Every space tells a story: Is your library the community’s living room? 6xCs to shaping your narrative.

In the libraryI have a soft spot for libraries. I started my teaching career in a primary school as the teacher librarian. This isn’t usually the first job for a young graduate, but it was mine. I loved reading to the children, making author and theme related display, but most of all, seeing the children explore the world of literature and their own passions for learning.

Learning Spaces

Learning Spaces Making more effective learning environments  is an online journal by Imaginative Minds

The most recent edition (Vol 2.2  2014) has an article “Libraries for the future of all users” (by Lee Taylor).

The key function shift from one of “collector” to “connector” – where the primary purpose has moved from one of collecting books, information or music, to one providing a range of people the opportunity to use this space to connect intellectually and physically – a kind of “living room” for the city.

Have you ever considered the library as your school of community living room? This can happen when there is a shift from “collector” to “connector”.  Prioritising people over things.

What characterises a people-focused, future-focused library?

It’s a place for connection, where people’s needs are understood. In this article Taylor makes connections with new community libraries in the cities of Newcastle and Manchester in the UK, by Ryder Architecture. Both of these projects:

  • minimised staff spaces
  • maximisation of public/shared space
  • book collections mechanised for efficiency
  • provide varied places for different types of work
  • variety of collections that respond to community interests
  • welcoming entrance space

These points contrast to the libraries of the past:

  • books front and centre
  • command and control culture
  • task and process oriented staff
  • large designated staff work spaces to hide away
  • one large controlled space where silence is reinforced
  • facing barriers to entering

The architects decided that to make the library the community living room the users needs were important, that it was a shared and community-owned space. This meant that the designed included things like easily accessible power charging points and that the design was able to accommodate mixed mode study. I think we can all relate, I often have my laptop, iPad, mobile phone, paper, pens spread out around me when I’m working.

Newcastle City Library and Manchester Central Library are characterised by welcoming entrances. Generous and comfortable, a space to linger, where library-users can catch up for coffee.

So if it time to rethink your library, where do you start?

If you are thinking about making changes to a space, to make it more person-centres there are a few things to think about. I have synthesised these into 6xCs

  1. Community: All stakeholder needs considered
  2. Connection: Design space for connection and working styles
  3. Collections: Placement and storage of resources, books, artefacts
  4. Communication: The verbal and non-verbal messages conveyed
  5. Comfort: Fit out meet users’ needs  – furniture, air, light, technology, modes
  6. Cool: The space is interesting, attractive, inviting, fun and quirky

Here is a process to facilitate your team’s thinking and action steps for change:

1. Articulate the aspirations of the 6xCs for your context

  1. Community
  2. Connection
  3. Collections
  4. Communication
  5. Comfort
  6. Cool

2. Gather your working group, go on a field trip and have lunch together.

Visit recent developments in your city how do these spaces interpret the 6xCs:

  • City offices with a variety of places for working and connecting
  • Community libraries
  • Incubator/co-working spaces
  • University libraries and social spaces

Look again at your 6xCs and create a statement of aspiration for each.

City sights

3. Develop your strategy

A. What is the current situation?

B. Describe the library what you want to see.

C. What are the pathways from A to B? Can you prioritise them?

D. What are major barriers and obstacles to achieving your B?

E. Now, what will you do:

  • Within a week
  • Within a month
  • This year
  • Within 2 years

This is the kind of process I enjoy working through with groups – Identifying their A, dreaming about their B and then developing the strategy to get there. Let me know if I can help you with your change process.

I’m also thinking about a Library Learning Space Study tour to the UK. Looking at community, university and school libraries. Interested?

@anneknock

Every space tells a story. Is yours a place that supports the work of innovation? 10 Ideas to ponder

A few years ago I was presenting a workshop at a conference that was held in a school. The classroom allocated to me was one of the most depressing spaces I had ever encountered. As a professional learning space, I tried to do my best to reconfigure it, but the only thing I could really do was shift the orientation.

classroom

What did this space tell me about itself? The teacher was the most important person in the room. There was nothing else to look at. The old posters on the wall were tatty and who knows what view there was on the other side of the black plastic that was covering the windows. The large clunky benches meant that there was little opportunity for collaboration. The space shouted the culture at me: sit down and listen, don’t look out the window, look to the screen at the front. I will tell you everything you need to know.

