2011 Sydney Conference wrap

Published: Wednesday 29 June 2011

"Connections – curriculum + space; learning + place”

Sydney 15  - 17 June 2011

CEFPI delegates from all States and Territories of Australia, from New Zealand, Singapore and the USA, Canada, France, Scotland, Netherlands, Mexico and United Arab Emirates met in Sydney in June 2011 for the 11th annual conference which explored, questioned and demonstrated the connections between learning and the built environment through keynote lectures, workshops, site visits, debate and networking.

Our keynote speakers, Charles Leadbetter, Paul Brock, Tom March and Barbara Stone brought a range of perspectives from global to local and made connections between international trends, the national curriculum and testing, current pedagogies and practices and the disconnect between the ways in which many schools operate and the opportunities afforded by 21st century innovation. Their presentations can be found on http://www.cefpi.org.au/library/overview.php

Six themes were addressed through workshops and site visits and our astute delegates made the connections – that science is a creative art as well as a discipline, ICT is an enabling tool with many applications, the creative arts are integral to learning, the principles underpinning environmentally sustainable development are also applicable across the curriculum and into the workplace, and contemporary learning spaces borrow more from contemporary offices, new shopping centres and modern airports and less from earlier schools, prisons, or gated communities. (See photos and site visits http://www.cefpi.org.au/conferences/2011-sydney-conference.php )

The Marketplace for Learning and the Pop Up program provided opportunities for informal learning and hands on use of ICT while the Great Debate provided an opportunity to talk about "the elephant in the room” – the impact of national standards on the design and delivery of places for learning and how we can cater for choice and diversity while achieving equity and fairness.

Networking took place over informal drinks, coffee and meal breaks, the harbour cruise, bus tours and the conference dinner as well as hotel gatherings. Sharing information and exchanging ideas quickly showed the common interests in planning, designing, procuring and managing places for learning and the benefits from sharing knowledge and experiences.

Session connections were coordinated by our conference facilitator, Sam Cassells. Concepts introduced in earlier years by Bruce Jilk and George Copa and subsequently Prakash Nair and Randy Fielding (Design Share), and Stephen Heppell have evolved and have been adapted and refined to meet the specific needs of individual schools, states and nations. This is reflected in the 91 submissions to the awards program and especially in those receiving awards. http://www.cefpi.org.au/awards/overview.php

Discussions were held to reinvigorate the Mayfield project as a research initiative and professional development program and we now have a wide range of international mentors who will contribute to the development of the program and its presentations in 2012. http://mayfieldproject.wordpress.com

A number of new initiatives and ideas were explored through presentations, site visits and informal meetings. Those who went to the Northern Beaches Christian School were surprised by the innovative ideas being implemented while at other sites we were impressed by the detailed planning and beautifully executed buildings at more conservative yet still progressive schools. It is clear that there is no single solution and that each centre needs to develop and articulate its philosophy to ensure the built environment complements and responds to its unique needs. 

The Sydney Conference Committee thanks all who participated and contributed to the success of this event - the delegates, especially the International Board and overseas visitors, the trade exhibitors and site hosts, and many volunteers who contributed their time and expertise.

We look forward to meeting again – online, Skype and WebEx, through Chapter meetings and at our next conference in Queensland on the Gold Coast from 30 May to 1 June 2012 for "Shape, Shaping, Reshaping – Where is the Line in the Sand?”