Create a space-away: An informal learning activity for children at home

The current need for isolation at home is spatially challenging for children and adults alike, with us all cooped up and vying for a little space of our own to work and relax. Schooling at home adds extra pressure – although on a positive note, it creates opportunities for creative learning beyond the more structured school context. Encouraging children to create their own experiences and spaces may enable authentic meaningful learning that is enjoyable
and less stressful
.    

With this in mind, I’ve thought up the informal learning activity:
Create a space-away: For imaginative young designers.
[Click the link for the learning resource].
The space-away activity aims to fire children’s imagination. It has a sound educational basis and may help children develop various capabilities including: problem solving, literacy, numeracy information/digital literacy, practical skills and collaboration. This activity also aims to enhance children’s wellbeing by fostering creativity and sense of personal belonging during this time of social distancing.

What is the space-away activity?
This activity challenges children – as young designers – to create a space-away for themselves at home. I’ve made up the term space-away to minimise young designers’ preconceptions about what kind of space they might make. In the resource I simply describe a space-away as ‘somewhere of your ownwhere you can get away, feel comfortable and have fun, especially when you’re stuck at home’. A space-away can be any size, from a Lego model to a garden shed. It can be an indoor or outdoor space – physical, digital or imaginary. A young designer can keep their space-away for them self or share it with anyone they wish including siblings, soft toys, imaginary friends or pets.

Hints – for parents/carers/teachers
The space-away activity requires no special knowledge or experience. It is intentionally:

  • Fun: Enjoyment of the creative activity is as (or more) important than the product. Informal active experiences like this enable real learning outcomes for children.
  • Child-directed: As far as possible allow young designers to run with the activity themselves – while keeping a gentle eye on their wellbeing and safety. Adults can provide just enough guidance and encouragement to enable young designers to determine the nature of their away-space, and plan and make it themselves.
  • Flexible: This activity is adaptable to suit the age and abilities of the individual young designer, and the space, time and resources readily available to them at home. Timeframe is variable. More independent learners may work through the space-away resource by themselves, while other young designers will require more assistance from adults in reading and following the process.
  • Inexpensive: This is meant to be a low-cost activity with no need to buy anything special. Part of the learning challenge is to use only materials and tools readily at hand, such as: large boxes, food containers, paper, cardboard, wood off-cuts, bricks, rugs, shade cloth, cushions, fabric, old furniture, stones, sticks, play dough and Lego. And basic tools such as: Scissors, saw, hammer, ruler, glue, string,rope, Blutak, paints, brushes, pencils, coloured pens and digital apps. In this way the activity encourages sustainability through recycling and repurposing.
  • Open-ended: Children can start or end the activity at any time, depending on their interest and motivation. At any stage they can opt out of the activity – or change or extend their space-away design (where practical).

Learning and designing principles
The space-away activity is based on learning space design and wellbeing principles and embeds elements of inquiry learning and design thinking. As shown in the diagram below, the activity challenges young designers to engage in a continuous process of four activities – imagining, exploring, making and testing. These activities are inter-connected and support each other. 

The starting point of the activity is imagining. Young designers then bounce from one activity to another around the circle. Once they have tested their design, they can either take a break or return to more imagining. Depending on their interest they may go through one or several cycles in creating their space-away.

This space-away activity responds to children’s innate imaginative capacity. While potentially an anytime/anywhere activity, it may be particularly appealing while children’s social and physical boundaries are limited to home. 

Images copied with licence from
Pixaby & Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

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