A South West Adventure in Learning Spaces

Published: Friday 18 November 2016

After many years of planning, Learning Environments WA was very excited to venture off on our first day-long Bus Tour to the south-west of WA to visit several educational facilities in the region. We had over twenty people join us for this successful day of visiting some of the best learning places our state has to offer.

Our first stop, Bunbury Catholic College Mercy Campus, was a welcome departure from the long bus trip down from Perth. As a feature of numerous news articles and Awards, most of us had seen these spaces on paper but to walk through them was quite a different experience.

The bold materials and dramatic shapes create dynamic internal and external learning environments which are exciting and encourage student interaction and activity, which we imagine will only enhance once student numbers increase. Break out spaces are colourful and fixed seats are bathed in light from skylights above. Extra wide corridors and adaptable double classrooms enable a mix of social settings for learning throughout the senior campus, with opportunities for small and large groups to gather without interrupting the flow of people during break times.

A short ride up the road we visited the Bunbury Trade Training Centre at Eaton Community College. The Eaton Community College Trade Training Centre is part of a community initiative with 14 schools over three campuses to provide diverse skills training opportunities to the Bunbury Region. What a fantastic adaptable learning space for trade training. Recently set up as a drywalling and brick trade workshop within tight budget restraints, the space is now undergoing a transformation into an automobile workshop. Having a large well-lit space that can so easily be modified to suit the requirements of the local building industry has created a unique self-driven vocational learning environment for the whole Bunbury community.

Lunch at the Dolphin Discovery Centre allowed the whole group to chat away and discuss what we had discovered from the visits so far. We were also fortunate to learn more about the plans for the upgrade of the facility which is going to be a major educational and public feature for the area. We are looking forward to seeing this building progress as we venture through the south west on future tours.

Following lunch we visited Manea College, a Year 11-12 government secondary college which is currently booming with an energetic staff and hard-working students studying for their final exams. This lovely light bright space was evidence of the respect for senior students that the staff have developed throughout the centre, enabling work and study to happen anywhere and anytime, and with (sometimes) minimal supervision.

A Trade Training Centre on site further enhanced learning for students, with the medical and clinical fitout making use of the location of the nearby Hospital and university training centres for health care and dentistry.

Our final stop for the day, Dalyellup Secondary School is a large government high school featuring double loaded corridors with lots of colour and natural materials reflecting the surrounding environment. Wide corridors with high levels of transparency to adjacent rooms act as an extension to classrooms, providing break out learning spaces whilst still having a visual connection to their peers. An IT lab fully kitted with audio visual equipment allows the students to connect to other places around the world, including learning new languages from people who live in another country.

What became obvious during our visit is the importance of community in the development of students within their educational environments.

Whether it be communities within the campus, community created by links to other schools, facilities or partnerships within the region, or the extended community enabled by technology, a large part of 21st century learning relies on networks that are created through the design of learning environments that are not necessarily restricted to the walls of the building.

We hope to continue the regional bus adventures as an annual series, and look forward to another regional outing next year. Thanks to Kent Lyon, our Bunbury regional member who provided so much support, information, liaising with all the schools we visited, and the most incredible lunch location. Thanks also to Interface for the hire of the bus and to all our members and non-members who joined us on the day. Thanks to the architects from Broderick Architects, Kent Lyon Architect, CH+BW and Parry & Rosenthal Architects who took the time to walk us through their designs. It was a great success and we hope to see you all on another tour shortly.

If you would like to keep up with all our adventures please follow us on Instagram @LE_WAus

By Dani Martin, EIW Architects and Michelle Chew, Parry & Rosenthal Architects