WISS Today Article

Education is changing. As educators, at WISS, we know that teaching methods have to adapt and match to current trends. We aim to inspire our students to be leaders of their learning in order to become mindful global citizens. Therefore our way of teaching is adapted to the demands of today’s world.

WISS is future-oriented and flexible when it comes to introducing new approaches to teaching as, for us, students’ development always comes first. This academic year 2019/2020 is full of new and exciting projects regarding new approaches to teaching in Early Years. One example is the launch of new learning spaces for our Little Tigers!

Learning spaces in the Early Years at WISS

Going Beyond Traditional Classrooms

Classrooms are an essential element of teaching and as such, should be restructured and adapted to the new educational requirements. Students spend most of the day inside them while they learn, interact with other classmates, and prepare to face the future.

Our EY classrooms from Pre-Nursery to Kindergarten have been completely renovated to offer flexible and interactive learning spaces. These new areas are adapted to the ages and needs of our pupils.

Our pedagogical objective with these new learning spaces is to improve the learning process of the little ones in many ways. Through these new classrooms, students awake their interest to learn, to explore, and to be creative. This will help them develop many new skills.

Early Years students at WISS

By integrating these new spaces in our EY classrooms, we create an active learning system where our students feel confident and willing to explore the environment while learning and socializing with the rest of the students.

Through these spaces, our students learn while playing, almost without realizing the double benefit that they are getting. When students feel comfortable in an area, they are more receptive to learn new things that they can also explore for themselves.

Spaces to Enhance Learning

Design and organization are vital to creating efficient learning spaces. Design is essential as it should primarily seek the comfort of the student, offering a space where she/he feels confident to explore and experiment. In order to achieve it, the furniture used in these spaces should be as ergonomic as possible.

Early Years students learning at WISS

The design should also reflect the concept of play. Through play, the development and learning process of the pupil is stimulated by leaps and bounds.

In order to obtain results, the design should also be focused on different areas of learning. Thanks to those adapted spaces, children develop their learning skills by exploring different areas of knowledge.

The new learning spaces at WISS make our students feel like home, offering different zones that invite them to socialize, communicate, and learn. Another essential pedagogical aspect of the learning spaces is the organization of the activities.

Learning spaces in the Early Years at WISS

#WISSteachers plan and organize different activities, adapted to each space to arouse curiosity and interest in learning, inviting children to learn for themselves.

Those new spaces strengthen the bond between the student and his environment, which leads to better academic results as students become more active working in teams and collaborating.

Five Benefits of Learning Spaces for Students

  • Work is done collaboratively.
  • Learning spaces help build better relationships and communication between classmates.
  • The students focus more on creativity rather than productivity.
  • These areas awaken students’ interest in learning.
  • Students learn through play.

Learning Spaces at the Western International School of Shanghai (WISS)

WISS Learning Spaces in the Early Years

Lisa Kane, Early Years Deputy Principal at WISS, shares with us her thoughts on how this new approach to teaching is of a great benefit for the educational development of #WISSstudents.

How are the learning spaces organized in EY classrooms?

“Pretend to be a child, look at the environment from her perspective and think about what she sees.” (Sussna Klein, 2014)

The design of the new Early Years spaces was part of a year-long consultation with teachers, where we spent time observing how the students use the spaces, researching the dynamic between environment and learning, and physically getting down on our knees to ‘see’ the room as a child would. Ergonomics were an important factor with furniture; looking at cabinets that could also function as tabletops, flexible seating options and of course, the height of tables and chairs. Display boards were dropped from adult eye level down to the floor so that these become more interactive and accessible to the students; If the displays are a reflection of the learning that takes place, then the children should be able to look at and add to these too. Teachers also discussed what they needed from the space to facilitate an enabling environment for the students and with all this information the room plan evolved.

How many learning spaces are there in each classroom?

The environment should act as an aquarium which reflects the ideas, ethics, attitudes and culture of the people who live in it. This is what we are working towards.” (Malaguzzi)

Each homeroom has a generous classroom space to work in, alongside shared areas for multipurpose use, both inside and out of the room. Learning spaces are more than tables and chairs as a place to work – they are regarded as a ‘third teacher’. This means that the environment can be planned and arranged to provoke, engage, and support students in their learning, which calls for flexible furnishings that can adapt to the environment as necessary. Harmony is also important in the aesthetics of the room. The student’s work should be paramount, so color and textiles should not visually overshadow this. There is also a feeling of ‘homeliness’, which comes through in the warmth of light, colour, and texture.

Are the learning spaces adapted to the age of the students?

“The work of education is divided between the teacher and the environment.” (Montessori, 2014)

How the room is used changes as the learning develops. What might be a home corner one day, may be a cozy book nook the next. Walking from room to room you will see a variation in how the spaces are organized, depending on how the environment is supporting the learning and what the students need from the room. One of the simple changes was to have wheels on all the furniture, so that it can easily be pushed aside for large physical group work, or shifted around to create smaller learning centres. Just as a teacher is responsive to the student’s needs, so can the room be. One enviable feature is the custom-built reading lofts. One of the teachers came across these during the research phase and we drafted many design plans before decided on our final product. Variations in student ability were considered in the design, even down to the ladders leading to the lofts – gross motor skills were an important factor in the design, giving student’s opportunity for development as they climb.

What are the educational benefits that those learning spaces bring to our WISSstudents?

The arrangement of structures, objects and activities encourages choices, problem solving, and discoveries in the process of learning.” (Gandini, 1993)

When considering student agency and choice, it is important that the room supports this. The resources that are visible in the room are all accessible for student use. Anything that is not required for the planned learning engagements and play opportunities can now be stored away in the storage cupboards in each room. This clears away the visual clutter, giving space for the students to display their learning and thinking instead. Longer-term projects can be left out for students to revisit over time, materials can be accessed independently and there are no areas that are ‘out of bounds’ or not in use. The room actually becomes a living space that actively participates in the learning process as children impact and are impacted by the environment.

What progress have you seen in #WISSstudents thanks to the new spaces?

“Creating and maintaining multiple responsive learning spaces promotes student agency, exploration, wonder, creativity and risk taking through play.” (IBO, 2017)

It is difficult to articulate the benefits of the environments to students. The first thing that was notable was the feeling of calm as I walked through the building in the first days of school this year. Yes, there were tears. Yes, there was noise and chatter as students explored, collaborated, and created. But amidst that was a feeling of harmony. Instead of reading my perspective, we invite you to come and see for yourself. To feel the curiosity, the learning, the discoveries…but most of all the love that is being generated in these spaces as students co-construct relationships with themselves, their teachers, and their learning environment.

WISS is firmly committed to new approaches to teaching as they bring numerous benefits to the educational development of children.

In addition to having these new spaces in EarlyYears, our school is one of the few that offers Forest School activity for our Pre-Nursery students.
In our forest, they become little explorers! Do you want to find out more about the benefits of this program for the little ones? Read our article: Forest School: When Nature Becomes a Classroom

Do you want to visit WISS and the new learning spaces in the Early Years?
Request a tour with our friendly Admissions Team and let us show you what WISS is all about.