Diggers and dirt teach lessons

Issue: Volume 96, Number 14

Posted: 14 August 2017
Reference #: 1H9dwv

How do children respond when surrounded by construction work in their familiar learning environment? Education Gazette visits two Auckland schools to find out.

Big, noisy building sites at schools aren’t just something to be endured – they can have educational value for children, many of whom are fascinated and learn lessons by seeing construction and building work close-up.

Take, for example, the project underway at Arahoe School in west Auckland. It began with a huge excavation, and part of a hillside was cut away to make way for the foundations.

The school’s getting a brand-new 800-square-metre classroom block to house its new teaching spaces. The work is nearly complete, but the protective fences around the building remain in place.

Principal Richard Limbrick says kids are fascinated. “The day the digger arrived, the work area was fenced off – that was the day they started hanging on the fence to watch.

“The appeal is around the technology of building. They see a lot of work being done fast – it’s been kit-setted. The site was a hive of activity.

“The size of the new building fascinates the children, as they are used to tiny boxes and self-contained classrooms. But as the whole of the new building is a flexible learning environment, they will get used to huge spaces.”

Naturally, a large amount of ground has been exposed by the process and he says that has provided a learning opportunity, with junior students doing soil testing from the site as part of their science studies.

But he regards all the outdoor areas as flexible learning environments, so the teaching doesn’t only go on inside. A sandpit area and the school’s garden are more examples of areas that are used for learning.

Freemans Bay School in central Auckland is undergoing the same process and that’s providing a similar experience for its students. All its classrooms are being replaced with brand-new buildings in a complete redevelopment.

Principal Sandra Jenkins says the building process is an authentic learning experience that helps students’ oral language development.

”It’s a remarkable process happening right in front of them, and we encourage them to talk about what they are seeing, their feelings and responses.

“From day one, they were excited and asking what was happening and why, and the teachers were drawing out from them the language of what, for example, demolition and digging feels like and what the machine noise sounds like. It’s an opportunity for them to use similes and metaphors.

“There are opportunities on a daily basis as the building goes through stages, from demolition, through piles being drilled and other processes.

“All students are interested in what is going on. As a learning experience, it has the same positive impact as a field trip.”

All of Freemans Bay School’s classrooms are being removed, so it is a major change for the students. She says that evokes a lot of emotional responses.

“But they are very accepting and see it as part of the process of moving on to a new school with better, modern buildings.”

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

Posted: 9:00 AM, 14 August 2017

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