Caves, Campfires and Waterholes

Wednesday 21 Apr 2021

If you ask our students where they sit in class, you will most likely hear some unusual responses: ‘I sat at the waterhole’ or ‘in the campfire’ or ‘cave’. It would be easy to get confused by these responses as they don’t mean much to those who haven't experienced learning in one of our classrooms, but to students at Living Faith, they convey so much more than just a physical location in a classroom. These terms give an insight into the type of learning that was taking place and the individual choices students made about their learning.

One of the first questions people ask when it comes to agile classrooms is ‘how is the class structured and managed when kids can pick wherever they want to sit?’ Those who have experienced industrial models of schooling recognise classroom management through concepts and rules to control student behaviour and focus (such as rows of students facing one direction, passive listening to the teacher, not leaving your seats and assigned seating). In this model, teachers are at the centre of the classroom, controlling student behaviour. On the flip side, in an agile classroom, the classroom structure shifts from a model of control to a model of empowerment.

Agile, collaborative and student-centred learning spaces are a key feature of the Living Faith classrooms, but there is a lot more to it than just open-plan rooms and movable furniture. Underneath the physical space, there is a depth of research, thought, planning and structure. We have implemented key features of the research by David Thornburg. (To read more about learning spaces, I recommend ‘From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments’ by David Thornburg).

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Caves are for quiet, independent work.

Campfires are spaces where people listen to an expert, either a peer, teacher or guest speaker.

Waterholes are spaces for collaboration and teamwork.

Every classroom at Living Faith has caves, campfires and waterholes. From Prep, students are taught the expected behaviours of each zone of the classroom, which means that as they select a space, they are also accepting the behaviours and expectations that go along with the area. If they are unable to do this, then they are quickly redirected by the teacher. Once students understand these expectations, then any space can become a cave, campfire or waterhole. Students are encouraged to learn about the environments they learn best in, which may differ depending on the task.

When designing our learning spaces, we aim for comfort, collaboration, the opportunity for ‘kids to be kids’, and harnessing the natural need for movement. Agile spaces allow students to be empowered to take ownership and make responsible choices about their own learning.

- Bianca Ravi, Director of Learning