Saturday, August 12, 2017

Vision Led Design

At Freemans Bay School, we strongly believe that it is important to have a clear vision for learning that prepares students for their future. The five-year olds who start school this year will be graduating from Highschool around 2035. We need to think about what sort of spaces they will be working and studying in and join the dots between education space, curriculum design and developing attributes needed for their future world. The Innovative Learning Environment (ILE) design of our new buildings promote flexibility, collaboration, creativity, choice and personalised learning.

Our school vision of "Engage, Enrich, Empower" underpins our plan to align school design and collaborative and flexible ways of teaching and learning. We want our students to experience learning spaces like the modern activity based designed office spaces that many parents experience in their work spaces today, rather than the factory typing pool or hierarchical silo offices of the past.

The item on TV1’s ‘Seven Sharp’ show last week, looked at ILE through a very narrow lens. It was disappointing that the article was so one sided. It did not refer to the New Zealand Ministry of Educations research and evidenced based policy on ILEs accessible on their website. Nor did it refer to any of the research underpinning the global movement towards ILE in education and workplace design.  The  OECD Handbook on Innovative Learning Environments pulls together recent research on ILEs. You can also click here for some of the latest research on ILEs.

The ‘Seven Sharp’ article seems to be promoting teaching in single classrooms in the same way as  in the 1960s or back in even further. The sentiment of, “It worked for me so therefore why change things”, does not have the depth of thinking required to influence schooling design.  It is important to rethink last century school design and align with what we want to happen today. Joining the dots on the best evidenced conditions for learning and attributes required in the workforce beyond 2035 is a priority for school design.

Typical 1960's single cell classroom
Sir Ken Robinson, in his 2010 Ted talk,” Bring on the Learning Revolution”  promotes that for students to meet their creative potential in our schools we must shift from standardised schools to schools that personalise learning and create conditions where learners can discover their passions and flourish.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


This weekend I was thinking about the design of our second stage of our new school build which is due to commence after Easter.

We have some interesting spaces  planned,  that are designed with learning in mind, particularly how the brain works and how to activate brain pathways for learning to happen. 

My colleague Lene Lensby Lange in Copenhagan explained to me that all school designs in Denmark must include encouragement for movement. This is because we know that if learners are encouraged to physically move around their learning environment they will learn more efficiently as there is a relationship between movement and activating brain pathways.

Lene has shared some recent design elements from schools in Denmark in the photos in this post.

We are very pleased that in our design of learning spaces in our next build at Freemans Bay School, we will include some design elements seen in Scandinavia and UK. These will include a slide from one level of the building to the next, climbing walls through travelling spaces, floor patterns to encourage movement, elevated seating for climbing, a cave space to crawl into and a treehouse hut to climb up the stairs to.

These design elements are included as thought has gone into the most important client, young children, and the  way they are motivated to learn. The design encourages the learners to move around the building in different ways . The design will encourage learners to climb, crawl and run around installations. These spaces will encourage new ways to motivate and engage students in collaboration and creativity in their learning. They will also motivate them to engage and attend school.

The vision behind our design elements is different to many other schools in New Zealand and Australia as they deliberately explore the relationship between play and learning. We are exploring the interaction between developing the skills for learning and the way children learn. We are thinking about how school design encourages the users to incorporate physical challenges in their learning and to learn with others in different collaborative ways.

The thinking behind our new learning spaces is based on the relationship between play, physical movement and learning. We believe that opportunities for physical exercise and the way learners will use the spaces will provide motivating spaces for new ways of teaching and learning,

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The shift from teacher led to learner led education
Freemans Bay School is involved in the construction of building a new school. This involves demolishing current buildings and designing new learning spaces that will give traction to learner led personalised education. You can view these web cams to see the development over the last nine months and also how we have to meet the challenge of carrying on teaching and learning on such a tight construction site.

Freemans Bay Cam-1 to March 2017

Freemans Bay Cam-2 March 2017

The design of buildings is not enough. To change learning culture and practices collaboration is needed from design phase to evaluation of new practices. This process needs to be resourced. Unless teachers are prepared and provided with the necessary time and expertise to develop new ways of working, the newly renovated spaces will not move them to innovative technologies and teaching practices.

It is important that every school embarking on a school redevelopment or those building new schools, consider how to realise their vision for teaching and learning through a collaborative process with their school communities and project team.

Ideally the design team needs to focus on what the learning will look like to determine design elements that will support the school vision around learning. For schools to utilise design to reflect their vision of learning in terms of space and pedagogy they need to collaborate to agree what actual practice in the new learning spaces will look like. This important process needs to be led and resourced.

Last year our Ministry of Education introduced staffing support funding for schools who were involved in significant capital works projects.

A school can access a maximum of $50K of capital works funding in the first year and $25K in the second year to support the principal with additional staffing. There is a $3m threshold for projects likely to need this support funding.

At Freemans Bay School we have accessed these funds to resource hiring professional development consultants to  focus on resourcing teachers to collaborate around what the learning experiences in the new spaces will look like.

We will be moving our first group of learners into their new learning hub on May 1st this year and these teachers and learners will be able to test their newly developed ideas around new ways of working to give traction on the shift from teacher-led education