Every space tells a story.

This is what’s happening in the world of work:

20120223-061939.jpg

Your next workplace may look more like your lounge room than an office. Architects of a new generation of modern buildings are offering workers ”living spaces” and ”lounge” facilities to make them feel at home, often replacing the traditional desk and chair.
(SMH 9 July, 2014)

 

What story does that tell? Comfort, pleasant surroundings and a sense of being ‘at home’ matters to productivity, creativity and innovation.

What story does a learning space need to tell?Maglegard

Think about the spaces you work or teach in. Does the surrounding physical environment support and facilitate the learning that you want? How does it positively influence the desired culture?

 

 

John Seely Brown, co-chair at the Deloitte Centre for the edge contends that the cultures that constantly produce innovation share three characteristics: visionary leadership; an organizational commitment to breakthrough thinking; and a place that supports the work of innovation. (Forbes)

When we talk about innovative schools, the three characteristics are the same:IMG_1230

  • Visionary leadership
  • An organisational commitment to breakthrough
  • A place that supports the work of innovation

Learning spaces for the innovative school need to be places where students and teachers can collaborate, share knowledge and learn together. Separate does not allow for this – separate desks and separate classrooms.

What are the considerations in designing a learning space that supports and facilitates innovation?

The Zone

  1. Flexibility: Wheels, movement and ‘reconfigurable’
  2. Technology: Seamlessly embedded into the space, simple and reliable
  3. Furniture: Choose the place to work and connect, facilitate collaboration
  4. An inspiring feel: Aesthetics matter, natural light, an aspect, empty space
  5. Storage: Thought-through, embedded and easily accessed
  6. SCIL BuildingMultiple focal points: No area is identifiable as the “front of the class”
  7. Light, air temperature and quality: To minimise stuffiness
  8. Subtle and unsubtle zoning: Spaces within spaces
  9. Acoustic engineering: To enable multiple conversations across the space
  10. On brand: Supports the vision and
    aspirational culture of the school

@anneknock

Further reading: How place fosters innovation. 360° Research, Steelcase

Leadership again: “I’ve opened the space for learning, now what?” #thingsyoushouldneversay

Imagine if the story of the stork delivering the baby was true.

When I was young, kids’ TV shows didn’t dare mention, or even allude to, the real method of conception and delivery. Instead, we saw the image of a stork delivering a baby, perhaps unsuspectingly, to the happy couple.

The Stork

“The baby’s here, now what?” Imagine that.

Prior to the arrival of our first-born, by the conventional method of course, there was much preparation for this newest family member. We made initial plans and preparation for the responsibilities ahead – bought supplies, furniture and the enormous amount of equipment that the small person apparently required.

When he arrived we muddled our way through. As time went on we adjusted our plans and expectations, however, the months of preparation were essential. This baby was going to change our lives. It definitely wasn’t a matter of ‘business as usual’ once he arrived.

Open Space Learning: From conception to inceptionPArklands

Like any great idea, plan or endeavour there is a point of conception, when the idea was first formed. I have heard anecdotal accounts of teachers arriving for the new school year, finding walls down and shared learning spaces created. It didn’t end well.

Just like prior to the arrival of a baby, there are significant preparations to be made. The role of the team/school leader is to simultaneously listen and respond to concerns and to reinforce vision and direction.

