It’s no secret that we firmly believe in the power of good learning space design. We know that amazing learning spaces inspire teachers and learners, and help deliver a much improved educational experience. So, imagine our delight when Dulux invited us to be part of their national campaign that aims to enable all schools to design smart learning environments, with learner-led design at the heart of the journey.
The Dulux Smarter Spaces campaign brings together leading lights from across the education world, all of whom, like us, believe in the power of learning environments to improve the educational experience for all. Smarter Spaces will share ideas, examples, case studies and research, so that every school can access the tools and services they need to transform their learning spaces. It’s not about being prescriptive, schools are too complex for a one-size-fits-all approach and each school is unique, so it’s about enabling by sharing best practice. It’s a drum we’ve been banging for some time and we’re delighted to be involved.
Running in the corridors
At the recent Dulux Smarter Spaces inset day, experts from throughout education gathered to consider how we could harness the power of classroom design to support teaching and learning. Professor Stephen Heppell gave the keynote address with his customary warmth and profound insight, sharing examples from around the world to illustrate the power of learner-led design. At one school in Madrid, they’ve installed ‘must run’ lanes. If you are on the ‘must run’ lane, you have to run, not walk. So running in the corridors is allowed and enables students to burn off some energy between lessons. It’s a brilliant idea, turning a ‘do not’ into a ‘why not’? Needless to say this was the students’ idea but the school leaders had the courage to turn into a reality.
It begs the crucial question, why are key decisions about learning environments made by people who won’t be using them on a daily basis? Imagine someone redesigning your home without asking you how you use the space, what you’d like to be able to do or whether you have any ideas on how to make it better. You’d be baffled and the designer would probably be fired. Head teachers, bursars and business managers all have the best intentions but they can’t know the minds of their students unless they ask.
Hoodies and thugs, or just young?
Someone whose job it is to ask is Dr Sharon Wright, founder of Creative Wit and an expert in education community consultation. Dr Wright shared a story from when she was consulting with a group of students about the design of their new school. The students told her that it’s hard being young. If they stay in they’re ‘antisocial’, if they go out they are ‘gangs’ or ‘hoodies’. School is the centre of their community; it’s the one place where young people can gather and not be seen as a threat or a problem, so could their new school give them opportunities to come together outside school hours and at weekends? For teachers whose concerns were more to do with whether to have a fixed ICT suite or not, this insight was revelatory.
2015 Young Designers Competition winners
We also heard from a group of students from St Ives school in Cornwall, who got up at 3.45am that morning to travel to London to present their designs for an art room at their school (if that alone doesn’t prove how much students care about their learning environments, nothing will!). Their design project was part of the Smarter Spaces Young Designers competition and they’d taken an unloved, cluttered art room to task. From dispensing paint through spirit bottle optics, to choosing flooring that is easy to clean and durable, to creating digital displays that allow more work to be shown while enabling the artists to take their projects home, their ideas were superb. The next stage is making the design a reality, with a little help from Dulux.
This is a tiny snapshot of the amazing range of insight and stories we heard on the day, we’ll share more next time. The Smarter Spaces campaign will be rolled out nationally in 2016. We’ll update you further as the campaign progresses to let you know how you can get involved.
To talk to us about the Dulux Smarter Spaces Campaign, contact us on 01952 210197 or email firstname.lastname@example.org