By Mark Maddren on Feb 26, 2016 04:00 am

old school yard

Walking out of my son and daughter’s school on the first day of the school year, a great song by Cat Stevens popped into my head. The song was “Remember the days of the old school yard” — you know, the one about imaginings, and all kinds of things, and laughing a lot.

My daughter is lucky enough to be in a brand new Innovative Learning Space for the Junior School, this area is an awesome, vibrant, colourful space that even after a short time is evident the learners love to be in.

In my role as a Facilitator for CORE Education, I have had the opportunity to observe learning in action within innovative learning spaces. My experiences and knowledge of the pedagogy behind innovative learning environments has resulted in me being very comfortable with my daughter being in one. When in the innovative learning space, I noticed a lot of very anxious and possibly confused parents. I reflected that a number of them were possibly remembering the days of their old school yard, and struggling to make a connection with the new school yard, so to speak.

Following good practice, the school offered many opportunities during 2015 for whānau/community to connect and learn about these new spaces, and to help them understand the “why’ behind the shift. However, a number of these opportunities were not taken up, so parents/caregivers were arriving on day one not sure what to expect.

I would like to share some ideas for teachers, that from my experience, support learners and whānau moving into  an innovative learning space.

  • Have plenty of staff on hand — teachers, teacher aides, leaders, possibly even senior students — so there are people available to guide, comfort, support, and direct families as to where bags, books, swimming gear, etc., should go.
  • Have plenty of large visuals with written instructions for where bags, books, swimming gear etc., should go for those parents who choose not to seek out a staff member.
  • Have lots of hands-on activities for the learners to settle into, so parents can leave feeling their child is happily engaged.
  • Create a virtual tour of the space, explaining the features of the areas and how they will enhance teaching and learning, and email this to parents before school starts.
  • Have teachers create a “Who am I”, using video, prezi, presentation, animoto, or other tool to share with parents, to help make a connection with families before the school year starts. This is an an adult example I created in the past, and I would modify it to use with children and whānau — Who am I?
  • Keep parents well informed in the first couple of weeks through newsletters, blogs, information boards outside the classrooms.
  • Offer parents, after a settling-in period, to come in and be part of the learning, to help them understand the innovative learning approach.

My daughter is loving this “new school yard”, and is laughing a lot, having imaginings, and she has all kinds of things to look forward to in the year ahead. These are exciting times in education as we transform from the old school yard to the new.


Image source: Old school Vladimir Burakov under CC Attribution-ShareAlike

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