Supporting Unique Needs: A Collaboration Between Learning and Design

Recent disruptions in our school systems have placed an incredible emphasis on the important work done daily in physical settings to support students with unique learning needs. As equitable and supportive learning environments for distinctive students and staff are co-created, the expertise of two vastly different worlds collide and gaps in understanding can result in missed opportunities. The complexities of special education support systems and differing student needs can leave designers scrambling to catch up to nomenclature and program requirements. In addition, the timeline of the design process can put educators and administrators in a difficult position trying to forecast constantly evolving needs. By working to bridge the gap between these two different worlds, we can collectively create environments centered on a purposeful and empathetic approach to supporting unique learning. Join us to understand how the four types of special education needs can be supported far beyond the walls of focused classrooms, appropriately connecting students to their peers, building-wide. By exploring the critical components of specialized spaces for learning, we’ll focus on best practices of both educators and designers as they work to create uniquely supportive and future-focused experiences. We’ll share research on the daily learning efforts of students with varying needs and the personal perspectives of educators who specialize in this area of expertise to help shed light on the opportunities available during the creation of new or renovated SPED spaces. In addition, we’ll highlight positive takeaways during the recent uncertainty of COVID with regard to the comfort and emotional wellbeing of students with anxiety. Together, we can begin a conversation on purposeful connections and provide useful takeaways for experts on both sides of education and design, all working toward the common goal of supporting each and every learner. We hope you’ll join us!

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify the four types of special education needs and how they can be supported through physical space.
2. Explore the shifting variables in special education to better support students of all ability levels.
3. Understand research on the perceived opportunities and challenges of educators in special education focus areas.
4. Become familiar with the timeline of a design process and its impact on scalable decisions in the special education realm.

Michelle Chavey, AIA, ALEP, Partner | Educational Design Director, Hollis + Miller Architects
Michelle is the Educational Design Director and a Partner at Hollis + Miller Architects. She believes collaborative, future focused learning environments should be backed with research in the learning process, brain development and social context. Her focus on meaningful conversations with educators to strategize for innovative learning opportunities ensures translation into successfully designed educational projects. Michelle is an AIA member, an Accredited Learning Environments Planner and doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at Kansas State University.

Dr. Chris Daniels, Director of Special Services, Park Hill School District
Dr. Daniels serves as the Director of Special Services in the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Missouri. Holding multiple posts throughout his 24-year career, he began teaching in the elementary classroom then transitioned to Assistant Principal and Principal. Dr. Daniels was named the Missouri State Principal of the Year in 2012. He now works with students, parents, teachers and school administrators, overseeing unprecedented growth in programs across the district composed of 12,000 students. 

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

LearningSCAPES 2021

October 14-17
Hyatt Regency | Denver, CO