The process of gathering student voice about our learning environments began with our very youngest of learners. For these children, who had spent up to a year at school it was a great chance for them to share a bit about their own experience of our learning spaces.
We began with finding out about what children liked about learning in their existing spaces and aimed to discover where they liked learning best. Alison Clarks book, Transforming Children’s Spaces provided excellent frameworks and strategies for eliciting students’ narratives and feedback on place and was a key resource.
A team of teachers worked with children in Learning Hub One (Years 0-1) to elicit responses about the places they enjoyed learning in. Students were asked “Where do you like learning, and why?” Children were encouraged to talk, to draw pictures, both individually and collaboratively, and made models to illustrate their preferences.
In responding they frequently referred to a number of different areas in their hub e.g. The Butterfly pod, and Google Room. These are labels that the students have helped to create and it was interesting to see how often they were used as reference markers. A couple of children drew a map to help explain where the areas referred:
There was a wide range of responses:
E - I like to learn in the Google pod next to the doors, I like to be able to see the gardens. I like to see the caterpillars
M - I like to go to the Apple room because it is quiet.
K - In the Rainbow Room because there ‘is’ computers. I like the Penguin Pod because there are books and computers and Mobilo.
A - I like the awhina space because it has nice beanbags.
L - I like to learn in the in the Butterfly Pod because Miss H is a good teacher. I like to sit at a table next to the window.
Z- I like the Apple room I can make stories in here I like using it before school and in reading time. I like the chairs and sitting on the mat. I like the rainbow room too we can make stories.
F- I like to learn on the beanbags because I love the beanbags. I can sit near the windows and I like to see the cars.M- I like the penguin pod because there is lots pencils on tables and there are chairs.
What was really interesting were the frequent references to learning that took place outside the classroom. This is only natural to hear, especially perhaps with our five year olds who have grown to expect that level of indoor-outdoor learning flow at their early childhood centres. One of them for example, commented that she liked learning in the staffroom best, "because we can do baking there". Her next suggestion was to have a stove in the new learning hubs, "so we don't have to go all the way up the stairs".
T - I like learning on the ground outside I like learning in both outside and inside. I love to read outside It helps my brain outside.
D- I like learning outside because I like to be able to look at the playground and i like to sit in the sun. I like sitting on beanbags outside because it is nice.
J - My favourite part to learn is outside by the benches and reading a book because it’s nice and sunny. B - In the library because it is quiet.
C - In Hub 2 at the literacy end because it helps me learn it doesn’t have that many people and I like the medium tables and the ottoman chairs.
M - I like to learn outside because it is nice and sunny. I like to go on the seats.
J - I like to learn in the library because it is nice and quiet. I like learning by the seats outside.
This is only a snapshot of the mass of data that was created over a few sessions in the hub. At this stage what was important was to tease out themes that emerged out of all the video, picture, map, model and interview data.
Emerging Themes The main themes to emerge from Hub One students were:
- Natural light is important
- Windows at a low level helped children make connections with outside i.e. to be able to see cars, garden just outside, things going on
- Different flooring levels: children enjoyed the ‘stage’ level in the Hub
- Movement between indoor and outdoor learning settings was important
- Outdoor settings for learning i.e. covered seating outside
- Baking in the Staff Room- easily solved according to the children by having cooking facilities in their hub.
- Small spaces
- Quiet spaces
These themes have certainly been developed as part of our consultation and architectural brief.
Clark, A. (2010). Transforming Children's Spaces. London: Routledge.