An emerging culture and curriculum at the new Lemonwood Grove School
Te Uru Tarata / Lemonwood Grove School is part of the Ministry Innovation Programme. The design of the school has been heavily influenced by research carried out by educator Dr. Julia Atkin and interior designer Mary Featherstone on Innovative Learning Environments. Built for eventual capacity of 750 students, the completed Stage One provides ‘learning landscapes’ for 450 students. There are currently 112 students attending Lemonwood Grove, and 7 full time staff members.
Stephenson and Turner, the New Zealand architectural firm that designed the school created smaller, more personalised learning settings within the large ‘learning landscapes’. The new learning environment reflects the school’s belief statement:
“We believe that by providing a landscape of possibilities, people will connect and ideas will flow in challenging, collaborative and creative ways.”
Establishing a strong school–community culture
The people in the school consider themselves to be a part of a wider ‘Community of Learners’; engaging with others to learn, grow and develop together. Daily practice focuses on getting to know students, building relationships, understanding needs, interests and passions, and personalising learning accordingly.
There is a strong sense of trust and students call staff members by their first name. The emphasis on trust, relationships, collaboration and a positive, strengths–based approach allows people to work together, innovate and take risks.
The school's cultural narrative
Rolleston is located within the takiwā of Te Taumutu Rūnanga, one of 18 Ngāi Tahu Papatipu Rūnangā, based at Ngāti Moki Marae, Taumutu. The takiwā is centred around Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) and extends across the central part of the Kā Pākihi Whakatekateka o Waitaha (the Canterbury Plains) to Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana (The Southern Alps) to the west, the Waimakariri River in the north and to the Hakatere (Ashburton River) in the south.”
The school’s cultural narrative was gifted by the local Taumutu Rūnanga with the support of local advisor Christine Brown. It is obvious and highly visible as soon as you walk into the school. Imagery shows local native birds flying through the lemonwood grove leading to the mountains.
Each learning landscape and learning level has its own specific whakataukī and images. These are on display in different forms around the school. They help reinforce a strong sense of belonging and reflect the school’s overall approach to student well-being, teaching and learning.
The school’s emerging vision, values and beliefs.
Six months of the Board of Trustees (BOT), and staff working together, researching, visiting other schools and investigating good practice helped form the development of the school’s vision, values and beliefs. This was done in consultation with their emerging community. It was based on the principle of ensuring that every learner (including staff and whānau) will reach their highest potential. The school’s vision is:
“The best of you, as you”
The values and beliefs help shape relationships, experiences, teaching and learning at the school. These are:
“Grit, Integrity, Responsibility and Thinking”
An emerging Curriculum
The development of Lemonwood Grove’s emerging curriculum has been guided in part by Australian educational researcher Dr Julia Atkin’s thinking, as outlined in her article From Values and Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice. Lemonwood Grove staff and BOT have shaped this thinking into ‘Why?, How?, What? circles’, as seen in Dr. Atkin’s approach. E.g.
- Why? – core values and beliefs around teaching and learning.
- How? – the principles that support the values.
- What? – the practices that describe what learning will look like at Lemonwood Grove School.
The circles are are displayed and referred to in the school 'Grove’, a shared collaborative space beside the hall and gym.
The 7 Principles of Learning from the OECD report The Nature of Learning help design how learning will occur, and inform the school’s vision. Lemonwood Grove’s emerging curriculum has also been guided by a range of different researchers and practitioners. These include:
- Ewan Mcintosh/NoTosh – Design Thinking
- Sir Ken Robinson – Creativity
- Michael Absolum – Clarity in the Classroom
- John Hattie – Visible Learning
- Kath Murdoch – Student Inquiry
The curriculum has an emphasis on students owning their learning. The leadership team works to ensure that whānau know about and understand the curriculum by making it authentic and relevant to the community. They will continue to review and refine the curriculum so it is continually informed by student, whānau and community needs.
“Our core focus is around empowering learners and allowing them to develop agency. In order to allow this to happen, we are continuously reviewing programmes to meet students’ needs passions and interests”
Principal Sean Bailey and his team are endeavouring to create an environment that caters for a diverse range of students and their whānau. Staff seek to nurture, engage and inspire their students, as well as preparing them for the their future.
“Lemonwood Grove symbolises both nurturing and protection as well as the strength that comes from being part of a community. Each member of the school whānau will be valued for the unique strengths, interests and talents that they bring. We learn together and from one another”
It will be an exciting space to watch grow.
Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi.
With your basket and my basket the people will thrive.