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Innovative spaces at UWCSEA: Junior School classrooms support unique learning styles

Courtney Carlson, Former Senior Communications Manager
Jocelyn Sutherland, Grade 5 Teacher, East Campus
21 June 2017

Innovative spaces are all around us at UWCSEA, including everyday ones such as classrooms. Jocelyn Sutherland’s Grade 5 classroom (5JSu) on East Campus is a great example of how a space can support students’ unique learning styles and can also be shaped by the community that uses it on a daily basis. She says, “I believe a learning space should make students feel welcome, happy and safe. The classroom is another place for students to practise soft skills such as self-awareness, growth mindset and resilience. The design should help students feel valued and respected, and the layout should address a variety of learning styles.”

This Grade 5 classroom is a great example of how a space can support students’ unique learning styles.

A -Campfire’: This central area is used for whole class gatherings including morning meetings, storytelling, celebrations and presentations.

B - Flexible seating  (or standing): Students have the freedom to choose a place to work that suits their learning style and the task at hand, which could include a stand up desk, couch, floor cushion, or traditional desk.

C - ‘Cave’: Students come here to reflect independently, journal or read when they need a quiet place to work or a ‘brain break’.

D - Makerspace: This mini creation station offers a variety of paper, markers, fabrics, reusable materials, and building materials to use during transition and break times.

E - Cultivation: 5JSu’s theme for the year is ‘#cultivate’, and the students have helped to cultivate the shared learning space. Each student received a plant to nurture along with their own learning, and they brought objects from home to personalise the classroom.

F - ‘Watering hole’: A social and conversation space where students collaborate, share thinking, and work in small groups for activities such as book clubs, brainstorm sessions, and math rotations.

Jocelyn has taken inspiration from the book From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments by David Thornburg (2013) in designing some of the spaces such as the ‘Campfire’, ‘Watering hole’ and ‘Cave’.