Awe and Wonder in an extraordinary space
Welcome to the Lighthouse Suite
It is an unusual to find a working space in a school where a colourful octopus looks down on you, glowing in a neon light, but then, this is no ordinary learning space. You might find another child, deep in thought as they plan a story sitting in a deckchair, while close by, a small group decide on character traits in a pink beach hut, lit up by a beachball.
This is the Lighthouse Suite, a collection of rooms and spaces to work, based at Echelford School, Ashford, and part of the Lumen Learning Trust. Themed around the beach, the areas play with conventions of expectations in how we teach and learn.
The purpose of the room was two-fold; to allow the children across the Trust to explore the different ways they learn, while at the same time encouraging the teachers to develop and adjust their own pedagogy regarding immersion, space and convention.
“This is definitely not just a set of rooms to work in when you are looking at ‘The Seaside’ in Geography’” states Sarah Vernon, Headteacher of Echelford Primary School. “It is themed this way to be a stark contrast to a conventional modern classroom - there are no tables or chairs in here, no hidden data projector. No Powerpoint. Teachers are stripped back to their best assets - high quality dialogue and exposition.”
That certainly appears to be the case. Children from the School all regularly use the space in myriad ways, and in plenty of unexpected ones too. There is a shoe rack en route to the space, and all children and staff have to remove their shoes before entering the rooms, which have a variety of floor surfaces, from astroturf to (ocean blue) lino. They treat the space with an excited reverence, and despite the intensity of environment, teachers have already noticed better engagement, with longer concentration spans than they had seen in the classroom.
It also accommodates different needs - there is a room called The Nest, filled with beanbags, and just enough space to fit a class for a story, and children who like to work in silence can be found laying down, gently-changing lights making their shadows dance across the pages of their books. Elsewhere, children can work on any one of the three beach huts, in the spaces in between; even under chairs, as some have been prone to do.
The best space is also the best-kept secret - a hidden room, known as the Wonder Room, filled with curious and inspiring objects, from a wicker rugbeater to an old telephone. These are rotated regularly, and borrowed by both teachers and children to explore, inspire and enliven a lesson. If you want to know where the room is hidden, the children won’t tell you. It’s a precious secret, so you’ll have to visit to find out.
For more details and viewing opportunities of the Lighthouse Suite, please email our Headteacher, Sarah Vernon, at firstname.lastname@example.org.