Freedom to learn in St Mary’s space age

St Mary’s Catholic Primary North Sydney has embraced its own transformation ahead of the North Sydney Precinct coming to life.

A refurbishment has given spaces an injection of colour, flexible furnishings, and swathes of natural light to aid student learning.

Glass and natural materials feature prominently in the 12 new learning spaces built during the two-phase project. Principal Bev Coffey said that these were inspired by the simple and uncluttered education spaces found in Nordic countries, and the students and teachers couldn’t be happier with the result.

“They have a lovely fresh, uncluttered look,” she said. “It’s peaceful. It allows children to move around and choose areas where they want to work. You only really need one device with you and you can navigate where you want to go with that in a sense.”

Teachers have freedom to add stimulus to the walls. “Whatever they put up has to be meaningful, tell a story and change often,” Mrs Coffey said. “It’s got to be very fluid and interesting to a child so it is inspirational.

“It’s like going to an art gallery. Do you go into one where there are paintings everywhere and you can’t really look at them, or do you go into the one where there are a few beautiful pieces and you can focus on those?”

The Year 5 and 6 space has a city apartment feel with its balcony area that features marked artificial grass for games. Shoeless learning is part of the new order.

“For most of the students it makes them feel more at home, and a lot of people feel more comfortable learning in an environment they are comfortable in,” said Year 6 student Shamiso Munetsi. “A lot of people take off their shoes.”

STEM teacher Tim Butt uses one of the shared corridor spaces for lessons. Students in Years 1 and 2 have recorded alternative sounds for a school bell using glockenspiels during their study of digital sound use in the environment. Students will also built robots to solve various problems in the space, and code earthquake detection systems using digital sensors.

“Anyone can come and work in these spaces. It helps group work and allows for focused activities,” Mr Butt said.  “If you have a particular focus you can do a more directed lesson. The screens enable us to show students work on their digital devices. They’re very well versed on coding and robotics by the time they get to high school.”

Students share what they like about their new spaces

Shamiso Munetsi, Year 6:

“It’s very spacious. You can also see the church and oval from here and into the city. It’s a nice view. I like how we have modern technology in here. We also have nice furniture in here. I’m excited.”



Orlando Tribe Aviles, Year 6:

“I like that at St Mary’s especially, it’s not just wooden desks in the classrooms. There’s soft furniture and very modern, new equipment. It’s a very nice working space.”




Charlotte Barnett, Year 4:

“The pod, because it has a TV if you are working in little groups and you need to broadcast.

“Almost everything in the room is electronic. I think the colours are good because it brightens up the room.”



Matthew Beaman, Year 4:

“You get to look at the beautiful playground down below. If you are working on something big you can go to a big table, or if you like working by yourself you can go to a quiet place.”



Ava McPeake, Year 4:

“There’s lots of sky light so we’re not wasting electricity. There’s a nice view. I also like the artwork and window seats.”



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