Regional Conference Wrap-up, Linda Tiong provides her observations

Published: Sunday 6 July 2014

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Inside Out / Upside Down’. Specifically, the conference addressed the understanding that children are citizens from birth and that they can be co-constructors of their learning in a supportive school environment as well as the wider learning community. The conference program also provided an important forum in which architects, educators and facility planners examined ideas about built structures, organisations and environments for education and learning.

The conference was constructed as a learning event, with keynote presentations in the morning that challenged us with provocations of change, and followed through with workshops and site visits in the afternoon which explored the three strands of Inside Out, Upside Down and Joined Up. This format of running the keynote, workshop and site visit sessions on each day seemed to encourage a good and interesting flow of proceedings throughout the two days, and was well received by the delegates.

The first day’s keynote presentation was led by Lynne Symons, Principal of Mark Oliphant College, focusing on the ‘Role of Place and Space in Entitlement and Engagement’ at Mark Oliphant College B-12. She was inspirational in her address, and with the belief that children are at the centre of their own learning, she championed innovation in the creation and use of place and space for students to encourage entitlement and engagement. This was particularly evident in the presentation about the vision, outcomes and continuing growth at Mark Oliphant College, South Australia’s first purpose built facility combining care, preschool, primary and secondary education.

The second keynote was Professor Martin Westwell from Flinders University. In addressing some interesting ideas from the science of learning, he explored the nuances of how neuroscience and cognitive sciences can provide insights into learning processes, and how environmental characteristics impact the ways in which young people think and learn. The session included a test of the delegates’ knowledge of some common ‘neuromyths’ that currently influence today’s education design and implementation. Professor Westwell’s presentation can be accessed here.

The site visits were set up as a culmination of or would run parallel to each days’ workshop session. These were designed to provide practical examples of the ideas explored within each conference strand, and to spur debates, conversations and thinking about learning. Tours were organised to the following facilities :

- Inside Out (Cornerstone College Paideia, St Francis de Sales College, Tatachilla Lutheran College, Willunga Waldorf School, Our Lady of La Vang School, Errington Special School, Bonython Park Playspace, and Aldinga Beach Children’s Centre)
- Upside Down (Taikurrendi Children and Family Centre at Christies Beach Primary School, Mawson Lakes, Alberton Primary School, Blair Athol North School, Ingle Farm Children’s Centre, and Galilee Catholic Learning Community)
- Joined Up (The University of Adelaide – Hub Central and Nexus 10 Hub, Australian Science and Mathematics School – Flinders University, Morphett Vale Primary School, and a walking tour of four city libraries – State Library The Hub, City of Adelaide Library at Rundle Place, University of SA Jeffrey Smart Learning Centre, and Susan Sullivan Library, St Mary’s College)

This year’s conference site visits also included a ‘Whistle Stop Tour’ on both days, for delegates who preferred to experience a brief overview of a range of new and redeveloped learning facilities in Adelaide’s inner eastern and north eastern suburbs.

A nod to Adelaide’s reputation as Australia’s Festival City, the Fringe was conceived as a series of late afternoon activities after each day’s core program, where delegates congregated back at the Oval to share ideas and discussions, as well as interact with conference sponsors and view their products. This was very well attended by many delegates who were treated to informal presentations, music and busker-style entertainment. The festival theme continued into the ‘Mad March in May’ dinner on the penultimate evening of the conference.

Next year’s Regional Conference themed ‘Meeting Places, Learning Spaces’ will be held in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. The conference promises to engage with Canberra’s most innovative and progressive learning spaces and visits to the national capital’s iconic buildings. Watch this space for more information and details in early 2015.

Linda Tiong is a Western Australian CEFPI member and Architect with Taylor Robinson.