Last week I went with Aisha Isackson (school designer of Isackson Design Group) to Arlington Elementary Middle School, where parents and teachers and community leaders like the Park Heights Renaissance folks, Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, Michael Sarbanes of City Schools, and  others, gathered to work on their building initiative.  The folks over there at Arlington have a dream of creating the best environment for the students they serve.

The Baltimore Education Coalition is working to Transform Baltimore City Schools.   We are part of that work, and we know first hand what a difference it makes to have a great school environment.

Why is the school environment so important?  Lots of folks have put thought and research into that question.

In the 1940’s, my favorite Italian teacher and psychologist Loris Malaguzzi founded the Reggio Emilia approach to learning on the premise that children develop through interactions, first with the adults in their lives – parents and teachers, then with their peers, and ultimately with the environment around them.  “Environment”, said Malaguzzi, “is the third teacher.”

At City Neighbors, we believe the school environment allows children, teachers, and parents to do a certain kind of work together.  To act a certain way together, to create certain relationships together.  So, when Transform Baltimore succeeds, and we do fix up every public school in Baltimore,  we need to know what we believe in.  How do we see children?  How do we see the work of the school?  If our school values creativity, self expression, community and a culture of learning, then, those beliefs need to drive our decisions on what is important in the school environment.

We live in a great City.  Our schools need to reflect how we see the children of this city, how we see teachers, how we see eachother, and how we see ourselves.

That’s why Baltimore is determined to make every school beautiful, and filled with possibilities.  Because that is how we see our children.