Thursday, 10 April 2008

21st century environments

I flew back from the U.K. yesterday through the new Terminal 5 building at Heathrow Airport in London. The building is truly fantastic, light, airy and spacious and in many ways quite inspirational.

Claimed to be the largest free standing building in the U.K, the transparency of beams and girders as part of the design could easily be used for real problem solving questions in science, design, maths, and the inspirational for art, literacy projects - in fact almost anything.
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More facts: some 60,000 people have worked a total of 100 million man hours to build Terminal 5 since construction began in September 2002. Its construction has involved diverting two rivers, building and tunnelling 13km for rail and baggage links. An amazing piece of construction really!
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Unfortunately, the 'teething problems' in an airport which had such tremendous build up prior to its opening are always very obvious and therefore very high profile. My T5 experience yesterday was very good! Unfortunately no matter how well it does after the first few days, the long term memory for the foreseeable future will be about the initial problems, including staff not being fully prepared. It's a better media story.
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As we build new schools it is clear that very through preparation is needed, not just in the design and build process, but in the professional development of the staff and students to maximise the benefits and effectiveness of their new environments. We all know that there will be the cynics and negative creatures who will be all to quick to say things aren't working and that the buildings have failed! Buildings can't fail in delivering education but teachers can! The more we do in preparing staff and trialling new approaches in advance, the more we can prevent this. (I know it is too optimistic to hope that all the cynics will disappear!)
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........ to answer the question most people have asked........ yes my suitcase DID arrive at the same time as I did. Actually it was a very pleasant experience all round and a great 21st century environment!

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