Learning in the great outdoors

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Samford Valley Steiner School, the first LEAQ site visit for 2019. I’ve been to quite a few different learning settings over the years, but realised I hadn’t been to a Steiner school before. It was quite fascinating.

Unfortunately it was also quite wet. It rained the entire time we were there, which is not ideal when you’re looking at an external bushland learning environment. But nevertheless our little group of umbrella-holding explorers trekked across the 20 acres experiencing new and old architecture and landscape.

The site planning was generally transitional, with learning blocks set along a central meandering connected spine. The internal spaces were small, and calm and traditional. This is a learning methodology that has been around for a very long time, and the spaces reflect that link to ideological roots. It was heartening to see the architectural style and space planning evolve as we moved through the years of growth, with the new building, currently under construction, displaying more flexibility and connectedness of learning space. All the spaces utilised the incredible bush setting with high windows and treetop views from most rooms.

The external learning settings are oft used at a Steiner school. We couldn’t get an in-depth look at all of these, due to the continual rain, but we could see the intent of the spaces, from natural garden beds, to small amphitheatres, to large grassed areas. There are also two dams on site for school irrigation, but also for students to practice the efficacy of their self-made timber boats. What an amazing landscape to learn in.

We concluded our tour in the recent library/staff room building in the centre of the site. What a lovely space with so much natural light and a calm sensibility of respectful learning. The school community were so enthusiastic about sharing their learning journey and we appreciate the time they took to show us around. It was interesting to learn about a different method of education.

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