Endeavour School

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Written by Marcus Freke

Spaces within space

Posted on 10 April 2017

Endeavour School is physically different from any other school in the Waikato, probably New Zealand.  A question many people ask is why change the physical design of the learning spaces?  Many cynics will say it’s cheaper to build an Innovative Learning Environment compared to a traditional ‘single-cell school’, and this is probably true, but there is more to it than that.  A key principle that underpins school design is ‘Form versus Function’.  This basic idea says that the physical form of a space will determine how it functions.

 

Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”  So what ‘shape’ do our learners need to be?  Traditional school’s physical environment enables them to function in one way.  It was based on the industrial model assumption that every student learnt in the same way, at the same pace, at the same time.  All that was required is one teacher to transmit facts to a group of 30 students while they were all sitting in rows, at desks recording the teacher's knowledge.  All that was needed was a standard size classroom with desks and chairs the appropriate size.  New Zealand persevered with this model for over a 100 years.  The ‘shape’ of learners from this environment was extrinsically motivated learners who memorised and replicated other people’s knowledge and are compliant and dependent on the teacher.  We know that is not what learners need to be for the 21st Century. 


Endeavour School’s form allows it to function in a way that produces learners in a different shape.  A criticism of Innovative Learning spaces is that they are ‘large, open barns’, this is not the case at Endeavour School.  Based on research and design work done by Swedish architect David Thornburg, each learning community has ‘spaces within the space’.  There are spaces for children to work quietly by themselves (cave spaces), there are spaces for collaborative learning (watering holes), there are spaces set up for working with the teacher ( fire places), spaces to celebrate learning (mountain top) and spaces to experiment, fail and start again (sandpit).  For more information have a look at this link: Thornburg - Campfire in cyberspace.

 

By having different spaces within the learning community children are able to learn in a manner that best suits them.  Learners are encouraged to reflect on what type of learning they need to be doing to achieve the outcomes they want.  The spaces are intimate and students are not distracted by what is happening around them.  The furniture is flexible and can be moved to be set up to suit what the learning activity is and the number of learners involved.  The acoustics at Endeavour School are designed so noise levels are very low even with up to 100 learners in a community.  Our spaces are designed so there is no ‘front of class’ so are teachers don’t slip back into a lecture mode of teaching. 

 

All of these features allow Endeavour School to be a highly flexible learning environment.  This means we can be responsive to a range of learning styles.   The shape for Endeavour learners is confident, highly collaborative learners who are thinkers and able to use the school environment to enhance their learning, they are not limited by it.  The spaces Endeavour School allow for ‘Learning without Limits’.

 

Marcus

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