Schools as Centers of Community: John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School

The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) and KnowledgeWorks Foundation have partnered to create a video case study and discussion guide that will educate local leaders and residents about the benefits of creating “Schools as Centers of Community.”

This video showcases the transformative story of John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School – a struggling St. Paul, Minn. public school that is reborn as a beacon of academic excellence, design innovation, and community involvement. In keeping with the latest thinking in school design and planning, John A. Johnson opens its doors to the community so that it may both benefit from local resources and offer social, fitness, and educational services in return. John A. Johnson is a recent winner of the Richard W. Riley Award for Excellence for Schools as Centers of Community.

The “Schools as Centers of Community” model of school planning and design is growing increasingly popular in the United States. Schools are becoming a gathering place – a place of lifelong learning, shared health and fitness facilities, and a host of other services to enhance community and student success. At its core, this is also a question of design. In order to create “schools as centers of community,” architects, educators, designers, local officials, and residents must think differently about our schools and create spaces that reflect a new understanding of the school building.

This video and discussion guide are part of AAF’s growing school design resource library. The video is accompanied by a printed discussion guide that will help local leaders, individuals, and community groups guide conversations about the topics raised in the video. Viewers will learn more about the story of John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School and discuss how this example relates to their own community.



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Posted in: 12 Design Education, Center for the Advancement of Architecture, Design for Learning, Great Schools by Design, Video

The American Architectural Foundation has been dedicated to advancing the role of architecture and design in American society since its founding in 1943 by the American Institute of Architects.

In its 75 years in existence the Foundation’s work has taken many forms — from educational programming and exhibitions in its early years to large-scale design initiatives and programs —all of which serve to create a rich legacy.

As the managing partner of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for twenty years, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors, the Foundation helped move the needle on design and cities. And, through its other signature programs like Save America’s Treasures in partnership with National Parks Service, the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, and Design for Learning, the Foundation has provided critical design leadership training and technical assistance to hundreds of elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, and other key decision makers in the design process.

In recent years, cities and civic leaders have embraced design and design thinking in a way that could not have been imagined when the Foundation begin its work back in 1943 — and AAF’s role in this transformation is a source of great pride for the Foundation. With this increased interest in the role of design in shaping our cities came a proliferation of new organizations to support and facilitate this cultural shift. These advances in the role of design in American society and changes in the nonprofit design sector, coupled with the departure of the organization’s longest-serving CEO, prompted the Foundation’s Board to embark on an intensive and lengthy process to examine the ongoing role and work of the Foundation.

As the Board of Regents reflected on the positive changes of the cultural value of design, the accomplishments of the Foundation, and how the legacy of the Foundation’s work is being carried out by its former staff in new roles and organizations across the country, they reached the conclusion that the American Architectural Foundation had accomplished what it set out to do. As a result, the Foundation began to complete its remaining programs and wind down its operations in the Summer of 2018 and the organization’s endowments have been distributed to allied organizations. The Foundation’s research and reports will remain available on its website as a resource to the field.

The Foundation’s work would not have been possible without the incredible talents of its many staff over the decades, the generous support of its funders, and the tireless dedication of its civic & design partners across the country. The Board remains deeply proud of the significant contributions Foundation has made in its 75-year history and would like to acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the efforts, dedication, and support from so many of you.