Millions of dollars have been invested in the construction of school buildings and facilities in Sydney, which focus on students and staff’s physical, social and mental health.
According to Deborah Ascher Barnstone, this strategy is not a new one, with schools having developed buildings with students in mind since the 20th century. However, while old building construction focused on making sure there was enough natural light and fresh air, these new developments will encompass a more holistic approach.
Ascher attributed this change of action to the rise in health-related issues amongst young people today. “This reaction to modern life is filtering into the consciousness of designers and of teachers,” Ascher says.
Due for completion late next year, Wenona, in Sydney’s north has started a $40 million project known as the “Archimedes Project”. The price tag will bring with it sports and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) facilities as well as specially designed spaces for collaboration and quiet reflection.
Dr Briony Scott, Wenona’s Principal, says, “The new building is designed to have plants everywhere and tactile, earthy features, with a focus on light and space,”
“We have [also] been looking at the spaces between buildings, creating smaller areas that with a little bit of love and imagination can be converted into quiet spaces for reflection.”
Kambala, in Rose Bay, has also become more focused on a holistic wellness approach by introducing a new role to the school - a Dean of Wellbeing. The school also offers students spaces to practice yoga, socialise and practice mindfulness. School counsellors are also on hand if students need someone to talk to.
The Dean of Wellbeing, Dr Tamara Lang says, “Of course we always focus on the academic, but in the development of any spaces, when we’re looking at rearranging things we always keep wellbeing in mind,” Lang says.
Looking after all aspects of students and teachers health and wellbeing can only bring positive results for Australian schools.