Flex­i­ble learn­ing spa­ces

Har­bord Pub­lic School in Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches, home to 1152 stu­dents and 45 teach­ers, re­cently un­der­went a ma­jor cap­i­tal works pro­gram to up­grade school fa­cil­i­ties.

The Australian Education Reporter - - HARBORD PUBLIC SCHOOL - EMMA DAVIES

“FROM THE VERY BE­GIN­NING OF THE PROJECT, WE UN­DER­TOOK TO DE­VELOP A SET OF SCHOOL SPE­CIFIC PRIN­CI­PALS TO GUIDE THE PROJECT DE­SIGN.”

THE New South Wales Gov­ern­ment’s $13.5 mil­lion up­grade of Har­bord Pub­lic School con­sisted of con­struct­ing 18 new class­rooms and li­brary fa­cil­i­ties, re­duc­ing the num­ber of re­lo­cat­able class­rooms and sup­port­ing con­tem­po­rary teach­ing and learn­ing prac­tices.

Work com­menced in Novem­ber 2015 and the con­struc­tion of the new fa­cil­i­ties was com­pleted in time for the first day of school in Jan­uary 2017.

“From the very be­gin­ning of the project, we un­der­took to de­velop a set of school spe­cific prin­ci­pals to guide the project de­sign,” Har­bord Pub­lic School prin­ci­pal Craig Davis said.

Project ar­chi­tect Cathy Kubany and her team in­cor­po­rated and trans­lated these prin­ci­ples into the build­ing de­sign.

“Our se­nior stu­dents were asked what they wanted from a class­room en­vi­ron­ment and in­formed the de­sign team of three es­sen­tial as­pects they to be cen­tral to the build; nat­u­ral light, com­fort­able seats and space to learn,” Mr Davis said.

“We re­viewed re­search around con­tem­po­rary learn­ing and built ped­a­gogy (phys­i­cal space). In ret­ro­spect, our flex­i­ble learn­ing spa­ces were in­flu­enced by the re­search around ‘built ped­a­gogy’ shap­ing teach­ing and learn­ing,” he said.

“In this way, flex­i­ble learn­ing spa­ces, cou­pled with flex­i­ble fur­ni­ture, were a clear sig­nal of our in­tent to do things dif­fer­ently in this en­vi­ron­ment.”

The ma­jor­ity of the flex­i­ble fur­ni­ture was de­signed and man­u­fac­tured by Aus­tralian ed­u­ca­tional fur­ni­ture com­pany Nor­vanivel. The school was hope­ful that such a flex­i­ble space would in­flu­ence the way in which teach­ers and stu­dents in­ter­acted; al­low­ing for in­creased cre­ativ­ity, stu­dent en­gage­ment, sup­port dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, and col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion among teach­ers and stu­dents.

Prior to the up­grade, Har­bord staff had been ex­per­i­ment­ing with mod­i­fy­ing the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments, de-clut­ter­ing and re­mov­ing some of the un­nec­es­sary fur­ni­ture, and staff en­cour­aged stu­dents to be flex­i­ble in their ap­proach to learn­ing.

Mr Davis said the two school deputy prin­ci­pals, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pals and teach­ers es­tab­lished a fo­cus net­work to dis­sem­i­nate and share pro­fes­sional read­ing around cur­rent re­search, built ped­a­gogy, and con­tem­po­rary teach­ing and learn­ing prac­tice.

“One of our as­sis­tant prin­ci­pals un­der­took the lead in change man­age­ment plot­ting our course as to the changes staff and stu­dent might ex­pect and how to ne­go­ti­ate this change. Dis­cus­sions around stu­dent man­age­ment, teach­ing method­ol­ogy, man­age­ment of re­sources to how best to man­age the tran­si­tion of some 500 hun­dred stu­dents and 18 mem­bers of staff into the new fa­cil­i­ties,” he said.

“Gen­er­ally, the stu­dents have re­ally adapted ex­cep­tion­ally well to the new struc­tures. Like any shared work­ing space we have clear and spe­cific ex­pec­ta­tions es­tab­lished to max­imise learn­ing be­hav­iour,” Mr Davis said.

“The fur­ni­ture is de­signed in such a way as to al­low the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment to be ma­nip­u­lated mak­ing it change­able and fluid.”

With flex­i­ble learn­ing spa­ces pur­pose built for stu­dents’ en­gage­ment and teacher’s learn­ing tech­nique; Har­bord Pub­lic School is well placed to be pro­vid­ing ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion in the com­mu­nity for years to come.

“The stu­dents are thor­oughly en­gaged with the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment and ap­pear to en­joy the op­por­tu­nity that the learn­ing com­mons pro­vide. From my per­spec­tive, the stu­dents ap­pear much hap­pier at school and lev­els of stu­dent en­gage­ment lev­els are im­prov­ing,” Mr Davis said.

“The new fa­cil­i­ties have pro­vided a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to re­flect upon and even challenge our teach­ing and learn­ing prac­tices.

“The NSW Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion has de­signed and built an in­no­va­tive and mod­ern fa­cil­ity that re­flects the ed­u­ca­tional prin­ci­ples ex­pressed by the school.”

Flex­i­ble fur­ni­ture at Har­bord Pub­lic School.

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