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Cal High Seniors Help Design Dublin High Schools

A history class gives students a chance to help design real-life renovations to Dublin campuses.

Kelley Gates and Anja Klein have been best friends for 15 years, since their freshman year at Monte Vista High School in Danville. Gates, as a landscape architect for Gates and Associates, and Klein, as a history teacher at , never expected their careers to cross paths.

Until now.

Since 1977, the landscape architects at Gates and Associates in San Ramon have designed many of the structures, parks and schools that we use everyday, including , the shopping center, Hacienda Crossings in Dublin, and downtown Walnut Creek.

Their most recent project is the renovation of existing schools in the Dublin Unified School District.

This weekend, the company will travel to Nashville, TN, for the annual Council of Educational Facility Planners International Conference, where they will present their Dublin schools master plan. Since California is known to be a forward-thinking state in terms of education, the conference heads asked the local landscape architects to present new ideas that foster learning in schools.

Dublin wants something different than traditional schools, and it is Gates and Associates' job to make that come true. This master plan must include new “futuristic” features, such as native plants that use less water and solar panel installation.

“Dublin’s motto is trying to plan the school on how kids learn and not how teachers teach,” said Gates.

Looking for help in coming up with ideas, Gates contacted Klein in hopes of getting a teacher's opinion.

“We wanted to get a different perspective,” said Gates. “I am just curious about overall feedback.”

Klein took it a step further. Seniors in her Advanced Placement U.S. Government class were given the chance to speak for high school students across the district when they had the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and create proposals to present to Gates and Associates for the Dublin school district, specifically targeting the high schools.

“I have my ideas, but who would know better than my students, because they have sat in these classrooms for 12 years,” said Klein. “I basically asked them: If you could say anything to the architects of our schools, what would you say?”

After coming up a general plan in small groups, the students attempted to sell their ideas to the class in a meeting-style environment. They had to consider the opinions of many different community members in the process: ideas that would be plausible with parents, students, teachers, and of course, janitors who would have to clean up the campus if implemented. Then they analyzed the pros and cons of each proposed idea, and voted on which ones to submit.

Klein will soon send the students’ work to Gates and Associates, where it will be reviewed and then put into a presentation for the community meeting. Gates is very excited about receiving the different perspectives on her project.

“Hopefully we get some neat ideas to bounce around the committee,” said Gates. “It’s nice to have some actual high school students to talk to, to make people understand that what a high school student would think is actually what a high school student wants to do. Maybe students want something so simple, and we had no idea.”

But, you might ask, how does this project relate to an U.S. Government class?

“I wanted them to see first hand how real government works,” said Klein. “Real government is people with all kinds of wants and needs trying to figure out how to get along. There is fighting, negotiating and compromising.”

Well, the fighting, negotiating and compromising seemed to have paid off. Most of Klein’s students enjoyed the activity, agreeing that it was a cool experience.

“It was a good way to see how government really works first hand rather than reading from a book,” said AP Government student Saundarya Mehra. “We knew that we could be impacting another high school student’s life, so it made it realistic for us.”

Keep your eyes open for Dublin school renovations. You never know, you might just see a Cal High senior out there working on the site.

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