At Northern Beaches Christian School shared spaces for learning are constantly being developed. In 2008 it started with Year 7 in the Global Learning Village, 2010 with The Zone for Stage 3 and Year 8 Quest for an integration of Science and Geography. Over the past few years the idea has spread across primary, to maths, design, technology and music.Rhythm & Blues

The development of each of these spaces requires constant attention, prior to staff and students using the open space, and then continued development, even after occupancy:

From conception – the germ of the idea

1. Reinforce a positive mindset, while considering every concern

If you truly believe that opening and sharing learning spaces are the right thing, then stick with it. Listen to concerns, respond to them, be empathic and supportive, while simultaneously resolute about the decision.

2. Design the space to achieve the vision The Zone

A sledgehammer to the walls is only the first step. Unless the physical environment is carefully crafted the space will more than likely default to a modified single cell use. Name and define zones within the open space.

3. Constantly communicate the desired culture (behaviour)

Be clear on how the space will be used. Communicate it and communicate it again. Share stories and paint pictures. Spark excitement and enthusiasm. The more that the leader talks about the changes the better.

To inception – the starting point

4. Be fluid and flexible Design Studio

Once staff and students start using the space adjustments will be made. This is normal. The vision remains clear, but execution needs to be tweaked. As a leader, be involved in all these discussions. It is important to keep the vision clear.

5. Take action to ensure that behaviours don’t default to old ways

Without reinforcing the vision, culture and desired behaviours old habits can creep in. Cupboards and bookcases can become walls spaces become delineated instead of fluid zones. Communicate vision and communicate it again

Opening spaces for learning is definitely not a ‘business as usual’ activity. Like the passing of time between conception and delivery of a baby, preparations for this ‘baby’ needs to commence as early as possible. School leaders not only need to fully own the decision, but give teachers the support and encouragement for the idea to grow and mature.

@anneknock

 

 

Multi-level schools for multi-level living: 7 lessons from great cities around the world (and lots of pics)

Living room comfortLook around at the places where people gather: shopping malls, offices, hotel lobbies, pubs. All these places are seeking to make an environment that make people want to return. At my local mall there are numerous ‘living room’ areas for people to sit, meet and wait. The design of these new communities are multi-level, spacious and use colour and lighting to create the right atmosphere. The designers thought about the way people move around, to see more, stay longer and presumably purchase more.

primary school 3The traditional Australian school has a wide, broad footprint, reflecting the spaciousness of our land. Usually, they are single or double storey buildings, opening onto a covered verandah overlooking a play area. This means there are often fewer corridors to herd the students along.

However, in many cities today, the medium to high density housing market is booming, bringing families into the city and apartment living. As a result schools in these areas are bursting at the seams. Many of us live in multi-level cities, but are reluctant to think about multi-level schools school.

I have visited multi-storey schools in a number of cities around the world. Older cities like New York, London, Amsterdam need schools where the people are and the people are in the older parts of the city, but even in new developments in Manchester, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Auckland schools are designed to go ‘up’ rather than ‘out’.

What does it mean to rethink how we design schools in Australia? Here are some ideas from around the world, schools and libraries I have visited on SCIL Vision Tours that may provide insight into rethinking the design of school.

Multi-level schools: Often designed around an atrium, these schools open the learning, giving a sense of space within. The spaces for learning are wide, multi-age and/or large cohorts often share an entire floor.

Shared open social spaces: One of the most common elements of multi-level schools are the social/meeting/eating spaces, where the whole community are welcome, without barriers that separate staff spaces from student spaces.

Stairs as a focal point and gathering place: In a number of schools and libraries the stairs are designed to be more than the means of travelling between levels. Wide stairs area enable free flow of movement of large numbers of students and also serve as gathering places for the community.

Spaces within spaces: These smaller spaces enable groups to work on a project, individuals to get into their own headspace and they also can create a sense of fun. A large open space can be broken up with smaller spaces.

Open movement areas and wide corridors extend the learning areas: Corridors have traditionally been considered the efficient means for movement, but are often an inefficient use of valuable space for learning. Make them wide, accessible and part of the learning area.

Light, colour, comfort: Each of these require attention. Designing a space that enables the students to see outside, to see sky and trees and to work in natural light helps everyone’s mood. Similarly, bringing colour through lighting, wall colours, murals or glass panels adds vibrancy.

