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Humanizing the Education Machine by Brian Cahill, Bill Latham, Rex Miller

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Chapter 14Designing a Place That Inspires and Equips

Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.

—Maria Montessori

Naturally, it was hot when we arrived in South Texas for our September Summit. Our theme for that particular summit was school turnarounds and community engagement. Shannon Buerk, MindShift team member and President of Engage2Learn, served as our host. She arranged for our team to spend a day with an elementary school that had ranked in the bottom 2 percent in Texas for the past several years. But the school had a new principle and half the teachers were new. Engage2Learn was selected to introduce and train the school in an active learning model as the foundation for the turnaround. While we were on campus, the school was still operating at a frenetic pace because of the massive changes.

When we arrived at the school, shortly after the morning bell, the sight of the two-story stucco windowless bunker of a building built in the 1960s sobered and disappointed us. Our walk through the parking lot seemed slower and quieter than in previous site visits. The muted chatter seemed to reflect our group's doubt about the value of this field trip. The Teacher's Lounge, the site for our orientation, seemed to be an old and unloved utility space; it would comfortably fit a dozen people and our group numbered 35.

But then we broke into small teams and began touring the classrooms (see ...

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