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David Gates
Changing Spaces


Paget School, Birmingham

September 2007

design of four benches and handrailing at the school

Changing Spaces was a project organised by Craftspace. Three designer-makers and an architect ran separate but co-dependent workshop based research projects with mixed age range (4-11 yrs) schoolchildren in a programme of cross-curricula learning. The primary research question set by the school was, "Does involvement in an inquiry based approach to learning, developed through a whole school creative project, demonstrate an improvement in attainment for pupils?"

A series of workshops examining the nature of furniture was devised and used with the children over two whole days. The children considered what furniture does for them and for others, how it affects their surroundings, what furniture means to them and their families. Practical workshops engaged the children in making, using a variety of materials and exploring junctions and fixings with supplied components and aids, as well as using activity sessions with furniture to explore our relationships with it as objects.

The findings and results were assimilated with the other three projects to inform a collaborative design process to reconfigure a part of the school site using furniture, metal, colour and glass. The pupil-led approach used creative approaches to teaching and learning to bring about a physical change within the learning environment, transferring learned skills and attitudes, identifying increased attainment across the curriculum and enabling pupils, parents and staff to develop an understanding of the process of the design and realisation of change in the built environment.

Slideshow: David Gates - Changing Spaces

The process, including workshops, meetings, design work and the making of the objects was fully documented and recorded and the results are used as teaching aids and conversation pieces at the school. The furniture outcome specifically addressed issues of material, construction, visual and tactile experience and inclusive user-defined multi-functionallity.

The project is now complete but has yet to be press-launched.

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London Metropolitan University