INNOVATIVE SCHOOL LEARNING SPACES (New) School name: Whangaparaoa College New Secondary School Type: Years 7 – 13 co-educational high school 2009 roll: 1422 (full capacity will be 1700) Principal: Brian O’Connell Funding Source (e.g. New Schools; 5YP; Roll Growth; SPG; community-raised): New Schools; 5 Year Agreement; and Remedial (Leaky Building) funding. Designer: Babbage Consultants (Stage 1); Architectus (Stage 2) Builder: Watts and Hughes Construction Ltd. Opening date: January 2005; stage 2 to be complete September 2009. Cost: $48 mill. What was the vision that guided your designer/architect on how teaching and learning would happen at the new school? Who was involved in the development of the vision and how did you do this? The design process was well underway when Brian O’Connell took up appointment in February 2004. He stopped it, and spent three months, with the board of trustees, consulting the community to find what sort of school and design they wanted. Senior and junior colleges were discussed, as were whanau-type structures. Key points of vision eventually agreed included: a full years 7 to 13 college with a specific area for junior students; architecture that would reflect the learning activities in each block; and buildings that would allow flexibility and not determine or define the teaching practice. “We wanted a design that allowed lots of linkages with plenty of glass to make teaching and learning visible; lots of shared spaces; usable spaces outside under big eaves; linkages between rooms and digital linkages with wireless where it was needed for seniors with laptops”, he said. What were you setting out to achieve in that vision, for example what were the teaching practises (and learning styles?) that drove the design of the learning and teaching areas? The design produced by the architects allows teachers to be flexible and decide on the most appropriate teaching practice, said Brian O’Connell. “We teach students, not subjects; and we are teaching for students’ understanding so we are not the font of all knowledge. Our teachers set out to make sure students understand and not just to make sure they get the notes they have to go away and learn from”. He said that the visual linkages created throughout the campus, by the use of glass in all learning areas, were the most important factor. “This is a real boost to the quality of teaching practice”. The major change, and challenge, with the new buildings was the shift from teaching a subject to teaching the students. Which of the seven teaching practices set out in the NZ Curriculum (pp.34-35) are supported by your learning environments? The two teaching practices identified by the principal were “creating a supportive learning environment by having quality learning spaces”; and “reflective thought and action”. The variety of different spaces offered to teachers and students by the Whangaparaoa design was the big factor that enabled both of these. What types of teaching and learning spaces have you included in your design (e.g. flexible general classrooms or learning studios, open plan, flexible or multi-size spaces, indoor/outdoor learning environments)? Whanau/ awhina/ learning streets for shared learning and social interaction? The new college includes just about the full range of types and scales of learning space from: modernised conventional classrooms in the refurbished intermediate school buildings (see photos WpC11 and 12); to whanau space in the Maori Studies centre (WpC13); open plan in the ICT, science, technology and visual arts area (WpC14, 24, 26, and 30); learning studios for music and drama (WpC18 and 19); indoor/outdoor environments (WpC32 and 33); and areas for shared learning and social interaction (WpC11, 28, and 39). There is also a large auditorium (WpC17) for performance, assemblies and community functions. What provisions have been made for independent or small group learning? As noted and illustrated above, spaces for independent and small group learning have been provided in every block, and the use of glass means that teachers can supervise these areas easily. “Hush glass” has been used to minimise sound movement between rooms. How do your teaching and learning spaces differ from those in older, conventional schools? “Our very visual spaces would be the main difference, along with the high levels of connectivity and the flexibility of most of our interiors”, said Brian O’Connell. What can teachers do that they would find difficult to do in older, conventional schools? Whangaparaoa College teachers can work in learning communities, surrounded by their colleagues in each subject area and able to see each other at work. They can separate practical work and conventional classroom teaching, as illustrated in the technology, science, and visual arts areas in photos WpC22 and 23, 24 and 25, 30 and 31. They can team teach, as in WpC14, and share commons or breakout spaces as in the junior classrooms shown in WpC34 and the senior classrooms in WpC11. Above all they can choose from a wide range of teaching and learning practices because of the flexible environments they work in. Provision for teachers decentralised work areas e.g. are they ‘eyes on the street’ available to students? A distinctive feature of the college design is the provision of seven different teacher areas across the campus. A sample of these is shown in WpC21 (performing arts staff); WpC29 (science and