Many of us like to choose the location and the furniture for the task, it is the same with students. A variety of furniture types provides students with choice. This will mean that all students may not be facing the front, which begs the question, “Do we really need a front at all?”

The People matter: A well-designed school is the starting point, creating the right culture and supporting the students and teachers in the use of the space is essential. Here are a few key areas that require deliberate planning and careful execution to make the transition:

  • Creating a collaborative work and learning culture
  • Rethinking the role of the teacher
  • Simple and reliable technology
  • Leadership that communicates vision

@anneknock

 

 

On the road in CPH: The Hub, Maglegardskolan & Orestad Gymnasium #VisionTour13

After much planning our tour group gathered together for dinner last night at a restaurant in downtown Copenhagen (CPH) run by a young Australian guy. It was the first opportunity for us all to meet and start the getting-to-know-you process, as we travel together for the next two weeks.

The Hub CPHThe morning started with a good walk across town to the Hub CPH. There was plenty of time to chat along the way as we joined in the morning commute, trying to remember to stay out of the bike lanes. CPH is a beautiful city. 

 

The Hub movement – Where change goes to work – is a worldwide community of co-working and event spaces for entrepreneurs and change-makers. Laura, our host, showed us around explaining the use of the different areas and the aims of the Hub.

HUB CPH

The Hub encourages innovation, creativity and sustainability. With different spaces designed for different ways of working – open, collaborative, engaged and quiet.

So why did you decide to join us for the Vision Tour? 

Unless you come along on this kind of trip you don’t know what you don’t know.

Our group is comprised of educational leaders – principals, a board chair, school systems leaders and facility planners, from NSW, Qld, SA and ACT – grappling with questions like:

How do we continue to engage students? They start off keen in the early years and then this deteriorates.

Can we help teachers not to revert to the industrial model in new spaces?

What is the resource centre for schools today?

What are the design challenges to incorporate into new schools?

How do we make collaboration the default, not the control model?

Can space lead to better pedagogy?

Can we invest in new ways of teaching and maintain academic standards?


So why did you decide to come?
This was the first framing session and Stephen Harris set the scene for change ahead, asking:

What common language do you need to create the culture you want?

What do you need to do for every student to have an equal user experience at school?

And challenging the group with: What do we really believe about change?

From there we started the educational adventure.

Two schools…

MaglegardskolenMabglegardskolan

The interesting feature about Maglegard is the grouping of three grades in the one home space – 75 children, with 5 teachers. They start the morning altogether as a community, then use the entire space as a learning area. The ‘classroom’ spaces are small – instruction is limited to around 15 minutes, then
MAglegardskolan
each child goes to a shared work area. Every student has their own plan, in their own portfolio.

This was my second visit to this school and I enjoyed the openness and friendliness of the students as they shared their work with me. Also, the communal area of the space, with the kitchen the sofas and the fish tank made it feel like home.
Maglegardskolan

Orestad GymnasiumIMG_2535

Architecturally, Orestad Gymnasium is impressive. This school is now five years old and is renowned for its outstanding design. A central spiral staircase forms the heart of the vertically designed senior high school.

Everyone can see everyone.

It is located in the growing IT district of Orestad, full of interesting and quirky
Orestad Gymnasium
buildings. The senior high school is
preparation ground for students who seek university education.

We were hosted by two students, Christoffer and Nikita. Their honest and candid reflections were helpful. The school is open and spaces are bookable as needed. There are closed off classrooms where learning lectures are held, but these students prefer the collaborative approaches. Only 20% of their learning time is in lecture format.

And in between… Lunch at a most amazing building.

We stopped for lunch in the Orestad precinct at a uniquely designed housing and 8 Housebusiness development – 8 House.

The bowtie-shaped 61,000 sqm mixed-use building of three different types of residential housing and 10,000 sqm of retail and offices comprises Denmark’s largest private development ever undertaken…the 8 House stacks all ingredients of a lively urban neighbourhood into horizontal layers of typologies connected by a continuous promenade and cycling path up to the 10th floor creating a three-dimensional urban neighbourhood where suburban life merges with the energy of a city, where business and housing co-exist. 

