Minding your Q’s and P’s in a pod

Modular-designed learning “pods” are transforming students’ learning experience, and St Patrick’s Primary School, Lochinvar is at the forefront of this educational evolution.

Resembling something from Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley, the pods are designed to enhance student learning and engagement through the use of adaptable furniture and flexible learning spaces that promote collaboration.

Gone are yesteryear’s whiteboards, the endless stack of exercise books and single-file desks with stationary chairs. In their place are smart boards, sound clouds, lighting dimmers and bi-fold doors.

It is a scene being replicated across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle with several schools benefiting from recently completed capital works projects including St Clare’s High School, Taree, St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen, St Pius X High School, Adamstown and St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm.

Projects currently under way, or planned for the near future, include St Therese’s Primary School, New Lambton, St Aloysius, Chisholm, St Patrick’s, Lochinvar stage two and Catherine McCauley College, Medowie. 

The acting director of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Catholic Schools Office, Gerard Mowbray, believes the record funding and revolutionary projects are an investment in students’ education.

“By creating collaborative, adaptable and inclusive environments, our mission is to progress students from being ‘data banks’ to inquisitive problem solvers and innovators,” he said. “These skills will assist them throughout life, and that is why these developments are so exciting.”

St Patrick's Primary School principal Jacqui Wilkinson said school educators worked closely with staff from the Catholic Schools Office and SHAC Architects to create the flexible learning spaces, which still allow for traditional modes of learning and teaching, but also support opportunities for innovation.

“It was really important that as educators, we got to have a voice,” she said. “During the planning process, we were committed to the creation of a design that would translate from Kindergarten through to Year 6 and accommodate the different ways in which the spaces would and could be used, offering a multi-purpose space with technology accessibility.” 

Staff and students had very firm ideas about what they wanted.  

“The children have a choice about what furniture is best suited to their learning,” Jacqui said. “Children can manipulate the furniture to suit their needs. We know that ergonomically, sitting for long periods is not a great idea. So the children can select from sitting desks, supported by chairs or ottomans that can either be stationary or rock, or standing desks with the option of standing on wobble boards designed to support their blood flow and increase their core strength.”

St Patrick’s Kindergarten and Year 1 students and educators have been operating from the pod design since 2018. It has been so successful that construction has now commenced for pods that will service Years 2, 3 and 4 with a view to extending this to Years 5 to 6 in the coming years.

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