technology) and WpC38 (physical education and health). Most of these spaces are glass enclosed and located for easy student access. How will your new facilities accommodate teaching and learning in curriculum areas such as technology? physical education? the arts? Does this vary from the traditional school approach? The architectural design and internal layouts were purpose-built for these subject areas. The technology block is “industrial” with exposed building services (WpC26 and 27); physical education has its own large complex surrounded by hard courts and playing fields (WpC35 – 40); and the performing arts centre has theatrical architectural style (WpC16) and a host of facilities (WpC17 – 20) for specialist learning and teaching. What provision has been made for teachers’ professional learning, collaboration and cooperation? As noted and illustrated already, teachers are accommodated as professional, collaborative, learning communities. Did you have MOE goals in mind e.g. engaging families and communities and how is that reflected in the approach to the school’s design? “We have tried to make the college entrance and reception welcoming and open (WpC5)”, said Brian O’Connell. The performing arts auditorium also has a wide and welcoming entrance and lobby (WpC15). The principal said they had recently employed a person to engage with community groups who may wish to make use of the auditorium at reasonable cost; and this promotional work will be extended to the gymnasium and Astroturf area next to the gym. What provision have you made for e-learning in the new environments? The college has 35 interactive whiteboards in use, and, to ensure all students have basic ICT skills, the old intermediate hall has been confirmed into a large computer skills classroom (WpC14). Senior students use laptops and wireless connectivity gives them anywhere/anytime internet access. What special or unique features and/or learning benefits have the buildings provided? The special learning and teaching benefits offered by the Whangaparaoa College buildings have been noted above and, in summary, include: flexible learning spaces with sliding glass doors into both indoor and outdoor breakout spaces; designs that reflect the specialty subjects within the buildings; the high visibility of teaching and learning throughout; the grouping of teachers in professional communities; the location of library/information centres close to the subject areas; and the plentiful scope for e-learning. Have the new environments led to changes in teaching practice and/or student learning and the success that you planned for? “Not yet, but we will get there”, was Brian O’Connell’s response. Constructing a big campus over four years, with earthworks and building activity a constant since 2005’s opening, has put stress on the staff. “It’s difficult in a big new school which is always growing and expanding to find the time to get everything organised. Staff had often been overloaded with acquiring resources, starting up programmes and activities, and developing the college curriculum and learning programmes. For these reasons the college had been finding staff recruitment and retention a challenge. Older schools have all these things in place and teachers can focus just on professional practice, said the principal. Have there been any unforeseen benefits/outcomes? “We’ve noticed improving behaviour and more friendliness”, said Brain O’Connell “and every time we open yet another new building, it gets better again”. He said the visibility of everybody was a contributor to good behaviour. “Very few are off task because you can’t hide anywhere”. Do you have an ongoing school plan for learning environments? What’s the next step? “The next step is to look at some beautification ideas and more outside learning spaces”, he said. What features of what you’ve achieved with these learning spaces would you recommend to other schools? Brian O’Connell recommends the visual connections between spaces, and the flexibility that teachers enjoy at Whangaparaoa. Was there any specific consideration given to the internal environment of the spaces such as acoustics, daylight, artificial light, ventilation and heating? What did you set out to achieve and are you happy with the results? The one issue still to be resolved in the internal environments was excess light. “We wanted lighting to be natural daylight but this has created problems around the use of data projectors, interactive whiteboards and computers”, said Brian O’Connell. Resolving these problems, possibly with shade blinds, was a high priority. ISLA Captions for Whangaparaoa College WpC1 The campus features several large and distinctive blocks: gymnasium (1); years 7-8 classrooms (2); visual arts, science and technology (3 and 4); performing arts (5); admin/reception (12) and the lower cluster of classroom blocks which remain from the old Hibiscus Coast Intermediate School. WpC2 This 2006 aerial view shows most of the major blocks on a site which features wetlands to the left and playing fields created from low hills and ridges on the right. WpC3 The site has been extensively landscaped into gardens and walkways, and the blocks (such as the visual arts block in the foreground) feature indoor/outdoor teaching spaces. WpC4 Walkways are well used on this long campus. Students here are streaming out of the visual arts/technology block at the end of the school day. WpC5 The new