8 House

8 House cafe

 

In the new paradigm of work and learning, have we given sufficient thought to the teacher workspace?

20120223-061243.jpgIn the last couple of weeks I have had tours of city workplaces, particularly in the banking sector, that are opting for the activity-based work (ABW) approaches to organising their people and spaces.

ABW does away with a personal workspace for each employee, while providing different spaces for various work functions, including collaboration, learning, focusing, and socialising. Read more.

Luc Kamperman, from Veldhoen, the Dutch company that pioneered this approach commented in an interview:

Activity based working in a building is really characterised by a different environment, different spaces, different settings for people to either concentrate individually or to collaborate with a couple of people together. 

This all makes sense. It looks and feels like the open learning spaces in school – for the students,  but has the teacher own workspace kept up?

What could a teacher’s workspace (other than the learning space) look like?

Individual study corals

Messy desks

Stacked high with paper, folders and lots of unused resources

Little consideration of the aesthetics – bare brick wall and fluorescent lighting

‘Stuck’ beside the colleague who drives you crazy

Lacking in a sense of pride and collective ownership

In the ABW environment the employees have choice, very similar to what many of us advocate for our students. Workspaces are not owned, people have lockers for their gear. There are kitchens, shared tables, quiet nooks and meeting areas. There is no mess, nothing left out at the end of the day and, over time, personal responsibility taken.

Generally in these buildings there are 75% of spaces for the number of people who work there – with city office costs, it provides a significant saving on the cost of business. The actual place of work depends on the project at hand and who they need to work alongside.

The benefits, however, are more than just cost savings, the Commonwealth Bank found:

The kicker was an increase in the work/life satisfaction level, which jumped from 10 per cent before the move to 72 per cent. Almost 80 per cent of employees said they were inspired by their new environment. 

For our students we might focus on the 4Cs of 21stC learning:

Creative

Critical thinkers

Collaborators

Communicators

But the ideas are valid for the staff as well. And to that we can probably add two more Cs

Choice

Change

How are we providing the physical context to make this happen, and then help teachers shift in their thinking from privatising work and learning to a shared and collaborative culture. Education has a lot to learn from activity-based work.

It requires a significant mental shift in ownership from ‘my space’ to ‘our space’, from paper-based resources, to digital and cloud storage. It takes time and determination. We are preparing our young people for a world that relies more on the 4Cs, once they’ve mastered the 3Rs. By rethinking the way that teachers work, we are helping them understand the reason why the way students learn may need to change.

Ultimately, they just might enjoy it as well.

@anneknock

PS… If you are interested in hearing more about this, join us for CEFPI Australasia’s event: Relearn2013 on 14 and 15 November in Sydney

Open space learning: Let’s talk about the elephant-in-the-(class)-room. The ABC of acoustics

miss a beatI was standing in The Zone with an architect.

The hubbub of learning engagement was all around. 180 students and six teachers call this space ‘home’ at Northern Beaches Christian School. In front of us a teacher was taking a large group through a step-by-step process on a particularly technical aspect of uploading their work to the portal. This group of Year 5 and 6 students were focussed, sitting on the floor with their devices on their laps.

To our right another group were sitting at tables, their heads down, working on a pen and paper task. After a few moments this group stood as one and picked up their work to relocate for the next activity.

As we watched this happen the architect said to me, “They didn’t miss a beat, teachers tell us that open learning won’t work because the students are distracted.” He was referring to the group in front of us. While the commotion and movement of about 20 students were happening not one of them looked up or were off task.

Many people cite noise and distractions as the reasons why open learning will not work. 2013-04-20 20.26.01 Research on innovation and creativity reinforces that the best ideas come when we put our heads together. Open learning facilitates collaboration and team work. So if we really believe this to be the future of school, then the physical environment must be conducive to this. Not just rethinking the spaces, we also need to shift the mindset of the educators and students on what is actually productive work and how does it best occur. The acoustics matter.

