Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hellerup School - a great place to learn

Hellerup School was built in 2001. It has learning home zones instead of classrooms. Each learning zone is a  home base for 3-4 classes. The learning zones are shared with the pedagogs who take the after school programme. The building is multi storey with connecting areas utilised for learning. Internal timber cladding is a feature and gives a warm feeling with lots of natural light. The library zone is central on the ground floor. The library or information centre is central on the ground floor, creating a welcome through zone for the learning community and with high visibility from every floor. 

There are around 100 students per learning hub with about 4 teachers plus support staff. The design incorporates lots of breakout spaces including:

·        rooms within rooms
·        Mountain tops
·        Breakout spaces
·        Specific areas for art / science
·        Physical activity encouraged eg climbing walls / table tennis inside buidling

The staffroom is a particularly impressive. It is an open comfortable space which encourages staff to relax in a 

informal atmosphere. I think it is important for staff to have their own space to take a break from the business of 

the learning zones - and good to give something back to staff to appreciate the work they do.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Visits in Scandinavia Schools via Lene Jensby Lange

The visits in Scandinavia were arranged by Lene Jensby Lange. Lene is founder of Autens which is an educational consultancy that works with schools, local authorities, charities, architects and others to innovate learning spaces dedicated to personalising learning.   

Lene and her family hosted us in Copenhagen - we had a great time sharing philoophies about curriculum and school design.
Lene took us on a tour of schools that she has been involved with in design. The next few posts are a synopsis of the schools visited in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Utterslev Skole is a  new school with a focus on nature and science. Their curriculum encourages  project based learning to encourage creativity, curiousity and innovation.

The school has regular classroom spaces – whole class teaching with some break out spaces.

The curriculum is subject centric – teachers are subject teachers and have their own classroom spaces with breakout spaces that can be used for independent learning.  Creative and personalised teaching based on student choice happens when the students are  with the pedagogs.

Their primary department has an integrated after school club – run by pedagogs. Pedagogs are trained to teach creatively with a holistic whole child approach.

The science facilites at Utterslev Skole were very impressive. It is an honour for students to be selected to look after the range of animals in the science laboritries.

Creative response to growing rolls at Lauriston School, London

Laureston School, Hackney in London   had a growing roll and needed to replace and increase their current school size  and then demolish the old buildings. Performance, creativity and the arts are important drivers for Lauriston School and it was important that these key beliefs were reflected in the new build. The site is very tight and the school needed to be  in operation during the works.

The solution was to build a new 3 storey building that created a school more than twice that of the original, at the same time increasing the play space.
The foundation stage younger classes are located on ground level with free flow access to outside play.

Raised classrooms create a covered playground which is a great space for all weather play. There are  roof decks at various levels   which increase the amount of external playspace and outdoor learning experiences.

The school is constructed with large prefabricated timber panels and these provide an exposed timber internal environment that is  warm and visually appealing. They also work well for mounting displays.
Large wooden vents, easily operated, provide a sustainable ventilation system.

The  way the teaching and learning seemed to work was for the core teaching and learning to be delivered in classrooms and creative experiences in the adjoining creative spaces. Small group teaching also utilised these shared spaces.

The school has some great outdoor spaces including school vege gardens and a wonderful tree house.

   Strategies to strengthen learning  links with the community was impressive,  including  a separate art studio for 

   artists in residence  and  also utilised for school and community workshops and exhibitions 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Engaging Challenging Communities in Learning Design

Host: Headteacher:  Karen McBride
Governer: Rev Iain Brookes

The Croxteth Community Primary School and Child Development centre is in Mossway Liverpool - it is a new school build and opened in June 2012. This school is set in an area that has experienced generations of unemployment and the social issues that go hand in hand with low socio economic areas. The new school design has engaged the community and dramatically increased the school and home partnership around learning.

Karen explained that a lot of the design elements
came from student led design, This is a single storey building with classrooms arranged around three covered courtyards.

The building includes a impressive central learning zone / information centre, garden rooms, art and music rooms, a large community room and a creche.

There is an impressive ”4D Create” media room where the students can be immersed in  different worlds virtually to support their learning. There are outside areas for integrating play with the curriculum, as well as vegetable gardens and large tarmac areas.

There is very little wasted circulation space and areas such as the internal courtyards are utilised for moving through as well as learning and gathering places.

A key feature of the building is its sustainable ’green roof’ which has been planted with vegetation to absorb rainwater and provide insulation. Along with solar roof panels and water collection the school is very sustainable.

The students are taught in regular classrooms and the shared spaces are utilised for break outs for independent and collaborative work. These spaces inspire creativity.

I was really impressed  with the positive effect the inclusive process of school design had on this community. The improved results in student achievement is a testament to how school design can engage the community and strengthen school and home partnerships around learning.  

Stirling Campus Office Block Conversion

Late 2012, Abington Vale Primary school became part of the Northampton Primary Academy Trust. The school saw this as an opportunity for more autonomy to drive the school vision around collaboration. The academy joined together four schools which each became a campus of the Academy.

Abington Vale is a primary school across two sites.

Park Campus is the original site built in 1968. While in UK on my travel fellowship, we visited Stirling Campus which opened in 2013. The local council purchased Stirling House, a three story commercial office block in 2012. The office block conversion design principles are open, flexible and collaborative. This was the first initiative in the country but apparently it is common to refit commercial buildings as schools in Scandinavia and USA. The academy is committed to developing a dedicated outdoor space for the 4/5/6 year olds and this was under construction while we visited. The driver for building this new primary school was roll growth, as they are expecting more reception students over the next two years.
The council had commissioned a report to consider options for a new primary school and the cost of the commercial building fit out was significantly cheaper than a new build.

The 180 reception students currently occupy the ground floor and the principal is working on getting the next levels ready for occupation as these reception students moves through the school.

Principal Laura Cichuta is passionate about the spaces and ensuring that as the students move up through the school that the curriculum design of collaboration, flexibility and personalising learning will be consistent.

The challenge for the school is that the allocation of space per pupil is less and there was not funding for furniture and computers. However they use lots of different funding routes for solutions to these issues.

The take out for me was around the rich discussion had with Laura around the development of teaching and learning. She said that the starting point is working in teams and building those teams. You have to collaboratively work through;

·        How do we organise?
·        How do we make it work?

 I was impressed with the fact that whole groups could progress through the building as the school grows- they just move up a level and the next intake moves in to the ground level. The big advantage with this is that the pedagogy, which is aspirational around personalising learning can gradually be imbedded as the school grows. The other huge advantage is the opportunity to experiment and play with the open spaces to consider the possibilities of future learning space and learning design opportunities. The idea of a school in an office block conversion is a bit of a foreign concept in New Zealand, however I can see if carefully designed and with a commitment to indoor as well as outdoor learning spaces - it can be an excellent, economic fit for purpose.