Kids learn best in in­spir­ing spa­ces

If we want Aus­tralian stu­dents to be world-class learn­ers, we need world-class learn­ing spa­ces

Penrith Press - - NEWS - Fol­low him on Twit­ter @greg­whitby

LARGE in­no­va­tive cor­po­ra­tions such as Google, Tel­stra, Ap­ple and even the Com­mon­wealth Bank have recog­nised that good work­ing en­vi­ron­ments can lead to hap­pier, health­ier and more pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ees.

If you do a search for th­ese work­places, you’ll see very mod­ern, flex­i­ble spa­ces that are open and have lots of nat­u­ral light. Like work­places, school en­vi­ron­ments should be de­signed around the health and com­fort of stu­dents and teach­ers.

We’ve all ex­pe­ri­enced those class­rooms which have been ice­boxes in winter and saunas in sum­mer. How can learn­ing hap­pen ef­fec­tively in con­di­tions like that?

No doubt it is just as un­com­fort­able for teach­ers.

We know from re­search over the past 20 years that the class­room en­vi­ron­ment has an im­pact on stu­dent per­for­mance – and that im­pact can be pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. Good light­ing has been shown to sig­nif­i­cantly in­flu­ence scores on read­ing and sci­ence tests. De­sign­ers, ar­chi­tects, builders and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems are plac­ing greater im­por­tance on light­ing, sound and tem­per­a­ture.

In the past, it was a case of build the school and stu­dents will come.

How­ever, too of­ten, what we ended up with was in­dus­trial-style class­rooms that were any­thing but invit­ing or in­spir­ing.

Even though to­day we have bet­ter tech­nol­ogy and fur­ni­ture, too many stu­dents are still be­ing ed­u­cated in spa­ces that were built for an­other time and place.

While we can’t do a lot to many school build­ings, we can sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove class­rooms by up­grad­ing light­ing, sound and ven­ti­la­tion. And when we im­prove the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment, we im­prove the learn­ing!

While the de­bate on school in­no­va­tion and im­prove­ment has fo­cused on what hap­pens within the class­rooms, not enough at­ten­tion has been given to what hap­pens between the built en­vi­ron­ment and the learn­ing.

If we want Aus­tralian stu­dents to be world-class learn­ers, we need world­class learn­ing spa­ces from preschool to post-school.

Greg Whitby is the ex­ec­u­tive

direc­tor of schools for the Catholic Dio­cese of Par­ra­matta.

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