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safety & the school Master’s Thesis Proposal by Shelly Chipimo

Photo Credit: Renan Kamikoga


SAFTEY & THE SCHOOL Master’s Thesis Proposal by Shelly Chipimo

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” -Goethe

ARCH 7140-02 Master’s Degree Project Spring 2019. Professor Tim Love Northeastern University Photo Credit: Christoph Theisinger


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SCHOOL PROTOTYPE 12 Little Meadows Academy

Improving Learning by Design: The Importance of Architecture in Schools

INTRODUCTION 5 Profiting Off Fear

School Security Companies Thrive in the Era of Mass Shootings

6 A Look at the Statistics

Why is the Fear of Mass Shootings driving School Policy in America?

13 Defensible Space

Crime Prevention Through Urban Design. Taking inspiration from Architect Oscar Newman.

17 Program & Site Plan

Designing from the Classroom Outward.

19 SECURITY STRATEGY 19 The School as a Cluster

How an Open Classroom Plan can be Less of a Target

20 Protection Tactics

Embedding Security within the Architecture

23 Operational Scenarios How the Prototype can Accommodate Public & Private Interests Simultaneously

29 Spatial Applications

How the Cluster Model Works at the Site Scale


39 The school as a civic space

30 the spaces 30 A Tour Through the School

Understanding the Spaces that Make Up Little Meadows Academy

35 Magnolia Cafe

Living Room for Staff, Parents, and Community Members of the School.

39 Making the School More than Just an Educational Facility 41 Sectional Relationship between School Grounds and Magnolia Cafe

43 Conclusion 43 Striking a Balance


Profiting off fear

School-Security Companies Thrive in the Era of Mass Shootings More than any other building type, schools have a profound impact on their inhabitants. Children in various stages of development are stimulated by light, color, the scale of their surroundings, and even the navigational aspects of their school. Having gone to a high school which was designed to look and feel like a college campus, I can think of nothing more enjoyable than the freedom to roam around outside in between classes, get some fresh air, have lunch on the lawn, and enjoy the company of friends outside the traditional classroom setting. However, I recognize that is not the typical American school experience. Presently, students, teachers, and parents are acutely aware of mass shootings in American schools and hung up on the narrative that “they could be next”. On this issue, the public seems to be divided into two camps: one that is governed by the fear of a looming attack, and the other that touts the statistical rarity of school shootings, (chances of a K-12 student being shot and killed at a public school are roughly 1 in 614 million according to David Ropeik a leading figure and author on risk perception). But if the statistics clearly undermine the popular narrative of the “mass shooting epidemic,” then why is the fear of them driving school policy in America? My thesis problematizes that fear is a form of marketing sold to the public by security companies and government agencies in order to implement “hardening” techniques in schools on a national scale. By the numbers, each major school shooting has helped expand a multibillion dollar industry that sells high-tech surveillance products which need to be managed indefinitely. It’s like schools are buying a lifelong subscription to endless, incremental “safety improvements”.

By the numbers, each major school shooting has helped expand a multibillion dollar industry that sells high tech surveillance products- all of which need to be managed indefinitely.

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Photo Credit: Chuttersnap


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Profiting off fear

School-Security Companies Thrive in the Era of Mass Shootings

7/10 Active shootings happen in schools and businesses, according to FBI data from 2013.

$2.7billion The amount security equipment and services generated in revenue in 2017, according to a market analysis by IHS Market Jim Dearing, a senior analyst at IHS.

62% The percentage increase of public schools reporting the use of security cameras. (19% in 1999-2000 to 81% in 2016-16.)

13% Increase in schools with a plan in place for procedures to be performed in the event of a mass shooting. (79% in 2003-4; 92% in 2015-16)

Data source: National Center for Education Statistics| https://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/ind_20.asp

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PHOTO CREDIT: RUBEN RODRIGUEZ PROFITING OFF FEAR 8


“In 2017, security equipment and services generated $2.7 billion in revenue,” according to a market analysis by IHS Markit. Jim Dearing, a senior analyst at IHS

Jim Dearing, a senior analyst at IHS mentioned that each mass school shooting heightens the profile of school-security products. With each disaster, it’s also not uncommon to see a surge in momentum offering funds to victims (in the form of gofundme’s), or to initiatives that aim to keep children safe from future attacks. But at the end of the day, all this publicity is good for the government because the more shootings there are, the more is generated in millions of dollars in federal money through these various forums. Currently, major decisions about schools seem to be made at the Security Industry Association conference, which is attended by members of the current administration, legislators from both parties, security company executives, and industry lobbyists; however, there are still no official standards for schools. This is quite telling, given that all these people collectively hold significant power to influence

