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Bridgitte, Natural Pods CEO, and Shannon, Director of Operations, recently returned from the LearningScapes conference that took place in California this year. Speaking with them post-conference, they shared they found it incredibly impactful. This is what Bridgitte had to say:

“As you may know, LearningScapes is the Association of Learning Environments (A4LE) international conference and is held in a different location each year. It’s an important date in Natural Pods’ calendar as I always appreciate the multi-levelled collaborative discussions that take place and the culture created by the openness and generosity of the attendees that makes this possible. This year one of the many inspiring encounters I had was meeting up with Murray Hudson and Terry White, and being gifted an early copy of their anticipated book, ‘Planning Learning Spaces’. It’s officially available on October 21st, and I highly recommend it.
(Photo shown above from left to right: Murray Hudson, Bridgitte Alomes, Terry White, Shannon Kirkwood)

Another of the main conference highlights was being able to see snapshots of all the projects that were selected for the 2019 James D. MacConnell Award. Big congratulations to all the winners! The exhibition was thought provoking, offering a gateway to deeper level conversations around the intersection of pedagogy, curriculum and the learning environment. It also affirmed my belief in the importance of human centred design.

The key takeaways for me were, firstly, the confirmation that we all need to be focusing on what’s best for learning, transforming the way we think about learning from an operations-centric model towards a student-centric one. Another takeaway, linked to this student centered piece, is the growing research showing the strong correlation between physical movement and increased brain function. Both of these lead me back to the importance of human centered design, and how there needs to be meaningful collaboration directly with students. Students need to feel their own agency and be allowed and encouraged to examine their values and aspirations, and how this translates to their ideal state of learning. A large part of that is creating learning environments where students have a sense of belonging and can safely present themselves. The photo below is a great example of how that can look – this is a ‘Student Voice’ wall.

The A4LE LearningScapes conference was very worth attending. I will definitely be returning next year and would love to see more students participating and being given the opportunity to share their voice. The in-depth enquiries and discussions enjoyed at the conference continue to impact my work and have affirmed the focus of my new upcoming presentation, “How Shaping Learning Environments, Shapes Learning” taking place at the A4LE Fall Chapter Conference in Vancouver in November. I’m greatly looking forward to it and hope I’ll meet some of you there.”

Shannon and I always find ways to play. We had great fun with this giant Connect 4 game.