The Learning Playground – Adaptable Design Strategies for Equitable Access to Restorative Learning Environments

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

1 LU / HSW

The “Learning Playground” embraces nature connectedness, human connection, and interweaving emerging technologies to showcase virtual and physical environmental elements affiliated with enhanced mental, physical health and wellbeing, and improved resilience for student learning. We aim to provide examples of spatial cues that support learners, allowing play, personalized learning styles, refuge, physical activity, and human interaction to reinvigorate the learning setting and challenge the status quo to welcome the future of learning. The session will dive into the following topics:

  • Characteristics that make an experience/environment “restorative” and how they impact learners and educators.
  • How technology affects access to immersive nature-connectedness, and enhanced social interaction.
  • COVID-19 experiences that have been positive lessons of disruptions to be paired with evidence affiliated with enhanced wellbeing.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understand characteristics of a “restorative experience” and benefits of biophilic design strategies pertaining to mental, physical health, wellbeing, and cognitive performance.  Identify further research gaps pertaining to impacts on learners. 
  2. Identify how biophilic design strategies can be employed in conventional learning environments and how these strategies could be adapted to remote learning environments to expand equitable access to restorative environments.
  3. Recognize how VR/AR can be utilized as a tool to create virtual learning environments in order to facilitate engagement, human connection, nature-connectedness and immersion in simulated restorative experiences.  
  4. Acknowledge the importance of a learner’s “sense of belonging” and how spatial interventions can promote interaction and enhance human-social connection.

Valerie Caruolo, AIA, LEED AP, CPHC, Learning Space Designer & Research Lead, Hord Coplan Macht
BA Brown University, MARCH University of Maryland, University Innovation Fellow Stanford d.School.
Valerie is co-author of AIA Upjohn funded primary research, The Impact of Biophilic Learning Spaces on Student Success, and seeks to promote translation of scientific findings into practice. Passionate about designing learning spaces, experiences that enable humans to thrive, Valerie explores how access to restorative environments impacts the mental, physical health, wellbeing, and success of learners. She lectures extensively on Human Centered Design.

Leah Wettstein, Principal, Hord Coplan Macht
Leah is a Principal for Hord Coplan Macht’s Baltimore office. As lead Interior Designer in the Education Studio, she brings an in-depth understanding of how to create spaces that are inspirational, timeless and reflect the unique culture and brand of each client. With over 19 years of interior design experience, she continues to push the boundaries of impact, innovation and client experience to all of her projects. With a passion for creating successful academic and workplace environments that address her clients’ unique and evolving needs, Leah has extensive experience developing creative solutions through strategic programming, space planning, interior architecture, as well as finish and furniture selection for K-12 schools and higher education projects. A highly regarded voice in the design community, she is an active critic, panelist and speaker at national industry conferences.

Lisa Ferretto, Principal; Sustainability Director, Hord Coplan Macht
Lisa is a Principal, Sustainability Director, and Architect. Lisa promotes the integration of sustainability and well-being throughout the entire design process and consults on projects across all studios. She has worked on over 40 LEED projects, with certified projects totaling almost 3 million square feet. Lisa is a member of the Baltimore Sustainability Commission and a former member of the MD Green Building Council advocating for environmental equity. She is a frequent lecturer, volunteer mentor, and was honored as a Leading Woman in 2012 and as one of the Top 100 Women in 2016 by the Maryland Daily Record. She was the founder of GREEN events | Baltimore and has volunteered with AIA COTE, Committee on the Environment, Portland’s City Repair Project, and Baltimore’s Green Building Task Force. She is a Climate Reality Climate Leader, SEED Accredited, a Green School Leader, and an Eco-Charrette Accredited Facilitator. 

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

LearningSCAPES 2021

October 14-17
Hyatt Regency | Denver, CO