Learning Communities in the City: Social Constructivism, Spaces and Connections in the New Urban Primary School
The main intention of the research is to develop a model for an inner city primary school building which is responsive to the urban context and reflects the educational theory of Social Constructivism. The underlying demand for an inner city primary school was identified as a result of a recent demographic shift which involves more families living in the centres of New Zealand’s cities. Schools are an important part of a city’s infrastructure, where quality schools can help to develop quality cities. There should be a close fit between current educational theory and contemporary school design. Social Constructivism views learning as the construction of knowledge through social interaction with peers, adults and the environment. The design case study proposes a vertical school that is capable of supporting strong links with the community through developing a ‘public living room’ alongside retail outlets. While the vertical nature of the school limits some contact it is possible to develop a ‘learning street’ and other meeting places within the school. The plan also provides flexible classroom spaces and workrooms to meet curriculum objectives. A variety of indoor and outdoor spaces can be provided but it is proposed that the children also access the city’s public open spaces and amenities. The city can be viewed as an extended classroom, as suggested in Strickland’s ‘City of Learning’ model. The site for the proposed school was selected to ensure easy access to amenities and resources. Overall the research suggests an inner-city primary school building is possible and even desirable for those living and working in the city.