It has been well over a year since I began conversations with LEaRN about joining their team and thus, plenty of built up anticipation. I am glad to say that in my first two weeks they have lived up to my expectations 100%.

My goal is to have at least a blog post a week from this point on but so much information has been thrown at me since I began work with LEaRN and it's taken me a bit of time to absorb it all. This past week I was able to spend a day listening in on the final partners meeting for their most recent research study on Evaluating 21st Century Learning Environments (E21LE). Through this study, they have curated a mass amounts of research related to learning space evaluation including accessible tools they have developed. As I learn the specifics about the various tools available, I will share that here.

Following the partners meeting was a two-day conference hosted by LEaRN called "Talking Spaces" focused entirely on the intersection of the design and use of innovative learning spaces. It is an amazing (and overwhelming) thing to attend a conference in which each presentation and conversation feels intensely vital. A story told by Dr. Claire Newton towards the end I feel encapsulates the mood of the event. I'll paraphrase:

Just because you have a state-of-the-art kitchen doesn't mean you'll cook great food. To that end, however, a great chef can do amazing things with a small outdoor grill (though perhaps with some difficulty). The same goes for school design and educators.

Thus, all discussion around innovative learning spaces, interesting models of community engagement in schools, or evaluation tools was had with the understanding that all of this is meaningless unless work is done to align all the elements of the organization. The biggest sticking points seem to be how well educators are trained/supported to use an innovative learning space, the strength of leadership and their buy-in, and school timetables/schedules. More to come on all fronts!

#research #organizationalalignment

Alright folks - the blog you've been waiting for has arrived! The hubs and I made it to Melbourne on Tuesday morning. Nearly every waking moment has been spent thinking about housing, surfing the web for new available rentals, sending text messages and emails, running from inspection to inspection. All this and yet, no home! We still have 7 nights left in our Airbnb but since I start work with the ILE+TC on Wednesday, we were hoping to be settled by then. We have a couple good leads making me calm enough to sit down and get some work done! Blog post commence.

First impressions:

  1. Australians are so friendly. From mimi at the cell phone store to our main man over at the Bank of Melbourne - everyone has been smiling and helpful and just all around great.

  2. It sometimes feels that we haven't actually traveled to the other side of the globe but instead are just in a new great city in the USA. It's been a very easy adjustment. It's like a more urban Austin with even more pockets of great neighborhoods and better public transport (and all the hipsters). The tv commercials feel the same, they have their own version of all the American shows ("60 Minutes" "Australian Pickers" "Food Network AU"). The hubs calls it "America South". They do say "Cheers" and "No Worries" a lot which makes me beyond happy.

  3. The coffee has 100% lived up to our expectations. No drip, all delicious. We've tried over 5 different cafes so far and they were all good.

  4. Beer is pricey, wine is not. I know what I'll be focusing on the next 10 months.

  5. Their Australia Day which was on 26 Jan is akin to the US's Columbus Day - more fanfare, same controversy. See the projection in the photo below?

  6. Australian architects love their fancy facade work. Good, interesting stuff all around the CBD. I envision a whole blog post about it in your future.

  7. The world is watching America - political posters are everywhere and opinions offered freely.

Also, because I am always thinking about the job that I love, on one of visits to inspect a sharehouse*, I chatted with the proprietor about what I plan to do here the next 10 months (see my previous post here for a recap). Turns out she has kids and gave me some insight into schools here in Australia:

  1. There is huge disparity between private and public schools and private schools do get some government funding. With vouchers being a hot topic in the US, I am glad for the chance to share how a similar system in panning out here.

  2. Her opinion of the infrastructure work that was completed during the Building the Education Revolution was that the new facilities were not meant to improve education but the effort was really just to provide jobs. Still clever and good all around, but different motives. This likely explains why there is a large gap between the type of teaching and learning the school designs can support and what actually occurs.

  3. One element of the infrastructure work in schools was sharing with the community. For example, if you get a new gym or library, there must be an element that the community can use. I am not clear in what case this applies, but she said it definitely was a focus. Our new friend's specific example is that a new library in her town (she said it looks like "ikea and an art gallery had a baby" in the best way possible - LOVE this) had a community room that could hold about 50 people and that it's booked up all the time, including during school hours. This concept of community use is one being discussed often in the US and specifically in Austin, TX lately. It's good to know there are successful examples. I'll make a point to explore more of these and ask more questions about how they function.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I forget to introduce you to Graham! He lives at the State Library of Victoria and is

the only human built to survive a car crash. The hubs does not like looking at him. I think it's great.

*In case you were wondering, we did not end up picking the sharehouse - 12 people; 2 bathrooms. No thanks.

#travel #Melbourne

I admit that this was published a few weeks ago but I have been too chicken to listen to it! (who loves listening to their own voice, really?). However, what you will find is a conversation on school design, culture, and the struggles that co-working and school spaces share. Thanks to Alex Hillman, founder of Indy Hall ( a co-working space in Philadelphia, for having me on the show!

Episode 45 - How to Adapt Culture + Space

Check out more of Alex's podcast episodes here:

A shout out to The Listserve (the 'email lottery") for connecting Alex and me - sign up to join the fun and realize just how small the world is!

#organizationalalignment #schooldesign #culture

About Me

My name is Raechel (with an "e"). I help design schools for a living and travel whenever I can (well - used to and pining to start that again!). I started this website as I combined these two favorite things in Melbourne, Australia as a Post-Graduate Fulbright Scholar. I am continuing it now after finishing a PhD in Education and still designing schools. I will chronicle research and schools I love (and hopefully soon - travel), sharing the exciting things happening and providing lessons learned from my research on how to align your practices and your spaces to achieve your teaching and learning goals.


Feel free to contact me at:

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