Creating inclusive environments

Issue: Volume 101, Number 6

Posted: 13 May 2022
Reference #: 1HAUBy

Inclusive, accessible environments mean that students with additional learning support needs are not prevented from participating fully in school life. But as these examples from Knights Stream School and Henry Hill School show, it’s about so much more than providing ramps and quiet spaces.

Henry Hill School in Napier created a sensory garden, Te Āhuru Mōwai, to support the school’s approach to helping students feel calm and connected with their peers.

Henry Hill School in Napier created a sensory garden, Te Āhuru Mōwai, to support the school’s approach to helping students feel calm and connected with their peers.

At Knights Stream School in Canterbury, a lot of thought has gone into its design to provide a learning environment that is accessible to all students, including those who use the satellite Special School facilities on site.

The Board of Trustees and school leadership worked with the Ministry of Education during the design phase to create a future-proof inclusive learning environment.

Doorways throughout the school are accessible and have flush or minimal lips. A Universal School Bathroom (USB) is located in a central location to the main school.  

Colour choices were carefully considered for verandah posts and buildings, furniture and equipment, to support children with low vision and to reduce visual clutter and over-stimulation. There’s also a quiet zone that can be used by all students.

Furniture selection was based on the different learning environments, teaching styles and learning support needs. The senior leadership team visited local early learning centres to see what equipment and resources were being used, to assist with the successful transition to school.

In the playground spaces, soft fall was used to create easy access to play equipment, and elements were added to provide access to the adventure play areas for children with mobility issues. 

The satellite provision is in the heart of the school and design elements in this space mirror some of those in the main school so that students feel connected to the entire school. 

Principal Mike Molloy says the learning environment is part of the inclusive philosophy at Knights Stream School.

“Students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and their learning needs are addressed.

“We recognise the need for all children to experience challenge in order for them to develop resilience. The learner, their whānau and kaiako work together to ensure realistic challenges are planned for, worked towards and achieved.”

Sensory spaces

Inclusive learning spaces can also be integrated into schools to suit the needs of their learners. At Henry Hill School in Napier, for example, they have created a sensory garden, Te Āhuru Mōwai, to support the school’s approach to helping students feel calm and connected with their peers.

According to principal Jase Williams in last year’s Gazette article(external link), it’s an inclusive space that aligns with the school’s curriculum.

“We wanted to ensure our physical environment provided the same korowai of awhi and wellbeing.”

Te Āhuru Mōwai has become a central part of life at the school, and ākonga use the space to self-regulate.

Jase tells the story of a boy who got into a conflict on the rugby field and needed time to cool off. 

“Although nothing outside the school gates is calm and consistent for him, he had a place where he could go to calm himself at school,” says Jase.

“He told me later how he appreciated having somewhere quiet in the school he could hang out in.”

More examples of learner-friendly spaces:

Designing learning so everyone succeeds (external link)

Planning innovative learning environments (ILEs) | Inclusive Education (tki.org.nz)(external link)

Universal Design for Learning | Inclusive Education (tki.org.nz)(external link)

 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 8:31 AM, 13 May 2022

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