Three-teacher pod creates opportunities

Vision for the modern learning environment

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2014
Hautapu School
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ
CHOP, CHOP: Minister of Education Hekia Parata and Milla Allen, 5, opens the new Pohutukawa Pod for new entrants and years 1-2 at Hautapu School.

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There's not a desk in sight in a Cambridge school's new learning area for junior students.

Instead, whiteboard-top and interconnectable tables, colourful couch-style seating, number and letter mats and a kitchen area feature in Hautapu School's Pohutukawa pod.

And having Education Minister Hekia Parata open it yesterday was "the icing on the cake" for principal Marilynn Jones.

"Everyone said, ‘you're not going to get her. She's too busy'," Jones said.

But Parata cut the ribbon and found Jones' vision for the modern learning environment and teaching in it "extremely inspiring".

The new pod would give more flexibility for the three teachers to make decisions about learning in a big group, small group, or as an individual, she said.

Three teachers work together in the pod, which completed its transformation from two separate buildings at the end of term one.

Now Jones wants to extend the open classroom arrangement through the school when funding allows, because other teachers are envious.

The pod caters for about 31 new entrants and year one and two students.

Part of its aim is to smooth the move from early childhood to school by retaining an environment with multiple teachers and spaces.

"It's using the strengths of teachers. . . You're not closed in a single cell. You've got three experts helping one another all the time."

Senior teacher in the pod, Tina-Maree Thatcher, said there were spaces for a quiet zone, co-operative learning areas and pair - or peer - work, all with furniture to suit.

There would be "small, secure" groups for the new entrants but older children would work in "needs-based learning groups" according to their level.

She was excited about seeing teachers open up to a new way of working.

And the pod was popular with parents too.

Olivia Fife's daughter Mila, 5, started at Hautapu School in March and is loving it.

"Because they have three teachers, when a new one [child] starts they can really form a relationship," she said.

There was also a good mixture of small group work and coming together like a class.

Belinda Hoebergen liked the open plan and input of three teachers.

Hoebergen is a teacher herself, and her daughter is due to start in the hub in October. It would allow her to interact with a wider range of children, Hoebergen said, and she felt that mixed abilities could be better targeted under the three-teacher arrangement.

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