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Author: Henrietta Cook
Source: The Age
Date: 6th of June 2016

They had grand visions of water fountains that spluttered cola, slides that carried students from the second floor to the playground and jetpack chairs.

Golden Square Primary students dreamt big when architects handed them crayons and asked them to design a new school.

While many of their quirky concepts were put on hold, one ambitious idea came to life. Their new school in Bendigo has been inspired by a tree house.

The two-storey building has balconies, views of tree tops, and uses lots of wood. The internal walls are decorated with leaf motifs, and the rooms are painted in autumnal colours.

“It’s an open, airy and engaging space. It’s something the kids have really enjoyed working on,” K2LD Architects associate Nick Jacometti said.

The new school is a merger of two schools on either side of the Calder Highway.

The architecture firm ran a series of workshops, where students scrawled down their ideas on large pieces of paper and debated what would work.

“There were some pretty wacky ideas and obviously you can’t adopt all of them,” Mr Jacometti said.

“They probably thought the idea of tree houses was a bit crazy. We thought it was a really great design generator.”

Children have an uninhibited sense of imagination, which adults often lack, he said.

The students requested Willy Wonka-inspired lickable, fruity wall paper, chocolate fountains, tennis courts, swimming pools, a rock climbing wall, a police course and fluffy chairs.

While these ideas were not incorporated into the final design, the students’ request for a tree house, lots of colour and junior and senior toilets were successful.

It was a long process – the students started coming up with design ideas for the school in 2010 and it only opened its doors last year.

Principal Barry Goode said he wanted the students to feel a sense of ownership over their new school.

“They know they’ve got a wonderful school with really great facilities,” he said. “They respect it and they love coming into school.”
It has also been designed with flexibility in mind.

There are small “cubby spaces” where children play, every room connects to the outdoors, and sliding panels let teachers expand or contract the size of the classroom.

Spencer Davis, a year 10 Footscray City College student and executive member of the Victorian Student Representative Council, said more schools were meaningfully engaging with students, and involving them in decisions.

He said some schools had students on interview panels, school councils, curriculum committees and involved in a “teach the teacher” program.

“Students have a right to be heard,” he said. “Student voice means more than just listening to us. It means we are participating in all the different decision-making systems in our school…. we should be challenged to represent the diverse experiences, views and needs of students.”


Read the article at The Age