Acoustic effectiveness is personal. What’s good for you, may not work for me. I have never been able to work or read when there is certain music in the background. If there is singing, I will listen and can’t focus.

I was talking with another visitor in The Zone a while back. He does work facilitating effective workplace design. He said to me that when there are less than five conversations within earshot we become distracted by them. However, once there are more than five, it becomes ‘white noise’, a more productive sound than silence.

Noise can be productive. 2013-04-20 20.26.19

Perhaps the most significant obstacle is mindsets – often educators and parents. People cite the so-called ‘failure’ of the ‘open learning experiment’ of the 1970s. This is not a fair comparison, in my opinion. At the time there was very little regulated curriculum and technology and its ability to open the world of learning was not yet conceived. Culturally, the 60s and 70s were an experimental era,
with little accountability.
2013-04-20 20.25.41

Today, we work differently and we learn differently. Often the complaints about the noise and the distractions come from teachers who either assume that it won’t work, or haven’t received sufficient support in changing the way the learning now needs to occur.

The ABC of good acoustics

elementWhen I walk into The Zone with visitors from other schools they are usually overwhelmed by the productive environment – 180x 10-12 year olds, actively engaged in learning. Teachers are working with groups and/or roving the space, touching base with students. I usually make the comment, “probably one of the most important elements that makes the space work is something that you don’t actually notice”. Then I point to the acoustic panels on the ceiling. When I visit schools and find that an open space is not working well, the first question I usually ask is how the sound levels are being managed.

The UK group Acoustics at Work has produced a report that simply describes the ABC of acoustic management. The focus on the office environment, but can be relevant to the open learning space.

Absorb Absorption of sound waves minimise noise reflection. The materials selected for the ceiling, the floor and the furnishings make a huge difference.

Block Temporary/movable partitions alter the sound path. This can reduce the level of sound transmitted and can facilitate individual work.

Cover Noise masking systems can artificially increase ambient noise levels to provide background (white) noise.

When I taught young children and noticed a problem with learning, my first suggestion to the parents was to check the child’s eyes and ears. It is similar with spaces we work and learn within. The key elements physical environment should be addresses first.

If we are committed to open learning, attention to the acoustic environment is essential for effectiveness of the learning and wellbeing of all.

@anneknock

If you would like to see The Zone in action visit us scil.com.au

Reference for Breakout quotes

There’s no *place* like *home* – why comfort and community matter when we work, learn, play & create

This post is my presentation at the Education Future Forum, 15 March 2013

Slide02

There is no sense of ‘place’ that is greater than ‘home’.

Hugh Mackay, in What makes us tick? Ten desires that drive us  says

‘My place’ is partly an anchor, partly a refuge, partly a stable point in a world that seems kaleidoscopic in the complexity of shifting patterns…we need to know where we belong; we need to feel that some physical place stands as a symbol of our uniqueness and acceptance.

The places where we spend most time are home and work. The picture of the employee in isolation is changing, as we prefer to work in community with others. Yahoo recently banned working from how, because as CEO Melissa Mayer stated, “we are one Yahoo” and community and connection is essential to culture change.

The traditional office  isn’t  particularly inspiring either. People often like to just hang out, work in proximity with other like-minded people. This has led to  a happy medium between home and work.

Sometimes curing office doldrums is simply about a temporary change of scenery, whether that’s in a coffee shop, a co-working space or even a park bench. (Link)

Over the last couple of decades there has been a shift in the way people work and learn, breaking down barriers, enabling choice and recognising that ownership of time space and very work itself is a huge motivating factor. The term ‘third place’  was coined by Ray Oldenburg an urban sociologist. In his book The Great Good Place he writes about the importance of informal public gathering spaces. “Third places” are essential to community vitality.

