When hearing about the devastating impact natural disasters have on communities, I often wonder what schools do during a crisis. Seeing an entire school destroyed would be so heartbreaking for a community. Stories of students experiencing life after Hurricane Sandy and reading what happened in the week after, give a small insight to what happens.
While in California I fortunately didn’t witness any natural disasters. I did however visit a school that had to temporarily relocate due to building works. It was fascinating to see what a school could do when they had the time to spend planning the creation of a temporary learning environment.
The Town School for Boys in San Francisco was the only private school I visited during my time in the U.S. I had the rare opportunity to visit their temporary location at an old ‘Exploratorium’ space (like a museum) at the San Francisco ‘Palace of Fine Arts’. This is while they are undertaking a major infrastructure project at their usual campus.
The photo above is an arial shot looking over the ‘Palace of Fine Arts’ and the old Exploratorium space taken from this article from Curbed San Francisco about the temporary location.
While the Palace exterior and gardens reminded me of a scene from the Lake Country of Naboo in Starwars Episode I and II, the Exploratorium was a huge museum space. Imagine having to teach in a giant abandoned museum?! That’s what the Town School was faced with.
An incredible challenge and opportunity, I was able to see the result of many hours of hard work by the school community. A temporary space was set up for over 200 students in their junior grades (K-3). They need space for all their usual classes so an oval was set up with astroturf, a library with bookshelves on wheels, classrooms established with temporary walls, music class was put in a small theatre and the art class was in an old museum display room.
There were many challenges to make this space both appropriate for lessons and comfortable for staff and students. The key problem I noticed was the noise, having 20 children practicing sport on the other side of the museum, with 20 others walking to and from class at any given time meant that the noise would carry across the space easily.
Special walls were created for the classrooms with thick cardboard to help stop the sound entering, but I thought it would still be tough to teach with the noise levels I heard.
They also needed a place for the school kitchen. They ended up converting the old exploratorium cafe for the school to use and creating a ‘restaurant’ in the space between class rooms and the astroturf oval.
Chatting with a wonderful teacher who arranged the visit, it was easy to see the passion that made this space come alive. While it could easily have felt quite bland and like a giant old gym, colour was everywhere along with student art and posters.
The above photo is of me with a Kindergarten student and Maurine in one of their temporary classrooms.
A huge thank you to my dear friend Rawan and Maurine for arranging the Town School tour. Another great experience in the U.S. while on the IVLP.