Learning spaces and how to modify them

Image: Eric Dinardi

“Learning environment” means a space in which learning occurs, but if done well, it can also be one through which learning occurs. The model of corridors with lined-up classrooms – and of classrooms with lined-up desks – is not fit for every school’s vision. The following projects present some great alternatives.

EDUSPACES21: Learning Environments of the 21st Century

To catch up with 21st-century norms and expectations, schools need to modernise the classroom; at the same time, they need to start thinking in broader terms than the classroom. The project Educational Spaces 21. Open Up! approaches the learning environment from several angles: physical space (architecture and equipment), virtual space (online learning), and social space (community and school networks).

Painting the school walls

Image: Michał Kaniewski

To this day, most schools in Europe look similar to each other, but EDUSPACES21’s learning resources reveal great potential for diversification. From Radowo Male’s theme labs to Podmokle’s idea of having students teach the class, the project’s guidebooks amaze and inspire. The volumes revolve around the three topics mentioned above and are available in English, Polish, German and Swedish. Together with the project’s blog, they collect essential ideas, best practice examples and tested recommendations from all over Europe. They also tabulate their requirements in terms of time, funds and responsibility, in order to help schools redesign and – yes – “open up” their educational space. To quote Piotr Kozak and Marcin Polak, “If we want to prepare our children for living in the 21st century, why do we believe that the best way to achieve it is sending them to a 19th-century school?”

Reading cave

Image: Vittra Telefonsplan, Stockholm / Marcin Polak

EDUSPACES21 was an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership among three countries: Germany, Poland and Sweden. It ran from 2014 to 2016 and was labelled a success story and a good practice example.

eSGarden: School Gardens for Future Citizens

Equality, sustainability and respect for the environment – even intangible notions such as these can be taught through the learning space. On this basis, the eSGarden project has tasked teachers and students with creating ecological school gardens. To this end, they have designed a virtual environment, which allows teachers to link the physical world (gardens and non-formal activities) with the digital world (data and information), and equips students with much-needed ICT skills. The gardens also contribute to a feeling of community, forging social networks and engaging both formal and non-formal educational organisations.

Ultimately, the project aims to develop a new methodology, absorbing the gardens into the primary and secondary curriculum in a transversal programme focusing on ICT skills, sustainability, economy, nutrition, and more. Other planned outputs include an open digital library for visualising and managing information on the gardens, a book on school gardens and a MOOC.

Ecological school gardens

eSGarden is an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership among five countries: Greece, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. It began in 2018 and is scheduled to end in 2021.

MakEY: Makerspaces in the Early Years

Another learning environment that has been gaining traction is the makerspace – a designated area where students can create artefacts using specialist tools, such as electronics, laser cutters and 3D printers. However, not many projects have thought of using makerspaces with preschool children (age 3-8), and little attention has been paid to the development of their digital literacy skills in general. MakEY came in to fill that gap in the research.

Mediaplay workshop in Mejsen

Image: Mediaplay workshop, daycare institution Mejsen, Aarhus

In this project, staff working in makerspaces collaborated with academics to identify the benefits and challenges of running makerspace workshops in both formal educational settings (nurseries and schools) and informal ones (museums and libraries). The project has produced a wealth of resources for all target groups: educators, libraries and after-school clubs, museums, community groups, and makers, along with some general information. The participant countries also undertook their own initiatives, and a project blog was set up to post updates on makerspaces worldwide.

Virtual reality

Image: Virtual world created for the MakEY project

MakEY was an EU Horizon 2020 project involving seven countries: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Romania, UK. It began in 2017 and ended in 2019.

To discover ongoing and past EU-funded projects in school education, please go to the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.