Furi School update from Andrew Blaisdell

The Furi School Project is the brainchild of Wosen Kifle, a Minneapolis resident that emigrated from Ethiopia over 40 years ago. The project highlights how technology and design can play a pivotal role in a child's education. A curiosity-driven curriculum, combined with the proper environment and contemporary tools will engage the community of Furi in experiential, information-rich learning. Andrew Blaisdell (MArch, 2010), lead designer on the project, conceptualized the schoolhouse of the future based on these core principals.

The inspiration for Blaisdell's design, however, comes from the devotion Wosen Kifle has for his native home, Furi, Ethiopia. Kifle has dreamt for years of building a school complex on his family's land to serve the entire community. The current state of Ethiopia's educational system simply cannot develop fast enough to meet demand, and is riddled with archaic facilities and 20th century methods. The average student to teacher ratio across the country is 75:1.

The Furi School will maximize new technologies by encouraging learning through curiosity. The structure itself will demonstrate sustainable practices, and will work in harmony with the land and people. In other schools, a hen house might seem out of place. But for the Furi School, the farm will provide active learning, and will in time become the financial backbone of the school. With rain catchment from the surrounding buildings and responsible soil management practices, the on-site model farm will be the most fruitful plot of land in the area. The layout of the buildings will maximize space and offer curricular flexibility, where rooms can be configured based on needs.

This project is a big step toward the future for Ethiopia, but what is learned from this project could soon be applied to schools across the globe. Innovation of this magnitude comes with a relatively low price tag. Recently, the Furi School Project launched a website that will be crucial to help raise the $549,000 needed to complete the project. It truly does take a village to raise a child; a community of pioneers and dreamers to be part of a new era of education. The Furi School is so much more than just books and test scores. It is the prototype for a revolution in education, architecture, and stewardship. Now, with the launch of www.furischool.org, you can keep up with the latest developments regarding this unique non-profit organization. Sign up for newsletters, catch up with journals, and even find out more about how you can be part of the progress.

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