A hat-trick awaits Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary North Strathfield after school was nominated for three architecture awards.
The flexible learning environment was designed in partnership with BVN Architects to convert an existing concrete building, a former Telstra training site, into a light and airy place of authentic learning.
It won a 2016 Learning Environments Australasia Award for Renovations/Modernisation over $2 million in June, and is in line for an Australian Institute of Architects NSW Award to be announced on July 1. The school was also nominated in the Public Design category of the Australian Interior Design Awards. Principal Cathy Young spoke about the impact of design on learning at a conference on May 2.
All learning is visible here.
“Ordinarily you would start with cleared land and build a school or you would refurbish a current school,” she said. “We now know that we can buy an existing building, regardless of its prior use and make it a very aesthetically beautiful and functional learning space.
“A lot of it relies on the great educators that we have here the fact that they have good teaching practice, though the facilities themselves allow greater flexibility. Because all of our furniture is light enough for the children to move, they have a lot of control over what is used and how they use it.
“We let them know what the expectation or outcome is for each task. “There’s no ‘teacher territory’ in the room either. It’s a different mindset. It recognises that while the content is important, the process is just as important. The children can access information at any time, any day, by the push of a button. We’re also trying to help the children to develop persistence, perseverance, resilience and grit – to ensure that they are using their creativity and problem-solving skills, and learning how to work respectfully, cooperatively and collaboratively work with one another.”
Teachers also reflect on how this space can best help students achieve. “It’s an eternal question. We keep coming back to it.
“A few years ago we would have been talking about setting up makerspaces, where kids would have a particular space to tinker and create and design. In the next phase of our building and development we are looking at every space to have elements of a makerspace.”
Features of the school include dividable floor space, natural timber furniture, bean bags, colourful ottomans, nooks for the children to climb and work in, and lot of glass.
“All learning is visible here. Even my office is fully glazed. We’re all transparent, so the kids and the teachers know that all day, every day, is a learning opportunity.”