New space key to learning

St Columba's new learning spaces

Room to learn: Year 3 students Hamish Rose, Annika Ingwesen and Alexander Pistevos with their principal Frances Stewart. Photos: Genah Kavagiannis

St Columba’s Catholic Primary Leichhardt North will open new doors to learning in 2016.

The original school, built in 1928, has been transformed into flexible spaces, where high ceilings and glass doors frame an open-plan library, interactive televisions for each class, an outdoor prayer garden, and a green room to create films opposite the Year 5 and 6 spaces.

Students from Kindergarten to Year 2 will occupy the original building, where walls have been knocked out to keep with the open plan and make children’s learning visible to all.

Principal Frances Stewart said the new spaces would allow students to learn in more creative and innovative ways, and give them the ability to work through some topics across grades.

“For learning to be authentic there has to be a purpose, and that is really what our new spaces are about,” she said.

“The benefit of working across stages and even across grades is that the program is very differentiated, so those children who are able to move and work with like minds. Differentiation is really just giving each child access to the curriculum at their level. They might be seven, but get tremendous learning happening when they work with 10 or 11 year olds.

“Previously we’ve been in classrooms with four walls. Now we have an environment that has spaces that will naturally lead to that innovation in our programming.”

It has taken three years to plan, design, and construct the new building.  Ms Stewart thanked all who supported the project including parish priest Fr Peter Smith, and architect Rachel Neeson, of Neeson Murcutt. “Her ability to turn our vision into bricks and mortar has been key,” she said.

“When we did the original planning we knew it was important for that green screen room to be there because technology is part and parcel of our life now. Even our children in Kindergarten and Year 1 use iPads to video responses to questions.”

Year 3 students Hamish Rose, Alexander Pistevos, and Annika Ingwesen were the first to visit their new learning space which will be complete in December.

“It was absolutely magnificent – the TVs, the green room, how there is going to be sliding doors, the prayer garden,” Hamish said. “Everywhere is going to be full of lots of happy, smart children.”

Alexander agreed. “I like all the decorations they put up on the ceilings, like noughts and crosses,” he said. “Also the library looks really cool. All of this space that we have we can use for lots of learning, and with the TVs we can chat to people across countries and places.”

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