At Jasmax we believe education spaces should give students the most supportive environment possible to learn the skills they need for the future. As a multi-disciplinary practice, we’re fortunate enough to have the input of our workplace strategy team, they’re tasked with using design to support stronger business performance. We utilise this knowledge to understand the working environments students will one day be a part of.
Across the practice, we’re finding our clients are increasingly requiring workplaces that foster innovation and collaboration. Our experience teaches us that the best way to achieve this is an open-plan environment, where people have a range of spaces, enabling discussion, focus, sharing and collaborating.
In a knowledge economy, the distinction between learning and working is somewhat academic. The same principles which apply to modern office design also apply to innovative learning environments (formally known as modern learning environments). Learning and working it turns out, are social exercises. Therefore innovative learning environments, which are vibrant, well-connected and open-plan, not only promote a collaborative approach to learning, but they better prepare students for future career success.
Our approach to MLEs is in itself collaborative. We work alongside the MoE, the board of trustees and school representatives to apply the seven NZ Curriculum teaching practices to a school’s pedagogy. This process means that no two MLE’s are the same, rather they are purpose designed to respond to the requirements of local context. Open plan design also means that areas that were once required as corridors can be transformed into breakout spaces, providing flexible learning spaces that can comfortably accommodate more students without any increase in footprint.
At Albany Senior High School the school’s vision involved a culture based on adult relationships and social connectedness. To do this, they wanted a learning environment that uses a mixture of learning modes, spaces and approaches, an environment that was ICT-rich and could enable interdisciplinary teaching teams. The environment we created has transformed the way the school views education. Teachers team teach, everyone is involved in the learning process, the principal’s personal assistant provides tutorials on letter writing and telephone skills, while the schools business manager tutors in budgeting.
We have created many of the ministry’s benchmark MLE’s, including Ormiston Senior College, Stonefields Primary School and Baverstock Oaks Primary in Auckland and an innovative new 12 classroom equivalent learning environment for Clearview Primary School in Christchurch. Consistent across these schools is the flexibility and agility open plan design provides. When combined with considered furniture selection, MLEs have infinite configuration possibilities, allowing the space to adapt to the learning requirements.
Large open plan spaces pose unique challenges for acoustics, air quality, heating and lighting. Optimising the internal environment is critical to creating a space students are comfortable learning in. We have established strong partnerships with engineering sub-consultants who understand the practical considerations of MLE’s, we are also well versed in working with the MoE’s Building Quality Learning Spaces standards.