Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege to visit the opening of a really interesting project at Westfield Junior School in Hampshire. ‘The Hive’ is a flexible working space, with just enough technology to give children options for their projects, coupled with enough space and flexible furniture to let them define how they work.
Taking an old kitchen space, Headteacher Karine George decided to create a space where staff and children could try out new ways of working, without the pressure of remodelling all of the existing classrooms. A space for trying out innovation, this contained flexible furniture, lots of open space, walls that could be written on as whiteboards and lots of technology available.
As I arrived at the school I was met on the playground by a group of children, who confidently introduced themselves to me, asked if I was here for the opening and got me signed in and toured around the school, all without any adults telling them what to do. It turned out that they hadn’t been especially prepared for this role either, they had heard there was an opening going on and took it up themselves to make the visitors welcome in their school.
The new physical space contained some interesting technology which the school are exploring the potential of. As you might expect, there were tablet computers but there were also desktop (or at least ‘desk based’) PCs which had their inner workings exposed so children could actually see how the computers they use are constructed.
They had also been donated two 3D printers, with plans to set up an enterprise manufacturing the creations of local designers, as well as explore the potential for children prototyping their own creations.
As I explored the new space, children kept coming to find me and ask if I had see. One aspect or another of their school, taking me off to show me the library modelling into a jungle, the music room which they had helped design, and the websites they had created for their Egyptians project.
What struck me most about the visit was not the technology, although the children were clearly very confident and engaged users of it, but how confident, articulate and welcoming they were.
Whilst this school are creating spacious and balanced physical environments, they are clearly also creating spacious and balanced social environments too, giving children space to become individuals. It was a great day and well worth a visit to see a school trying new things for the right underlying reasons.
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