Flexible learning proves its worth at Silverdale

Issue: Volume 96, Number 21

Posted: 27 November 2017
Reference #: 1H9gWB

A primary school continues to embrace change and is bringing its students along on a journey to keep learning fresh and engaging.

It was an extraordinary day for 10-year-old Freddie Grover, a student at Silverdale School near Auckland, who was chosen to be the ‘student carpenter-for-a-day’. While his peers were busy with regular activities at their school, Freddie was helping site manager Jordan Gregory finish off the building of a new classroom block by putting the last bolt in place.

The primary school has a strong commitment to putting its students at the heart of everything it does, while moving into new territory. This has included allowing students to help choose the furniture for their teaching spaces and arrange it how they like.

When it opened 11 years ago as a new school, Silverdale was one of the first in New Zealand to start to move towards flexible learning spaces with team teaching.

“We believe collaborative learning spaces, combined with modern learning practices and the flexibility they give for the furnishings and the other elements of the physical environment, are fantastic,” says principal Cameron Lockie.

The building of a new block in stage four is now underway.

The school has a seamless look and is essentially one  building, even though it has been extended in stages. The new block will be immediately adjacent, but at a slight angle, to the existing building. The school has grown organically across its site in a gentle curve using the same materials, colours and architectural line.

With each stage there was the opportunity for learning lessons and making improvements. So in 2015 stage three opened, incorporating learnings from the previous two.

The school still has a mixture of flexible and single cell spaces but the new classroom block will be a further evolution of the flexible approach. Cameron says the beauty of the design is that it can be either single cell or collaborative.

In the existing learning spaces, the layout and furnishing is fluid from day to day, depending on what the teachers want to focus on – and how the students choose to arrange it. All the teaching areas have sliding doors for flexibility.

When stage three was built, the children helped the teachers choose the seats and tables, and other furniture, for the learning spaces. They were also allowed to choose how the furniture was arranged.

“We involve the children in decisions like that as much as possible, as part of our commitment to student agency,” says Cameron.

“The way the school looks, including the layout of spaces, is part of the reason why our children are so happy here.

“It generates fresh ideas, and provides stimulation and new opportunities. The teachers are learning all the time, and we know what works and what doesn’t.

“Change happens all day and gives the opportunity to collaborate, try new things, and keep the learning fresh.”

Looking back, Cameron says, “Our school was cutting edge at the time it opened, and it still is.”

The budget for the new classroom block is $3.5 million and the expected completion date is April next year. 

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

Posted: 9:00 am, 27 November 2017

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