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Koç Model School

Koç Model School, a project designed to create a new perspective on education, run in partnership by the Vehbi Koç Foundation (VKV), the international architectural design company Cannon Design and the Ministry of Education. It is envisaged that the physical space at the Koç Model School will help to change attitudes to education and learning. The project’s key aims are: to implement a model for an exemplary middle school, taking into account the educational environment, approach, management model and the school’s relationship to its surroundings; to use the model school approach and the experience gleaned during the project as a guide; to act as a pilot project for adopting a different schooling system in Turkey and to precipitate the building of a future educational institution.

The project, which began in 2010 with the aim of building a new and innovative elementary school, was adjusted following the implementation of 12-year compulsory education (known as the 4+4+4 system) in 2010. As a result of this new law, the decision was taken to demolish Ziya Ünsel Middle School in Beykoz and build a new middle school in its place. Built by the VKV from a turnkey project drawn up by Cannon Design, the Koç Model School is expected to serve over 500 middle school students and on completion, ownership will be transferred to the Provincial Special Administration and rights of use will be transferred to the Ministry of Education.

The project aims to be a participatory and exemplary model, even in its implementation phase, with Turkish experts and institutions in the field contributing to the design and operation of the school. These include ERG, TEMA, Koç School and TED University, as well as several architectural and engineering companies, and educational consultants.

In February 2014, work began on the school’s culture of teaching and learning. Consequently, between February and September 2014, numerous workshops were organized to develop theories, objectives and aims for a new learning environment. Attended by the representatives of teachers, students and parents, and educational consultants, the groups discussed questions such as “What is the ideal learning environment?” and “What makes the ideal teacher?”. They also examined special practices for in-class management and an orientation program for 5th grade classes. In September, a “Learner’s Agenda”, put together based on the views of teachers and students, was distributed to all students and teachers with the aim of accelerating the adoption of the model school culture.

The educational research carried out with teachers and parents was repeated in 2015, when the AÇEV “Support for Mothers Program” was implemented. The program supports mothers and children by helping with child development and education. Two educational programs aimed at teachers were run in 2016; the first focused on learning with different materials and in different environments, while the second focused on game-based learning principles and using brain teasers together with class materials. In 2017, two educational programs were organized for teachers, one on project writing and management, another on communicating with teenagers.

Construction started in June, 2018 and in-school trainings and workshops are still being held. The school is planned to be opened in September, 2019.

A prototype for innovative approaches to education: Koç Model School

...Let’s take a closer look at Koç Model School... It’s a four-story building; on the lower two floors are spaces dedicated to community. The dining space has the ability to turn into a space where the community can gather, and it can also turn into a place of performance. It has a really nice gymnasium that also serves as a shelter in earthquakes. As you move upward there are clusters of different disciplines on each floor, and each hall has a shared center space. That was done consciously because we believe that this center space will help advocate interdisciplinary learning. Just the design of the space allows for serendipitous connections, running into other disciplines on that floor. We call these learning clusters “learning hubs”. There are three learning hubs dedicated to each of the disciplines and at the center of these is a project studio that they open out to and share. The project studio is meant to have the agility to really curate a project over a long period of time, it is a shared space.

Learning hubs for the arts and sciences are located on the same floor and are linked by a community space in the center which connects not only horizontally but also vertically. There is a mathematics hub, a science and technology hub, there is an art learning hub, there are studios dedicated to artwork, including 3-D artwork, there is a design and technology hub, learning hubs dedicated to languages, to music, a dance studio. The school is filled with this sense of twenty-first century skills, allowing a collision of the arts and the sciences that is really critical. We are also advocating for very agile furniture that allows the changing of these learning spaces from instruction to collaboration without much effort. We are also advocating for technology to become completely embedded, so to take away the need to plug and unplug in the environment. We have also brought some green space into the building itself.

Everything we build now has to be regenerative, has to use less energy, has to celebrate the core values and essence of us as human beings, meaning having access to daylight, access to view, access to green space, access to fresh air, access to our ability to adjust our own environment. This is why we need to understand properly who we are designing for and how they would like to interact with each other. That is the core of learning: interaction, how we treat each other, how we want to be treated. In fact, insight we have today about how the brain works is telling us that learning is most effective when we do things, make things, when we actually have the ability to create something physical. Learning is no longer just thinking about facts and theories, about acquiring knowledge, but about how we activate this knowledge.
“Conversation with Trung Le, Head Designer at Cannon Design Educational Group”, VKV 2012 Activity Report, pp. 9-11
Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.