designing learning spaces from the ground up

From an empty paddock on Kamahi Crescent in Pāpāmoa to a brand-new primary school, just eight months after construction began, Suzanne Aubert Catholic School opened its doors and welcomed its first pupil in February 2021.

The school was developed alongside the Ministry of Education, the Catholic Diocese, local iwi and the Sisters of Compassion in response to the needs associated with rapid population growth in the wider Tauranga community.

Furnware had the unique opportunity to collaborate with this new coastal school and design their learning spaces from the ground up. We began our journey by understanding the school’s pedagogical framework and space needs from its Foundation Principal Anthony Mills and Deputy Principal Shelley McKay.

A classroom that has a well-defined physical arrangement and appears organised will promote a positive learning environment.

Account Manager and Learning Space Design Specialist Ezra Murray first met Anthony and Shelley six months prior to the school opening when they were working out of a parish office in a church while the school was under construction.
Ezra recollects her initial interactions with the first-time Principal and first-time Deputy Principal as refreshing and inspiring with a strong desire to create collaborative learning environments.

To accommodate roll growth, primary schools up and down New Zealand are expanding their learning spaces. Creating new buildings for schools like Suzanne Aubert takes time, money and meticulous planning – from setting timelines and budgets to choosing the right contractors for the project. For a new leadership team, it might also mean understanding the vision for the school, how the space will be used and appointing specialists that will guide them through the project from start to finish.

“The vision and motto of Suzanne Aubert’s Catholic School is to engage, inspire and empower. Inspired by Mark Osborne's research on innovative learning environments, both Anthony & Shelley wanted to bring the school’s vision to the forefront by creating spaces that are warm, inviting and homely where children can learn independently, collaborate in small groups and connect in large groups”, notes Ezra.
Furnware then became their trusted partner to bring the school's vision to life. Our 3D learning spaces design tool removed all the guesswork for the leadership team by showing a preview of all space layouts and furniture configurations in the colourways complementing their logo and building colour palette.

Flexible learning spaces that are ready for today and future-proofed for any changes to teaching and learning in the years to come.

A presentation on how well-designed spaces enhance learning outcomes and an immersive 3D walk-through of the proposed plans helped the school leadership communicate their investment to the school board and new parents in the community.

“we are very impressed with Furnware’s seamless design consultation, up-to-date research knowledge on learning environments, one-stop-solution approach and the quality of the furniture."

Anthony Mills - Foundation Principal, Suzanne Aubert Catholic School

The physical learning spaces are aligned with the school’s social and pedagogical dimensions.

"Their consultation is not just about supplying furniture but investing in understanding the pedagogy of the school before designing the learning environment. Our learners, whānau and community visitors always comment on the design and how homely it is", notes Anthony

In this new post National Standards era, schools are redefining themselves and it is a great opportunity to be creative and innovative.

While not every school will be able to create something from the ground up in the way Suzanne Aubert did, schools can develop spaces to positively impact student engagement and learning outcomes.


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