Inside/Outside learning spaces
The future £1 billion investment in the learning estate announced by Cabinet Secretary John Swinney at the Education Buildings Scotland conference 2018 invites a joined approach to learning and learning spaces. The Early Years expansion agenda in Scotland has highlighted the opportunity of outdoors as a setting for learning across learning stages, and as a place to support whole families across time. The early years work shows that there are three broad models of outdoor learning provision which can support learning experiences at early years, primary and secondary level and for community:
- Extended – Using outdoor space within an existing or new learning campus centre
- Satellite– Using outdoor spaces close to an existing or new learning campus
- Free range – Taking learning completely outdoors using pop-up resources.
A key issue in the ‘extended’ model is the relationship between inside spaces within the buildings, and outside spaces, to enable freeflow of learners, learner led experiences on the one hand, but also handle the technical issues around air, temperature, safety and logistics that take place in this important set of spaces.
Drawing on work for the Northern Alliance, A&DS and the Northern Territory Programme Board commissioned some research to explore the inside/outside space issue in terms of issues, options and opportunities. The research is presented as a series of short technical papers that you can download using the link at the bottom of this page.
Conditions for success
The research identified three key issues to support the success of this way of using space:
First, prioritise outdoors.
The strategic education vision for places should explicitly highlight the benefits and practices for outdoor learning and outdoor spaces. The visions should include[a] a shared language that is understood by everyone involved in designing and delivering the service. and [b] the voice of young people and families are included in setting the key objectives, supported by the appropriate methods.
The focus of the strategic vision should:
- People: the child need, the family need, the practitioner need
- Place: building in opportunities to engage communities, and reflect a sense of the place and its communities in the design of experiences and settings
- Practice: supporting parents and practitioners in the practice of using the outdoors
Second, right skills and resourcing.
These skills include landscape architecture and interior design to help manage four practical issues to build a shared awareness around outdoor provision:
- Transitions: reflecting on current practice outdoors in each setting, what’s actually working, how confident are people now, and building a set of incremental steps towards free flow, towards more learner led. Build tests of change, bring practitioners with you on the journey in the way practice is organised
- Training: helping parents and practitioners understood what ‘good’ looks like, and their role; and continuous reflection on whats working at the leadership level to drive continuous improvement.
- Time: for practitioners, and designers, time to engage with children and young people to derive a better understanding of need to drive better, more informed decisions is important. Time for engagement needs to be built into practices.
- Timeous budgeting: explore options to hold back resources and budget, or collaborate with other services, and with parents and community to enable adaptation and change of settings across time based on the data from how children and young people actually use the spaces.
Third, good briefs.
Briefing for settings needs to connect the strategic vision, and the outcomes desired for all children and young people and their families, with specific objectives to shape spaces. The objectives should set out the requirements that are critical to success, supported by statements of the kind of experiences sought in each of the spaces, supported by images and examples which communicate a sense of the environmental quality expected. The Design Statement and SCIM processes promoted by A&DS for schools and health can provide assistance.