Monday, 27 July 2015


maeve staite with her sustainable house model

The pleasures of learning

One of those wet watery windy winter days when the cold cuts right through your clothing no matter how warm you are dressed. I was walking up the bleakness of Vincent Street on my way to the Daylesford primary school to attend the sustainable housing expo, a project by the younger students of the school.

Entering the school I immediately became aware of ‘the warmth of welcome’.

This was carried right throughout my visit by the friendliness of both students and staff.

For this project the students of three classes had each made a model of a house with special attention to the possible sustainable qualities. Qualities which they had learned about as part of this term’s project.

There where as many different approaches to this brief as there were students. The variety of the work was enjoyable, impressive, inspiring and creatively exciting. I was once again reminded that whenever I see creative work by our young people I, as a member of the older generation, feel pretty hopeful that the future is in good hands, as I did once again when I viewed this particular expo.

I loved the creative answers the kids had come up with. The way things were interpreted. In some of the designs it was clearly evident that dad or mum had partaken in the task at hand, which I thought was another wonderful aspect of this project. Working together with your mum or dad. Working together with your son or daughter. Excellent outcome. In my mind’s eye I saw the family gathered around the table during a winter’s evening, knotting out the problems and finding answers. What stood out in all of this creation of architecture was the creative use of ordinary stuff. Stuff, that lies around the house, to interpret the various objects depicted as part of their buildings. For instance the use of a set of CDs as solar panels, or a drinking straw as a rainwater pipe. Simple. Effective.

This worthwhile project seems the natural continuation of the school’s kitchen garden project. Another project where kids are learning about care, wastage plus the growing, preparation and presentation of food. The thoughts entered my mind that in relation to my experience of primary school there was no comparison. Learning today seems such fun.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are those benefits of this project that you cannot see but that are just as important, if not more so. The fact that the kids who had taken part in this project will, from now on, have a new awareness about housing. When out and about, they will notice the things they have learned about in the environment around them and take notice. Thus they will keep on learning. The subtlest result of this project

With a project such as this, many aspects of learning are touched upon. Art, design, mathematics. model-making etc.

It is commonly understood that most students who take art as a subject at school will not become artists. However, those who attend art classes will have their lives greatly enriched by the way they have learned to look and see. This goes for all the other subjects as well. Learning about these things creates a greater awareness and thus a richer life experience.

Here I realised we were also presented with another very important lesson. That learning does not only happen in one’s head. Learning also happens from engaging the world with one’s hands, through one’s hands. Learning does not only come about from sitting at a desk. This rather narrow approach of desk learning does, for many students, at times more harm then good.

Looking at the result of this project and the absolute enthusiasm with which the students answered my questions and explained their work, it was obvious that this approach of making is successful and all involved should be commended for the creation of joy and pleasure in the learning process.

Petrus July 2015