What if Self-Organizing Learning Environments (SOLE) spell the end of conventional education for the next culture?
I was minding my own business two and a half years ago when a friend and supporter of my unorthodox entrepreneurial inclinations arranged for me to meet with another creative actionist and cultural change agent.
Of course, we met at Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder, Colorado, one of the original natural products grocery stores, newly refurbished and oozing with the latest, greatest, organic, non-GMO, gluten free, uber-healthy, zesty, awesome products only Adam and Eve could have dreamed into existence.
Our meeting was not about the natural food industry, although you could imagine an oblique connection if you can appreciate that healthy minds and bodies are naturally connected to healthy food. This meeting was about an award winning architectural/sculptural design that could democratize education and simultaneously demonstrate clean, renewable energy generation.
Marina Nash, the founder of Restorascapes, which was Marina’s initial concept, began to share her vision of a community-gathering place with me.
As any socially conscious designer/architect would do, she was applying her skills and training to solve a modern societal challenge: excessive stress in our fast paced lives. Her design specifically incorporated a thin film solar canopy covering a seating ring, excavated slightly below grade, stretching 40 feet in diameter. This indoor/outdoor space would be equipped with motion sensors activating various multi-sensory stimulation technologies.
Her entire design was based upon the latest research in therapeutic gardens and the healing attributes of sound, light and aromatherapy, as confirmed by the emerging innovations in psychoneuroimmunology and brain plasticity. For example, an individual could walk into the space and begin to hear pre-recorded bird songs or Tibetan bowls chiming, known to lower heart rates, shift brain wave patterns, and enhance our immune system. Her award from the International Academy of Health and Design affirmed that she was and is definitely on the right track.
As is so often the case, the best laid plans of mice, men, and visionary designers don’t manifest immediately. In MBA ease, a number of “pivots” have occurred since that initial meeting. Not the least of which is a name change. True to Marina’s Greek heritage, it is now called the Agora Projects.
While the basic design remains very much the same, and the stress reducing, immune system booster concepts are still valid, the primary purpose of the structure has morphed toward education and access to information. One day, the futuristic, stress reducing version will show up on a corporate campus, hospital grounds or a community park near you. For now, it’s the democratization of education she has set her sights on. Providing a “third place” beyond home and office to engage in community conversation and self-organized learning is now the focus of Marina’s energy.
“Democracy is born of conversation.” —John Dewey
Marina’s recent TEDx talk from the World Design Capital in Capetown, South Africa, provides the depth and breadth of her inspiration and vision. Ponder the future.
The Agora Projects could help usher in a new model of learning by deploying 21st-century branch libraries to underserved populations, while also demonstrating the value of decentralized, solar powered energy generation.
Posted by Bud Wilson