Barcelona, a beautiful city in Spain, it was the home for innovative and creative artists including Antoni Gaudi (1852 – 1926 ) and Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973.) It seems appropriate then for Barcelona schools to showcase innovation and creativity throughout their environments, nurturing the creative spirit of their students who perhaps may include future legendary artists from their beautiful city.
Earlier this year I had the professional development opportunity of a lifetime, visiting 3 schools in the magnificent city of Barcelona. I attended with colleagues from St Luke’s Catholic College which included teachers from the Early Learning Centre, the school of foundations (Primary School) and leaders from the school of leadership (High school) and our Principal leader Mr Greg Miller. The schools we visited included Collegi Montserrat; Collegi Mare de Déu dels Àngels and Our Dream School
It was truly inspirational visiting these schools which provide creative and innovative practises for the educational journey for children from the early years through to post school. I could write endlessly about the schools visionary practises that I saw (this is supported by the hundreds of photos taken.) For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on 2 key areas which truly impacted on me to support children’s creativity and continuity of experience in their journey of learning.
Continuity of the learning journey and a shared vision for learning.
In each of the schools we visited, children’s learning and development is viewed holistically where knowledge, skills and learning dispositions are not taught in isolation, they are nurtured to develop across the continuum from preschool to post school.
From an early age, emotional development, social skills and creative expression is given the same value in the curriculum as the development of literacy and numeracy skills.
This focus is maintained throughout the whole time at the school. Education is focussed on developing the “whole child” and is supported by the establishment of relationships and partnerships with families from the beginning of their time at the school.
This reaffirmed for me the growth of knowledge and skills over time, as described by Claxton and Lucas (Educating Ruby, 2015)
“Knowledge is not like a pile of bricks which, when it becomes big enough, magically turns into a house, it is like a tree that grows by day daring to put out shoots into the unknown.”
The aesthetics and documentation of learning.
Walking through the schools was similar to exploring the walls of an art gallery, showcasing and celebrating the artists’ work. The student artwork was displayed respectfully alongside supporting quotes which described their educational vision.
The environment supported the teachers and students use of the learning spaces, celebrating the learning and creative expression of the students. This pedagogical documentation welcomed visitors as well as helping to inform the purpose of the displays, the learning that was taking place as well as showing the value placed on children’s contributions, creativity and learning.
Seeing the Barcelona schools in action highlighted to me the importance and value of a continuous approach to learning for children from the early years through to the older years via a shared vision for children’s learning. As well, the role of the environment is crucial to nurture and shape creativity and innovation.
This does not mean a “push down” of “academic” skills into the preschool years as is sadly occurring in many preschools, instead it is the formation of partnerships between teachers across all the schools of learning including the early years, primary and secondary years, valuing the important role each has to play. A shared vision is crucial with a holistic view of children’s learning and development.
Shared experiences at the schools in Barcelona with my fellow St Luke’s colleagues has strengthened a shared understanding of the innovative practises that we can personalise and implement in the St Luke’s setting to build and cultivate transformative learning practises which recognises the importance of children’s learning in the early years and the foundation this sets for children’s learning dispositions, social and emotional skills.
The sharing of pedagogical discussions amongst the St Luke’s teachers is helping to build continuity of experience for the children, supporting their continuity of experience across the CELC, school of foundations, school of leadership and entrepreneurs and beyond, building the St Luke’s community of learners. It’s exciting to see this evolve.