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the narrative around school shootings, and also the power to control what changes do or don’t take place in schools in order to make them “safer.” I am arguing that, because these tragedies generate significant revenue for the various parties involved, their goal is not to end mass shootings, but instead to perpetuate the narrative of fear for as long as popular culture will run with it. Kenneth Trump, (no relation to Donald Trump) the president of National School Safety and Security Services, supports the position that security industry has in fact dominated the policy response to school shootings- drowning out key conversations from mental health to gun control- in favor of a rush to adopt costly, and largely unproven, methods to harden schools. He said, “It’s not that they’re villains and they don’t care and they don’t want safe schools—I’m not trying to send that message [...] But they’re certainly opportunistic. At the end of the day, they’re looking

Photo Credit: Ennio Dybeli on Unsplash


for new revenue streams.” (The Atlantic 2018). The two major responses to this phenomenon seem to be either investing in military grade tools as a counterterrorism strategy in schools,(ie extensive and robust hardening infrastructure) or relying on authorities such as law enforcement to maintain order in volatile environments. Since I am personally opposed to the former as an income generating service that works at the expense of young children, I am maintaining that everyone, including students plays a crucial role in creating positive school climate. I am advocating that the traditional model of the school be architecturally restructured to support more positive learning environments for young children. “The education sector has seen a move towards individual ownership of the learning process. Universities, transformed by the introduction of higher fees – and with students being ever more assertive about their expectations – have had to invest

significantly in the built environment.” (Chris Moss, Telegraph UK). These changes would have immediate impacts on the lives of young people, regardless if the intervention was a whole new building or simply a small change within the classroom. This strategy has several benefits, financially speaking, this model would make the campus safer and could be cheaper than staffing the halls with extra school resource officers. Overall, this would mean less $ is spent on endless “safety improvements” and more money can go towards improving school activities. Additionally, this improved learning environment will lower the likelihood that a student will grow up to become a “bad actor” by the time their prefrontal cortex is developed. Overtime, the goals is that better mental, emotional, social conditions for young, impressionable children on a national scale could reduce the frequency of mass shootings in America.

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little meadows academy Improved Learning By Design: The Importance of Architecture in Schools

Classroom as a living room for learning. No hard boundaries exist between formal and informal learning environments- encouraging more seamless learning opportunities for children.

Little Meadows is a school where the physical space is the most important tool for educational development. It does not utilize classrooms which depend on a desk-and-chair setup and the classic double loaded corridor. Instead, classrooms are structured as living rooms for learning with flexible seating arrangements that provide opportunities for focusing on special themes and projects and also allow for many types of learning styles. Each classroom (left) looks out onto a vast recreational courtyard that is anchored by a corresponding set of classrooms to enhance surveillance and comfort within school grounds. Straight lines of sight are essential for navigating, keeping the peace, and maintaining safe areas of passage. The school is located in Boston, a place where two-thirds of city’s 132 school buildings were constructed before World War II, and 60 percent of participants in a recent city survey rated their facilities as “fair” or “poor.” While legacy is certainly an important aspect of these schools, my Master’s thesis argues that there is a great need for upgrading these facilities. Arguably because traditional classrooms make students more vulnerable because they create a captive audience behind closed walls. On the contrary, a totally open classroom environment - even spilling out to outdoor workspace - is less of a target. It is not enough to simply provide cutting-edge classrooms. There is a great need to invest in external context and landscape designwhich then allows for a much more holistic design response. Schools should be more than just functional spaces, they should inspire. They are communities after all, and if we need to improve these communities to provide the best education we can for our children and future generations. By balancing the educational priorities, common bonds, sense of purpose and shared understanding of what a school community holds dear, we can leverage this knowledge and use it to create great learning environments.

