Learning Environment Conference - Initial reflection...
For the last three days I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend the Learning Environment Conference in Melbourne. This event was unique as it specifically aimed at bringing architects, designers and educationalists (all of whom have a different perspective) together to consider this thing we call school and how the design and space we have interacts and influences both 'school' and the 'learning' that is happens within that environment.
Our school is not brand new and it was designed and built in an era when the thinking about classroom space and learning was quite simply about a room - period. There was not much (if any) thought given to acoustics, lighting, insulation and the overall link between the purpose and the specific design and use of space. All schools sixty years ago were one of three or four simple designs, no matter where they were being built. They also did not consider how they would grow if and when that happened. One of the key messages over the three days from speakers and site visits to school was that whether you are a new or an existing school we have to consider the development of the space we have and be specific about how we plan to develop and use the space, both now and in the future.
Planned development (and re-development) is key. This year in July we begin a new capital works budget period (Ministry of Education fund capital works projects on two five yearly cycles which form the 10 year Property Plan). This gives us a chance to develop a master plan that reflects our intent to connect our changing practice with ongoing property and building changes and innovation. The visible culture of learning at our school can be enhanced by planned and connected property development. This is also important as our town continues to grow over the coming years and Waipahihi School sitting at the end of town which has the space and residential zoning for growth.
One of the key contacts made while on this conference was with one of the key Ministry officials who is the key 'point man' for all the regional property facilitators and who is an old boy of our school! This contact is in our town at the end of the month and he's keen to come and have a look around 'our place' and talk about where we're at. While we are not earmarked for a massive injection of new building, developing key contacts like this, planning strategically for the years ahead and being adaptable to changes around us will stand us in good stead when the time comes!