On a chilly June afternoon this week, we had our third LEWA site visit, exploring the Mildred Manning Science Centre at Wesley College, designed by TRCB Architects. It was really heartening to see so many people in attendance at a building that we have heard so much about in recent months.
The Science Centre at Wesley College celebrates new modes of science learning, with practical and visible examples of scientific thought shown at every opportunity. The main entry space features a tiered forum with large screen and a mix of furniture for large groups or private study. Also in this space is a three-storey high glass-sided drop down / fan up duct (it probably has a more scientific name – can anyone enlighten me?) for science experiments. I loved this idea of putting learning right at the heart of the space.
The laboratory spaces are generously sized and feature large glazed sliding panels to open up the space. The Science teacher giving us a tour explained that the default for these doors are the open position, to encourage collaboration and open learning, and moving away from explicit instruction. It is interesting to see this process being explored, and hearing from the science teacher about how they are trying to do more cross-curricular activities in their new space.
It was clear a lot of planning went into the design of this new space, and once again the outcome of a close collaborative process between staff and architects is evidenced in the impressive result. Staff have to be willing to change up their thinking to work in new spaces and it seems in this facility the school did exactly that, working with Stephen Heppell to workshop how to use their new rooms.
It’s not an easy thing to change science learning areas at a school. When I designed the Science building at Santa Maria College it was difficult to find education case studies of collaborative, expansive science learning spaces, which were engaging and practical. I believe this example of flexibility of space and visibility of learning is an exemplary example of how science can break from its mould and further an understanding of all the different theories and practicalities of the world around us.