Thursday, June 12, 2014

Here we go...

Yesterday we had a teacher only day. Our whole staff took a day to tour some established and some nearly established Modern Learning Environments around Christchurch. It was basically more of what we saw in Melbourne but very interesting and valuable to see things in a local context. These schools, like us, were affected by the earthquakes and are developing spaces around buildings that are damaged, under repair or purpose-built, depending on each school's individual situation. I picked up some great ideas for our own developing MLE.
At one point I was filmed explaining the process I underwent with my class last year. I hate being on camera! I was all red and stuttery, but think managed to communicate some sort of message, however garbled. Will post a link to this for you when it's been edited (ruthlessly, I hope!) and made public.

So today, after sharing my photos and observations from our tour with my class, it was time to get the kids' thinking in line with mine. Two weeks ago I set them a task to design their dream classroom. I put no restrictions, parameters or expectations on them. I felt like I needed to motivate and inspire them without putting barriers in the way of their creativity. It was all about generating ideas and enthusiasm and setting us up to talk about safety, sustainability and quality learning.
What they came up with surprised me. They came to school with models, artworks, floor plans... one child brought his X-Box and another brought her own ipad, both of which had used Minecraft to design their classrooms in 3D.

 Listening to a whole class speak 'Minecraft' is an interesting experience.

The traditional methods of presentation had some clever creative thought put into them, too. 
(More design photos coming)

And, as you might expect, they shared amazing things like trampoline floors, spa pool seating, indoor farmyards and bouncy castle reading areas. Perfect! They lined me up beautifully for questions like: Is it sustainable? What are the financial/environmental costs? Will it improve learning? Is it safe? Is it useful to all learners? Can children with special needs move around?
However, surprisingly, most of their ideas and concepts were actually geared to be realistic and to improve learning. I was pretty impressed.

After sharing of presentations, we watched this news article about the opening of Pegasus Bay School, a brand new MLE, which opened yesterday:

The kids loved it! They had ideas firing all over the show and I suspect the boss is about to be inundated with requests for exciting new furniture, dazzling new colour schemes and removal of walls, windows and possibly even the roof. Suddenly their wonderful homework designs seemed like a fantasy compared to the exciting possibilities of reality!

So that's it. 'Motivate and inspire' phase complete.

Next step: bring them crashing back down to a world of consultation, compromise, planning and budgets. :)

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