reception/administration block presents an open and transparent face to the community. WpC6 Inside the admin area, the same open visibility is maintained. The boardroom is at left, leading into the principal’s office at right. WpC7 All the college deans share a large open-plan office in the admin block. WpC8 The ground floor of the admin block includes a student services centre with a health clinic, careers and guidance offices. WpC9 The old intermediate school buildings suffered “leaky building syndrome” and are being re-clad and modernised into up-to-date teaching spaces. WpC10 In the old buildings, corridors and rooms were relatively cramped. WpC11 Transformed, the old intermediate classroom blocks now feature extensive corridors which will be used by break-out groups from the transparent and modern learning spaces. WpC12 The refurbished classrooms feature big floor areas, acoustic lining, cabled and networked computers, new windows and teacher offices. WpC13 A Maori Studies centre has been set up in one of the refurbished blocks (block 8 in WpC1). WpC14 What had been the intermediate school hall has become the Information Technology centre. The recently inserted mezzanine floor has more computer work stations upstairs where senior students can work independently. WpC15 Sweeping pathways lead to the lobby of the auditorium in the performing arts centre. Drama, dance and music classrooms are on the lower level at left. WpC16 From the ground level, the architecture of the performing arts centre is fittingly soaring and creative. WpC17 The 600 seat auditorium is multi-purpose: music, dance and drama performance as well as college assemblies and community use. WpC18 This music room is big, bright, light and open giving teachers and students lots of flexibility. WpC19 The drama room is similarly well designed for rehearsal and movement. WpC20 Beneath the auditorium and next to the drama rooms is a large costume store. WpC21 The college design features several staff common rooms rather than one large staffroom. This is the comfortable meeting and work space for teachers in the performing arts centre. WpC22 This food technology classroom includes some bench space and cooking equipment but mainly it is for formal teaching. A fully-equipped food tech laboratory is immediately available in the background (see WpC23) WpC23 Neighbouring the food technology classroom, this kitchen provides the practical work space and does not have to accommodate desks, bags, books. WpC24 The design of the science teaching and learning spaces follows the same principle as in food technology: separation of theory and practical work into adjoining spaces. WpC25 A science class undertaking practical work in one of several central laboratory spaces. Science classrooms for formal teaching (far background) surround these practical spaces. WpC26 The technology spaces have a suitably industrial design. Again, all internal walls are glazed so that teaching and learning are highly visible, and so that safe supervision is possible from any direction. WpC27 Especially in the technology areas, building services and infrastructure are exposed and become a learning resource for students. WpC28 As with staffrooms, the college design includes distributed and specialised library/information centres. This is the one in the science, technology and visual arts block. Notable features are high quality lighting, ICT facilities, comfortable furniture for reading, and work spaces for both individuals and groups. WpC29 The teachers’ room in the science/technology block also has a combination of individual work stations and settings for group meetings. WpC30 The visual arts rooms are at the east end of the science and technology block. They all open onto a commons space where students can work at computers, large tables or a light table. The room set aside for Year 13 portfolio preparation is in the right background. WpC31 The visual arts teaching spaces all feature high visibility, tall student work tables and stools, and easy access to both the commons space and the outdoors where students may go to work. WpC32 The sheltered work areas outside the visual arts rooms are on the left; the external traffic movement areas on the right ensure that the science and technology learning environments are traffic free….all the floor area can be used for learning and teaching. WpC33 In the block for years 7 and 8 classes, there are pairs of classrooms with shared breakout and wet activity areas between them. WpC34 The junior classrooms, like the other college learning spaces, have lots of glass and access to adjacent indoor and outdoor areas for flexible approaches to teaching. WpC35 There is a confidence course for the years 7 and 8s next to their block. The college’s hard courts and gymnasium complex are beyond. WpC36 The gymnasium features multi-game floors, drop-down partition for multiple use and extensive insulation for sound-proofing and warmth. WpC37 Upstairs in the gymnasium are several classrooms for health and physical education teaching….. WpC38 ….and a seven-teacher office opening onto a large….. WpC39 ……outdoor terrace which serves as breakout space for the classrooms on either side, and as venue for staff barbecues. Wpc40 The narrow college site originally had no space for playing fields until a large ridge was bulldozed away, and major retaining walls were created.
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