ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT
JULY – DECEMBER 2002
ALPHINGTON PRIMARY SCHOOL
REFURBISHMENT OF PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
GRADE PREP CLASSROOMS
In July 2002 a small team1of educators and a designer came together to evaluate two Preparatory classrooms with a view to introducing new teaching and learning practices and a supportive physical environment.The school community had been discussing a number of approaches and educational philosophies* in relation to the school’s existing ‘Extending & Challenging Children Program’, a Charter Policy of the school for the past 3 years. The Principal and some teachers visited a number ofMelbourne schools to see their innovative programs and physical environments.An all day in-service session for staff and parents explored the theory and practice of the schools of Reggio Emilia 2, Italy.
Several teachersvisited an exhibition3of works by the children of these schools – one teacher referred to the detailed transcriptions of children’s discussions in the exhibition which revealed the depth of young children’s interests and insights.At the initial meeting, the Principal and teachers expressed their objectives for the ‘Action Research Project’4. Primarily, their hope was to give children more autonomy, more control over their own learning. They wanted to listen to children’s ideas and to collaborate with them in the development of on-going projects.The ‘Early Years Literacy Program’ was to be retained but the feeling was expressed that generally the emphasis on teacher control and text-based learning in the traditional curriculum limits children’s experiences and expression.
It was agreed that the existing daily ‘Integrated Studies’ sessions would be enriched with the addition of: small group discussion, expressive media, construction and role play. And that the physical environment would be modified to support these new activities. The children would then be able to use a wide variety of media in the development of on-going projects – without waiting for weekly access to specialist areas. The teachers also wished to document and display the processes and products of children’s on-going projects.The two Preparatory teachers were keen to work together – to share ideas and to support one another. Both teachers had a group of approximately 20 five and six year old children in separate, but adjoining classrooms. They were also interested to try combining both groups of children and possibly opening up the two rooms together. Before any changes were made, the existing teaching and learning program and physical environment of both classrooms was documented (video, notes and floor plans).* Howard Gardiner’s ‘Multiple Intelligences’, De Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ and Bloom’s ‘Taxonomy’.