School's open spaces foster collaboration

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012

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Sitting on bean bags, working standing up at a tall desk, or from a netbook on a couch are all facets of modern learning that Christchurch South Intermediate School pupils and teachers are embracing.

In the past two years, the school's wooden classrooms, built in 1939, have been replaced with 16 new classrooms.

The classrooms open into a communal area via sliding doors, allowing pupils and teachers from different classes to work together.

The communal area has couches, bean bags, desks at different heights and other small, private rooms.

The school is an example of the modern learning environments Education Minister Hekia Parata says she is trying to achieve by proposing to close and merge city schools.

The $4 million development at Christchurch South, which was opened yesterday, was under construction when the September 2010 earthquake hit.

The Ministry of Education allowed the school to finish building despite imposing a building ban at other city schools.

Principal Ross Hastings said he had no doubt the school would be working from the old classrooms if construction had not already begun when the earthquakes hit.

"We're very grateful to the ministry for the common sense that allowed us to continue with the project."

Hastings said the new teaching environments had seen the school change the way it taught pupils after researching how pupils learned differently in the 21st century.

Some teachers were initially worried the open-plan style of the classrooms would distract pupils.

However, Hastings said pupils were more focused on their work.

Teacher Tamara Blackwell said the open spaces allowed teachers to work more closely together and feed ideas off each other.

"The children love this environment and the freedom to use different spaces."

Teacher Helen Adams said the new spaces were "fabulous" because they encouraged collaboration between teachers and pupils.

Pupils Kate Morley, 13, and Kayla Booth, 12, who were sitting on bean bags working on a social studies project together, were happy not to be cooped up in the same room all day.

Kayla said she liked the new classrooms because they got to go into other classrooms and they could shut the doors if it got too noisy.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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