The physical environment can have a significant impact on student learning. At Star of the Sea, we are very fortunate to have large, spacious learning areas that allow for flexibility in layout of furniture, as well as space for different styles of teaching and learning to take place throughout the day. Research suggest that innovative learning spaces have a positive impact on student engagement and wellbeing, as well as providing structures and opportunities for peer support and student leadership.
At the start of each year, our teachers spend time with their teaching team designing their classroom layout by identifying what type of learning will take place in the different sections of their room and the behaviour expectations associated with that space. From these discussions, classroom furniture is placed strategically to support learning and behavioural expectations. Based on David Thornburg’s model for defining learning spaces, our teachers identify 3 zones in their classroom – the Campfire, the Watering Hole, and the Cave. Last year our staff designed posters to explain what each zone means and the types of learning that will take place in each space. These are displayed in each classroom and pictured in our latest newsletter.
The Campfire is the place where students gather to hear the wisdom of the expert. It is a space where the whole group meets to receive instructions, discuss the topic and view stimulus to gather information about a topic. In ancient times, this was where people gathered to listen to the storyteller, who was the keeper of wisdom in the community.
Today there are still times when students need direct instruction; and the campfire space is where this happens. Nowadays, the fire has been replaced with a data projector and screen, but the concept remains the same.
We know campfire learning can be important; how popular are Ted Talks, which are essentially campfires distributed digitally all over the world?
The Watering Hole is the place for social learning. Because conversation requires a different way of thinking to when we are alone, dialogue is a way of creating knowledge. Social learning is central to education; without time spent talking and discussing learning with others, students aren’t challenged to reach the next level in their understanding.
Think about how many ‘ah-ha’ moments you’ve experienced when talking through issues with your colleagues. At Star of the Sea, the Watering Hole space is where students can work in small groups to complete set tasks.
They are encouraged to discuss, collaborate and share ideas.
The Cave is the home of reflective learning – it is where students work alone, making meaning of their learning, facilitated with outside resources (e.g. books, websites etc). So often we associate learning only with doing – and see quiet thinking as ‘doing nothing’. This space is particularly important for introverted students.
We need to recognise the importance of thinking and reflection as part of learning, actively teach it to our students, and give them the opportunity to experience a quiet space. At Star of the Sea, this space is where students work independently to complete tasks. They can reframe ideas gathered from interactions with other students and stay focused on their learning and goals.
Thornburg suggests that if the campfire is home to the lecture, and the watering hole home to dialogue, the cave is home to cognitive construction of understanding.
Unfortunately, with the current QLD Health and BCE restrictions limiting visitors to school sites, most parents have been unable to see their child’s classroom space. Our latest newsletter includes some photos of our beautiful innovative classroom spaces.