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Architect Oscar Newman, author of Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design, argues that when groups of people come together, they automatically have a beneficial impact on each other because they become, in effect, each other’s supervision. “It is healthy to have built-in supervision in a public place,” Newman says. Rather than isolated buildings in a residential neighborhood, for example, it is better to have many doorways and windows looking out. This has the effect of many people monitoring each other all the time. Keeping Oscar Newman’s concept in mind, I developed a prototype design for a middle school located on a moderately constrained site in the South End of Boston. The neighborhood itself was a ripe testing ground as the South End has 5 primary and secondary schools, providing education from Kindergarten through grade 12. The McKinley South End Academy is perhaps the most notable one since it

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is comprised on four schools in one. It is here where I chose to develop Little Meadows Academy. The prototype is based on modular clusters that are designed from the classroom outward. Classrooms (above) expand to open spaces for inquiry and discovery. Windows look out onto other classrooms to display their learning environments and a singular, yet expansive opening helps stimulate the children’s’ imagination through visual access to the landscape. The prototype fundamentally aims showcase that an emphasis on social collaboration and recreational spaces outside the classroom can create better learning and teaching environments in schools and a surrounding community. Such reforms in design provides the necessary opportunities for young minds to use their critical thinking skills and become self-motivated, independent learners. But children can only get there if schools to rapidly adapt to support these new instructional methods and learning

Classroom of the 21st Century Intimate, open, homely.


mechanisms by allowing design to happen anywhere in the school- not just the classroom. Reformed design in schools can have far reaching impacts in terms of improving childhood development. Schools are the places that convey the meaning and importance of learning to children. They could hardly be more important and correspondingly the role of building design in improving schools should not be underestimated. While government policy is very ‘evidence’ heavy, requiring quantitative rather than qualitative assessment of space, it should not be overlooked that modernized school environments have a positive impact on student behavior and wellbeing in addition to the teachers’ ability to teach effectively. Children are known to act adversely to negative conditions, so it is important that the environments they grow up are nurturing in character. Think of the importance of play in your own life. As a child,

you probably engaged in active play like riding bikes, climbing trees, or jumping rope. You probably also engaged in quieter play like drawing pictures, playing board games, and constructing elaborate structures. You learned a lot from these experiences, including building your strength and imagination. You learned how to take turns, and follow rules and problem solve. Many of us can appreciate the value of play for children. As a matter of fact, play continues to be important even for adults. By simply improving the learning environments in which young children form their identity, design can lower the likelihood that a student will grow up to become a “bad actor” by the time their prefrontal cortex is developed. Overtime, it can also result in better mental, emotional, social conditions for young, impressionable children on a national scale could reduce the frequency of mass shootings in America.

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The Homeroom. This shared space creates a familiar feeling for children to feel as comfortable in school as they would in their own home.

The Homeroom is perhaps the most important space within my school prototype because it gives students a secure and dynamic place to play. Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Convention on the Rights of the Child. General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989.) “ Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers.� (The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by Kenneth R. Ginsburg and the Committee on Communications, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health) As children begin to take charge of their world, play helps them develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges. Furthermore, undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. In the Homeroom, children are awarded a space that is entirely their own, so they can interact freely and discover for themselves how to move at their own pace of life and discover what interests and engages them mentally, emotional, physically. Ideally, much of play middle schoolers would be doing involves adults- and most of the school is organized for maximum adult supervisionbut when play is controlled by adults, children acquiesce to adult rules and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership, and group skills. As such, the Homeroom is a place where adult supervision is limited because it is the safest haven within the school for the children.

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The prototype Little Meadows Academy THE PROGRAM

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Typ. cluster

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1. Cafeteria 2. Multipurpose Room 3. School Reception 4. Magnolia Cafe 5. Outdoor Living Room 6. Recreation Field 7. Support Spaces 8. Typ.Teacher’s Office 9. Typ.Teacher’s Lounge 10.Typ.Conference Room 11. Typ. Classroom 12. Typ. Homeroom 13. Typ.Central Stair 14. Existing Public Park 15. Outdoor Classrooms

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A typical cluster Designing from the Classroom Outward Each cluster consists of four classrooms wrapped by an L-shaped security buffer comprised of administration spaces that look out onto public zones - so that they are always under surveillance by an adult. The classrooms are nested in the inner most zone of the building mass and have one large opening that looks out onto the adjacent classrooms, thus allowing teachers to keep an eye on the activities in the corridor or “street.” Linking these modules in this way provides the desirable straight lines of sight. Additionally, the articulated outdoor corridors lend a spatial richness to mitigate against a sterile institutional environment typically found in schools. The classrooms frame intimate courtyards that form play areas for student recreation; and each play area can also be closed off by gates that can be retracted into the building when not in use. Security was considered from both the building and the landscape perspective. The spaces that link the classrooms with the play area are framed by glass corridors to provide for greater visual supervision of outdoor spaces while enhancing their internal spatial and visual qualities. Bringing children together--both inside and outside — encourages group activity that can make spaces feel safer. The clusters are provided with their own central stair and elevator that are not visible from the exterior, and that are only accessible to students and teachers in that specific cluster. This contained setup allows children to feel free to move within the cluster as if it were their own home- they simply need to take either central stair up one flight of stairs in order to visit their friends upstairs.

THE PROGRAM 6. Recreation Field 7. Support Spaces 8. Typ.Teacher’s Office 9. Typ.Teacher’s Lounge 10.Typ.Conference Room 11. Typ. Classroom 12. Typ. Homeroom 13. Typ.Central Stair 14. Existing Public Park 15. Outdoor Classrooms

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Designed for surveillance and comfort. In schools, straight lines of sight are essential for navigating, keeping the peace, and maintaining safe areas of passage.

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Security Features apparent only to Students and Faculty Protective “thick” zones serve as dynamic play spaces for young children as well as house the many support spaces such as stairs, elevators, bathrooms, and more that are needed in order to have a functional middle school.

The security of schools in America has become a growing concern primarily due to recent increases in mass shootings that put the safety of children, teachers, staff and parents at risk. In some educational institutions, intruders can wander in and out of the premises as they please, as the access to buildings is not considered seriously enough within risk assessments. While some security measures seem excessive-such as metal detectors and bag checkingwhich are now seen in some schools across the US, other basic measures like surveillance, perimeter and access security are an absolute necessity. Students and teachers have the right to feel safe and secure within school grounds. Furthermore, should a situation arise, they also need reassurance that there are appropriate security measures and procedures in place to keep themselves and those around them safe. The agenda of my school prototype is to create an open campus plan that eliminates the standard double loaded corridor-which is often the place where bad actors go to ambush unsuspecting victims. In this campus style setup, the school is composed of clusters (left) that are robust in massing and self contained so that they feel more like a house in a tight nit neighborhood that is being watched and protected at all times by its inhabitants. Within the cluster are multiple doors and gates (highlighted in orange) that allow for discreet passage between rooms so that student and teachers always have a way out in the event of an incident. These doors and gates also allow teachers to seal off areas for the children’s saftey- for instance during play time when they don’t want kids wandering out onto the street. The basis for this open plan design is that it should promote social and creative learning that deters children from growing up to do bad things. When children’s basic safety needs aren’t met, they are at risk for not feeling comfortable at school and may stop showing up, or they may remain on edge throughout the day. Promoting school design from the classroom-outward creates richer environments for children to explore, learn and grow. And it is ultimately what allows them to look forward to being in an encouraging environment that nurtures them and promotes a healthy educational upbringing.

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Forbidden City


Forbidden City

Gates as Thresholds 24


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Forbidden City


Forbidden City

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Forbidden City


Forbidden City

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Forbidden City


The Cluster at site scale A School Designed Like a Home.

There have been a number of cases reported where intruders have been able to walk into school buildings simply because of a blatant disregard for basic security- ie: there is no main reception area with no one to administer who is coming in and going outwhich leaves a vast number of students vulnerable to an attack that could be prevented by designating an a reception area for check-in. As such, the highest priority for my prototype is allowing faculty and staff to monitor who goes in and out of the school premises without veering into the realms of creating a fortress. As you can see, my idea of having a secure school did not mean surrounding the premises with a 7 foot fence topped with barbed wire, and CCTV cameras on every corner. I maintain that there are security solutions that can offer better protection against crime whilst not compromising on aesthetic appearance and community ambiance. My prototype explores the extents that enhanced natural surveillance can have on establishing an unspoken sense of security within school grounds. Natural surveillance doesn’t require that streets, parks, houses and gardens be stripped of all features to increase visibility. A generally open feel to things is often enough to embody a sense that a space is social as opposed to isolated. It includes the placement of windows and open areas with clear lines of sight. Parking areas, for instance, are prime locations to provide clear lines of sight to prevent potential incidents by reducing hiding places or shielding illegal or unwanted behaviors. “Surveillance is the principal weapon in the protection of a defensible space. Criminals are least likely to act when there is a high risk of their actions being witnessed. Environments in which legitimate occupants can exercise a high degree of visual control increase the likelihood of criminal acts being observed and reported.� (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. By Robert A. Gardner, CPP)

Forbidden City

Gates as Thresholds 30


A typical cluster

THE PROGRAM -4 Classrooms with self-contained bathrooms -Large outdoor classroom -Admin offices -Central stairs -Central elevator -Ample storage space

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Cafe & school reception

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THE PROGRAM -Cafe -Large outdoor living room -Admin offices -Main school reception -Separate bathrooms -Separate stair and elevator

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magnolia cafe

The Living Room for Staff, Parents and Community Members of the School There are many different reasons why you go to a coffee shop. Sometimes it is just at random, for instance, you are on your way to work and see a great advertisement for a place you’ve always wanted to try. Or you simply walk by a place and decide you could use some coffee that particular morning. Most of the time though, it has to do with convenience. You take a certain route each day to get to work, school, and even to take your child to school. So any coffee shop that is along that route may be inviting. What is important to understand though is that you go back because you

feel like a cafe it is the third place outside of work and home where you can go and find comfort in things or people that are familiar to you. You know that Kevin will always make your latte with that extra pump of hazelnut and have it ready to go when by the time you get there. Magnolia Cafe is that “third place” outside of work and home that residents of the South End can go to simply to relax or to meet new people. Whether you are someone who just moved to the historic South End neighborhood after enrolling your child in Little

Magnolia Cafe Interior. Public cafe, owned and monitored by Little Meadows Academy.


“Making a school more than just an educational facility that closes at 3 p.m. is one way to make it safer for students. A school that is considered a civic building and valued by adults throughout the community is seen in a special way and treated that way--as a city hall or police building or court.”

Meadows Academy, or a newly appointed member of the school itself- Magnolia Cafe is a trendy new spot adjacent where you can work, relax, and meet other parents or and members of the community. The generous cafe is ultimately meant to encourage more active parent involvement with the school, the grounds, and its staff. This involvement of parents in the life of the school enhances communication and helps parents become aware of the people and environments that surround their children. Additionally, the space awards the school the opportunity to schedule activities in the evenings and on weekends. This way the school can signal that it is a community facility. Keeping the school open after mid-afternoon creates a safety net for those students who choose to stay later. If the school is a constantly active place, children won’t be isolated or left feeling vulnerable. Furthermore, the cafe provides an enjoyable place for parents to wait while students finish up class or after school programs for the day. The space is designed such that common-use areas are separated physically and visually from private school areas. Delivery personnel and administration have access to the back of house area of the cafe bar which is camouflaged with a wood screen door that creates a backdrop complementary to the rest of the cafe decor. Furthermore, the cafe can be used independently from the secured instructional spaces. By forging these personal bonds and involvement in this school neighborhood, members of a society can protect themselves from outside threats and police their own community. This is a favorable approach for reducing the causes of crime without relying exclusively on law enforcement or “hardening” techniques such as barriers, metal detectors, and CCTV typically found in schools.

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MULTIPURPOSE SPACES

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THE PROGRAM -Cafeteria -Large outdoor garden -Admin offices -Multipurpose/Assembly space -Area able to be fully sectioned off for public use/ events

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Section AA. Where public space meets the school grounds is an opportunity to create constructive social interactions among neighbors that can result in a shared sense of safety.

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THE MAGNOLIA CAFE 42


in conclusion Striking a Balance When schools put stronger security measures in place with the intended outcome of keeping students safe, they can have unintentional adverse effects. “In a daily experience, it really impacts the students and how they feel about themselves, and it kind of perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline issue,” says Jenine Kotob, Assoc. AIA. “That pipeline in turn perpetuates prejudices as well as harmful paranoia and anxiety.” While my school prototype aims to pursue solutions that are all largely invisible to the average person, I recognize that design is only one piece of a larger whole. Forces far greater than aesthetics and ambiance govern how schools in America operate: legislation, policy, education, awareness, and technology—architecture is one small piece of the puzzle. However, despite this dynamic, I maintain that successful school design ultimately hinges on centering the needs of those whom the school is intended to serve- and that is to the children. Conversations around designing safer schools should always recognize the vital role that public schools play in their communities. As architects, we can leverage our understanding of communities and the built environment to create spaces that work for educational facilities in the long term- especially given that the pressure on schools to deliver has seen a considerable rise in the last decade. Architects are uniquely placed to apply their design knowledge to improve school design, especially because we thrive on problem solving. How we juggle a school’s ability to support a variety of learning styles, while maintaining the inherent playfulness and openness of a campus is essential to create stimulating environments conducive to innovation. The schools of tomorrow are being built today—if we want to be have a safer and brighter future, we need to design schools smarter, and make them capable of supporting continuous advancements in healthy upbringings for young children.

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Profile for Shelly Chipimo

Safety & The School  

Masters Thesis Proposal by Shelly Chipimo |Security Regimes and their Impact on Spatial and Social Hierarchies Northeastern University Schoo...

Safety & The School  

Masters Thesis Proposal by Shelly Chipimo |Security Regimes and their Impact on Spatial and Social Hierarchies Northeastern University Schoo...

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