Rightsizing design considerations

9. Distinct ethos and sense of place.

Cogent small school identity is often organized around a common focus. Programs can be structured around specialized themes or career foci (health, technology, arts), philosophical themes (the sea, social justice), in support of particular instructional approaches (inquiry-, project-, or community-based learning), or provide for unique student populations and needs. Physical spaces can also encourage the development of a school’s unique personality with the use of ornamentation, art, decoration, furnishings, paint, and/or artifacts that convey the culture, thematic emphasis, or way of doing business in the school. While businesses have used the corporate concept of branding for years, small schools are increasingly appreciating the power of graphics, color, texture, and visual themes that encourage a distinctive feel and culture. Such building learning signatures are helpful only in as much as they support the true work of the school, which is the development of an ethos characterized by authentic achievement and collaboration.