The $8bn Green Square project in inner Sydney is an urban development will eventually be the home for more than 40,000 people by 2030.  A young architectural team came up with the winning plan for the library at Green Square:

Artist impression 1

Artist impression 2

The below-ground vision will include garden storytelling, rolling hills and a sunken garden for reading and relaxing. It features an amphitheatre, water play area and music rooms where residents can practise on their instruments without disturbing neighbours.

Did anyone mention books?

Today, the library is a third place where people come to meet, read, work and belong. The word ‘library’ was once only synonymous with the word ‘book’. Now it is a ‘place’. The architects described this library as the ‘community living room’, a third place where people can be comfortable and productive at the same time. The library that feels like home.

The Hub “Where change goes to work”  is a non-profit communal movement across the globe that is recreating the work environment.

The Hub

HUBs are uniquely designed spaces that provide a creative environment as well as a professional infrastructure to work, meet, learn and connect. Individuals rent spaces to work with other  entrepreneurs or project space with their team. The spaces are comfortable, with a variety of furnishings, a cafe and a kitchen.

We believe physical spaces are key to our impact  – for work, collaboration, inspiration, community, vibrant spaces, tools, connection, innovation. Why work from home when you can co-locate with other like-minded people at The Hub?

Slide14Slide16

Another example of the third space is The Design Factory at Aalto University in Helsinki. This is a cross-disciplinary project space furnished in the same way as the hub, catering for different ways of working and placing shipping containers to create a variety of working areas – spaces within spaces.

Slide19

Importantly, the kitchen provides a focal point and an opportunity for “planned coincidences”. It houses the only coffee machine in the building, so people must come to the kitchen to connect.

Design Factory

So what happens when school feels like home?

For generations, educationally, we’ve been polishing the chrome on the Holden Kingswood (or Edsel or Cortina), without seeing the need to reinvent in the hybrid-vehicle era. For generations the physical place of school has remained the same, when all around people are working and learning in markedly different ways. Think about the hospital/medical services, the way we communicate, how we access music and purchase goods – yet there is a constancy to the way schools look – for decades.

Slide23

The physical environment does matter. This was identified by a pilot study by the University of Salford and architects, Nightingale Associates. This study  found that the classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25%.

 Slide26  GM23

Schools we have visited in Scandinavia, and in particular Denmark and Sweden,  the design definitely feels like home. There are communal living rooms with soft furnishings and kitchens within the learning space, especially for primary and middle years.

There are, of course, other spaces for instructional sessions, but there were no rigid rows, but coworking tables. These spaces are generally kept small, because they aren’t spaces to stay in all day.

Slide29

I witnessed a ‘school feels like home’ moment last year.  

The teacher brought the young boy over to the kitchen, took a plate, put some crackers with cheese together for him and then sat at the ‘kitchen table’ to work with him on his maths problems.

Slide30

Kunskapsskolan is a system of more than 30 free schools across Sweden. The schools have a specific replicable design that is evident at each site.

Slide34

 

A new Kunskapsskolan school is not built on fresh greenfield site, but a disused factory, warehouse, shop or hospital that can accommodate the design and way of working – one characterised by light, visibility and flexibility.

Slide33

Every space is a learning space.

The starting point for design is to think of the entire space available as a potential learning area, not defaulting to “dividing space into static classrooms with connecting corridors”

Most areas have multiple functions …the cafeteria doubles up as a space for collaboration.

Visitors to Kunskapsskolan often remark that our schools look more like the site of a modern, creative knowledge industry, rather than a traditional school.

How do we make school feel like home? 

Slide37

Test every assumption about school – just because we have always have classrooms, desks, chairs and a teacher at the front, it doesn’t mean they are the necessary elements.

Identify what is actually necessary – begin with the end in mind.

Observe the times – how do your students connect, learn and communicate?

Ditch those things that don’t matter any more – how much of what we do is due to what has always been done?

Focus on relationships – at all levels, and at every nexus.

…And be brave.

