I had an interesting conversation with a colleague recently about how we reconceptualise/redesign the learning space. It’s not simply about shifting furniture or painting walls but looking at how we fundamentally strengthen the relationships within those learning spaces. Can designing new learning spaces facilitate this?
Mary Featherston is an Australian interior designer with a long standing interest in learning spaces. She has documented her work with Wooranna Park PS in Victoria on her website. The report is fascinating and I was struck by this sagacious quote from the Reggio Emilia Project in Northern Italy:
can the physical environment be a teacher in itself?
If it is true, then we have deprived students of the 19th and 20th century of the opportunity to engage with their physical environment by building factory-like schools where the traditional gate-keepers of knowledge stand sentinel at the front of the classroom.
What I liked about the Inside-Out project was that students and teachers were asked to identify the activities which were to take place and the qualities they believed were important to them. The result is flexible, functional and dynamic learning spaces, which evoke ‘democracy and respect’ .
It’s not often ‘democracy’ and ‘respect’ are used by students and staff to describe their learning spaces but this is what happens when your design is built on good principles of learning, understanding how students learn and today’s pedagogy.