Friday, 26 April 2013

A Quiet Space in a Flexible Learning Space

Some Background Info

I teach at Santa Maria del Monte Strathfield. Last year (2012), I joined the Year Three team. Year three is situated in a purpose built flexible learning space which means all of the year three students plus their teachers (three) work together in one large space. Working in such a space is brand new to me. I have been teaching in a traditional classroom since 1995 and this type of learning space was foreign to me.

Ar the conclusion of term two last year, the year three team met in the holidays to redesign the space. My two colleagues have been working in the space for approx 18months prior to me joining the team. The challenge we faced was  "How do we move away from operating as separate classes (comfort zone)  and to utilise the space for its flexibility and to maximise its potential?"

We sought advice from another colleague. The beauty of working at Santa Sabina College is that we are a P-12 College and have staff members who offer their support and expertise across campuses. The Director of Mary Bailey House (early education campus 0-5) offered some advice and practical solutions.  Using the Reggio Emilia approach we can view the environment as the third educator.

The arrangement of structures, objects and activities encourages choices, problem solving, and discoveries in the process of learning. In preparing the space, teachers offer the possibility for children to be with the teachers and many of the other children, or with just a few of the children, or even alone. Teachers are aware, however, that children also learn from their peers, especially when they can interact in small groups. Gandini (1993 p.6)

After looking at the learning space together, we needed to find and define smaller spaces within the learning space. One solution to achieve this is by placing furniture strategically to define an area and to direct the traffic flow within the learning space. We then defined spaces in terms of purpose. One space that we created was The Quiet Space.

The purpose of this space is that is an area that is quiet. The children can use this area for different purposes. These include:
  1. silent reading
  2. a private area to talk to friends or to engage in a quiet activity
  3. a place to go to to become calm, e.g. if they are upset from an incident after a playbreak and need some 'quiet time.'
Two portable shelving units define the areas. Portable cubes, cushions and a lamp give the space a feeling of being at home. The leaf attached to wall was purchased so that the children can nestle under it for some comfort. The addition of plants add to the aesthetics of the area.

The feedback from the children was overwhelming. They really loved the space and valued its intended purpose. Later we established committees where the children had some input as to how the spaces operated. I will explain these in a later post.

Thanks for stopping by!