@anneknock

 


The global Hub movement: How the ‘Third Place’ creates a working, social and communal space with purpose #scilvision12

The Third Place refers to a coworking space that creates a rich community of creative businesses, non-profits and start-ups. They generally have a unique culture where opportunity and idea sharing takes place. The concept of the Third Place emerged from a combination of the home office, flexible hours and results oriented work.

The concept of ‘working from home’, with its freedom and flexibility has morphed into the need for people to be co-located with other like-minded individuals. They have moved on from just taking up a table at the local cafe, to purpose-designed spaces where entrepreneurs and independent workers seek to be part of a community.

We visited the Westminster Hub, part of the global HUB network. Tim, one of the co-founders was kind enough to invite us in and show us around. Walking around we saw people working individually, in pairs and in groups. There is a place for gathering groups together – cave, campfire and watering hole.

The following week we were in Helsinki and found the local HUB community. A newer operation, but the principles and philosophy was the same.

We set out to create spaces that combine the best of a trusted community, innovation lab, business incubator and the comforts of home.

Community

Collaboration

Creativity

Co-locating

Comfortable

There are parallels with the design and fit out that can be translated to the design, fit out and use of open learning spaces.

Community: Is the space inviting and encourages people to connect?

Collaboration: How does the furniture and arrangement of the space facilitate connection and collaboration?

Creativity: Can ideas incubate?

Co-locating: Does each user need to be on the same task, working on the same outcome? They don’t have to be.

Comfortable: How do you like to work? Tables, sofas, open-spaces, closed spaces – provide choice

When people are passionate about what they do and motivated to achieve outcomes, no one is needed to ‘crack the whip’.

Kids just need space. Room to move, to play and explore.

I attended a great school site visit today and it struck me, that all kids need their schools to have space and freedom to move. All kids.

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Giant Steps is a school in Sydney for high needs children and young people with autism. It is located in heritage listed buildings on the former asylum on the Parramatta River. Site has beautiful sandstone buildings, not actually purpose built for a school, of any type. The staff and students work in defined spaces with thick sandstone walls, with little possibility for opening them up, due to heritage listing and the sheer cost.
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The campus, on the Gladesville Psychiatric Hospital, and the site has grown from a single, redundant building to a collection of spaces that educate and support young people from 3 – 18 years of age.

Giant Steps was founded to help educate children and families experiencing autism, to alleviate associated stress and to guide in the achievement of measurable results.

We saw a short video of Charlie and how he processed the elements of the end of the day. His exit from the school day included a deviation to jump on the trampoline, because he could. He had freedom to be himself.

An independent school, Giant Steps doesn’t charge fees, it receives government funding for about half of the running costs and relies on donations and fundraising for the remaining operational funds. There is a strong community feel, with families pitching in to get the work done.

Traditionally special needs schools have been relegated to ‘left over’ space – space that has been gratefully utilised but is often a long way from a purposefully designed environment for high needs students. We heard from the staff about how the design and elements of the physical space impacts on the learning, social and emotional needs of a young person with autism.

The purpose of our visit was to see Markaling House, a modest building which was funded through the Building Education Revolution program, the 2009 GFC stimulus program by the Australian Government. This building has been the recipient of a number of architectural awards. The space is a direct result of a true collaboration between the schools staff, parents and architects. Markaling House is a demonstration of how a considered building can become an educative tool.

Its use of natural light and indirect light reflecting off the bright yellow walls and ceiling was surprisingly calming.

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I chatted to Kerrie, the principal, about the learning space for kids with autism, and asked:

If you could design a school from scratch for your kids, what would it look like?

Her answer? Space, for movement, for play, for kids to be kids, openness and freedom. Wide and broad spaces for play and breakout spaces when needed. It would have pods for learning in different ways. Her answer wasn’t much different from any other teacher I might ask.

It’s the same for all kids. The floor plate for schools, for all kids, needs to be broad and wide. Resetting the default position from corralling kids and teachers into manageable boxes to supporting freedom, choice and openness.

We may just get a calmer, happier schools and interested and engaged students.