Early Learning Centre, St Monica’s Primary, Wodonga
The Prep teachers at St Monica’s Wodonga are following a Reggio Emilia education rationale with play based learning. The refurbished Early Learning Centre responds directly to this approach by providing a range of age-appropriate learning settings that support the very fluid and unpredictable nature of the educational programme.
Ken Woodman, No. 42 Architects
Winner Category 4 – Renovation / Modernisation / Under $2M
Brockley St Wodonga, VIC 3690 Australia
Nothing Without Joy
St Monica’s Primary, Wodonga, has been extremely proactive in creating contemporary learning environments. The Early Learning teachers are following a Reggio Emilia education rationale with play based learning. The Prep students initiate the daily direction of learning through a period of play at the start of the day. The teachers provide provocations which ignite the students’ imagination that then becomes the source for more structured learning through the remainder of the day. This approach provides for a very unpredictable educational programme with a very fluid learning environment as teachers interact with all students and each other.
The refurbished physical environment responds directly to the requirement of the Reggio Emilia approach while being considerate of the young Prep students with a need to feel secure and connected. The four group areas enable each of the staff to have individual play sessions without impacting on others. Each area has its own theme which enables the staff to rotate and provide different home-base experiences. On a daily bases, once the initial play based activity has been completed the staff operate across the whole centre assisting all students. Various secondary spaces permit the students to work in different modalities. All spaces are interrelated, visually connected, but acoustically separated allowing fluid movement of students.
Following the desire of a teacher to have a boat in the building a ‘Library Cabin’ was designed under a rediscovered existing highlight window. The feeling was suggested with boat shaped lime washed weatherboards, light ‘portholes’, a wall of book shelving, a boat shaped blue couch, an extracted fish table, and natural highlight filtering through the newly exposed roof trusses with coloured ‘sails’ between.
The Library Cabin is at the heart of the Centre and links directly to the other areas of the Centre. To the north there is a Drama space with a small stage and a Construction space with a wet area for art and cooking between. To the south are two group work areas with interactive whiteboards and couches. Between these four spaces are two glazed meeting spaces and a tiered inquiry space. The entry has a social couch and access to an internal toilet. The learning space is linked to a covered external space to the south and an enclosed Prep garden to the north with sliding doors providing excellent daylight and access.
Direct teaching and workshops can be accommodated in the group areas while individual or small groups can be acoustically isolated but visually connected in the smaller meeting spaces. Presentations can occur in the tiered Inquiry area which also doubles as a quite space for resting. The Library Cabin provides a quiet and intimate space for exploration of the books on the shelving or individual work.
Reggio Emilia encourages neutral colours to allow the students work and artefacts shine. Thus, neutral colours have been chosen to have an overall warm and calm feel. However, some areas have been highlighted with colour including the green entry couch, the persimmon movable wet area benches, and the sails and bleached out ‘boat timbers’ of the Library Cabin.
“The winner for the category is an early learning centre
At St Monica’s Primary School in Wodonga, Victoriathe Early Learning Centre has been developed as stage 1 of a master plan which sets out to provide a more open and transparent site plan for the future.
The centre features a fluid learning environment that enables the school to follow the Reggio Emilia educational rationale of play based learning.
The reuse of the existing building was not only the best use of limited available funding but also a sustainable approach to the project. Material selection also considered sustainability and life cycle with the use of such materials as cork and rubber flooring, wool carpet and extensive use of natural daylight.
The naturally lit boat feature, which sits centrally, provides an intimate yet inviting hub to the area and is cleverly fitted out as the library. The use of a neutral colour palette provides a warm and calm background that allows highlighted feature colours and student work to shine.
Congratulations to No. 42 Architects and St Monica’s Primary School.”