Out of the box and into the zoo - SA's Day Out of the Box

Published: Thursday 4 October 2018

What better place to contemplate life, the universe and everything about learning, as we look forward to creating spaces for mid 21st century learners, than a modern zoo?

No longer places where sterile heartless enclosures house obviously bored curiosities from around the world, modern zoos are full of individually tailored environments  that draw from  scientific  knowledge of behaviour and ecosystems to create protected environments for animals to thrive.

Surely there are lessons in that!


Building on the success of the Regional Day Out  held in Adelaide in 2016, the SA Chapter’s “Day Out of the Box”, held at Adelaide on September 7, drew  nearly 80 local  educators, designers and related professionals for a day of reflection and action (including a tug of war!).

Subtitled “Grasping the Pace of Change”, and led with energy and enthusiasm by facilitator Matthew  Wright- Simon, the program explored the latest research on learning behaviour, the effect of environment on learning choices and outcomes, as well as a range of practical  local  initiatives to produce engaging learning experiences.

The always entertaining and inspiring, Professor Martin Westwell, recently appointed Chief Executive of the SA Certificate of Education Board, used his keynote address to share research insights into the importance of personal contact in early learning, as well as the importance of spaces that encourage a sense of belonging.  He also included insights on the impacts of learning environment on choice of career pathways.  Musing on the future of student assessment, Martin highlighted the emerging emphasis on students demonstrating capabilities in the application of proficiencies rather than the proficiencies alone.


To follow Associate Professor Wes Imms shared insights gained through the work of the LEA-supported ILETC program based at the University of Melbourne.  After illustrating the paucity of evidence on the effect of open learning environments on student outcomes, he went on to outline the range of projects ILETC have initiated to address the issue. His final message was that Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) are here to stay and there is emerging evidence that they work well and can positively impact student learning outcomes. He included the challenge to LEA to seek out and evaluate ILEs in use and celebrate those that have demonstrated lasting learning successes.

After a lunch with a view of the Botanic Park treetops, and the opportunity to get close up and personal  with some of the zoo’s smaller residents, the crowd split into workshops led by Wes (techniques for making lasting change) , Dr Lisa Bailey (on creating  UniSA’s Museum of Discovery), Anna Hodge (on developing talent and careers in CGI at Rising Sun Pictures) and Graham Clark (experiences in changing community outlooks in SA Secondary Schools).


The day was wrapped up by Matthew, through a lively panel discussion featuring all the speakers, and an equally lively feedback process, which clearly showed that the event generated an appetite for a repeat in the not too distant future.

Article: Andrew Gehling
Photos: Jacob Potter