their bachelors degree. 50% end up homeless within a year of aging-out of the system. But why? Further investigation showed that children living in foster homes move a lot. About every 6 to 8 months. And studies have shown that children lose 6 months of educational progress every time they are moved into a new home. With these tidbits of information it is easier to understand why foster care youths have such a difficult time in school. It seems that the cards are stacked against them. What could we do as interior designers to give them a brighter outlook on life? How can we improve their education?
The solution to the problem foster care youths face with the education system can be found in Reside Academy. This is a small scale residential school, meaning that students live and learn under the same roof. Finally, each of the students will have their own room they do not have to worry about moving out of until they’ve graduated. To simulate a family structure, some of the teachers will be living alongside the students and will help teach them life skills outside of the classroom. These positions would offer a great teaching experience for programs such as Teach for America. Since this modern take on a home-school would be so small it will reduce the stress on each student because their teachers will get to know them well and will be able to guide them outside of the classroom as well. Because of the limited space and resources such a small facility would have, Reside Academy students can have a crosstown agreement with St. Joseph’s Academy, which is only 10 minutes away. Through this crosstown agreement, Reside Academy’s students could enjoy extracurriculars and resources for science experiments that their home-school is not equipped for. As for the design of the building, the color scheme was kept mostly neutral with the exception of the colorful furniture. This strategy aims to draw students to the furniture so they can sit to study or socialize. Once they are seated, the neutral backdrop allows for minimal distraction and maximum focus.
Shown above is the main section of the Library at Reside Academy. It features a large feature wall with a bookshelf that extends to the second floor, doubling as a railing structure. There are several Universal Design friendly desks where students can collaborate on projects or socialize. The bookshelves below the stairs are designed to continue the visual lines of the feature wall shelves and are staggered to mimic the stair pattern above. The wall which separates the Sunroom from the main Library is a dual-sided bookshelf with a glass wall running through the middle. This allows light to pass through and helps control the sound within the space. Suspended from the ceiling is a custom lighting fixture which was created to look like clouds in a pixelated 8-bit style. The playful, yet simple design of this room is meant to inspire the students to be creative and curious about the world around them and enjoy their childhood despite the many hardships they have faced.
View of the Library from the second floor. Tall bookshelves display the collection of books in a simple elegant way. A transom window behind one of the shelves allows light to pass through into the classrooms.
The shelf’s wood slat pattern continues onto the second floor creating a functional railing without disrupting the clean lines of the shelf.
View of the Library Sunroom. Mixed seating areas and desks allow students to study while enjoying the view to the courtyard.
The Multipurpose room will serve as the main assembly and presentation room. The furniture in the space offers plenty of seating and workspace, and can be easily moved to the edges of the room to create open space in the center of the room. This room can also be used by the public and can be closed off from the rest of the building to control access to the students’ spaces. Every student will have their thumbprint registered in the biometric scanning system that controls access around the building. For public events the multipurpose room and the entrance foyer can be isolated to allow guests access to the WCs, but keep the students in the rest of the building safe.
The back section of the Study Lounge is another small library with a study bar and desks. The large floor-to-ceiling windows provide students with a great view of the courtyard and a glimpse of LSU’s Tiger Stadium in the distance.
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Progress work and Diagrams:
The presentation panels: