“If we collaborate in a creative and playful way, you’ve won and so have your students.”
This is the message senior design architect Camilo Llorens Bearman (Charlottesville, VA) shares with educators using his Space Kit game. The goal of the game? It’s not to win, but to have fun creating new ways of combining educational spaces. Camilo created the game in response to emerging ideas about teaching and learning, which are increasingly becoming more student-focused and tailored to individual learning styles and preferences.
“Clients who play this game are loosened up, they’re having fun, they’re talking about learning—that’s when the conversation becomes magical,” says Camilo “Strong ideas about teaching and learning come out of discussions during the Space Kit game.”
The whole kit and caboodle
So, what is the Space Kit? In short, it’s a board game with hexagonal pieces that students, teachers, and administrators move around on a playing surface. The pieces represent different space types, ranging from standard classrooms to other spaces like phone booths for individual study and gear boxes for student tools and projects.
Why the hexagonal shape? Practically, it makes it impossible to lay out a typical floor plan (and get sidetracked by details like door swings and storage solutions), thereby keeping the conversation focused on adjacencies and how students might learn in novel space combinations. In addition to the hex pieces, the game includes limited resource chips to add special technology, furniture, or even snack areas to the layout.
Outside the box…or hexagon
The goal for the players, who play in teams, is to create conceptual relationships and adjacencies through a fun and hands-on activity—usually in a limited timeframe.
“Often when teachers are asked what they’d like to see in a new school, they naturally think of improving their current space with enhancements like power outlets and extra storage,” says Camilo.
The Space Kit game helps visioning and planning participants break away from these everyday concerns and investigate deeper ideas about how students engage with subject matter, their peers, and the teachers.
Camilo adds, “We encourage players to hack the game, turn over pieces and create new space types, write on the board, use stickies…whatever it takes to explore the idea.”
For Camilo, helping educators think about space as a tool for learning is a design asset. He explains, “often, teachers and other stakeholders see so much value in the non-traditional learning spaces they’ve arranged that they become the strongest design advocates during the detailing and cost estimating phases.” He adds, “This game is helping clients become stewards of their own program and then ambassadors for the design ideas.”
For example, Camilo recalls that “one group was seriously considering taking out classrooms to make room for more collaborative learning spaces, and that made my heart soar. That’s a step nobody would ever start with, but was a logical conclusion for them when they were test-fitting ideas against their vision.”
Every voice matters
For one recent participant, playing the game led to an authentic and organic visioning experience for a new school. Ingrid Tucker, Head of School at Cambridge Montessori in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says Camilo’s playful approach helped parents and educators truly think without constraints—just how students are encouraged to create and think in the classroom.
“The game gave people the opportunity to come in, not have any limits, and think freely,” Ingrid explained. “For us, that was very exciting—giving people the license to imagine what Cambridge Montessori could be.”
The game, alongside Stantec’s all-inclusive approach to visioning, signaled to Ingrid that they had found the right design partner.
“To be able to hear from all our constituents was extremely important to us, which is why we were really pleased with Stantec’s proposal. What it said to us is that everyone’s voice matters—and you can’t come up with the best decision until you hear a number of voices. The game and Stantec’s process allowed us to do that,” she said.
Architect and urban designer Tamara Roy (Boston, MA), believes in the visioning value of the Space Kit as a game. She’s seen it in action, and witnessed how it brings people together to plan in a thoughtful but lighthearted way.
“I really appreciate the way Camilo used hexagonal shapes to play up the double meaning of physical ‘space’ and ‘outer space,’” Tamara enthused. “The game helped the participants relax and play with the pieces like they would blocks. It freed them from the constraints of thinking about rooms, walls, and doors.”
Getting the Greenlight
Camilo received funding through Stantec’s $2 million annual Greenlight program, which has allowed him to move forward with prototyping the game. “A program like Greenlight is imperative for a company like ours that strives to be a top, innovative design firm,” he says.
The Space Kit is being developed digitally for use with clients and at conferences and events. Different versions of the game are available through Camilo for different levels of education. In the future, the game may cross into different design specialties, such as workplace design.
Camilo continues to focus on facilitating game play to help clients engage and envision the types of spaces that are the right fit for their students today and in the years to come.
Camilo Bearman is a natural design leader who has extensive experience collaborating with educators, administrators, teachers, students, and consultants. His approach has garnered many recent peer awards from the American Institute of Architects, which has regularly commented on his ability to create exceptional architecture on limited and realistic budgets. Read more about Camilo here.
About this article
This article is part of an ongoing series focusing on the value Stantec’s Greenlight program brings to clients, communities, and employees. Through Greenlight, Stantec invests up to $2 million annually to fund employee ideas that benefit our clients, community, and Company. Greenlight is part of our Creativity & Innovation Program, which celebrates and encourages creativity and innovation at work and in our work. Check back soon for another story in our Greenlight series.
Clients who play this game are loosened up, they’re having fun, they’re talking about learning—that’s when the discussion becomes magical.” – Camilo Bearman