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Nanjing International School
Nanjing International School
Nanjing International School

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Nanjing International School

Learning Spaces at NIS: The Third Teacher

The goal of any school should be that the learning spaces match the learning. Sometimes called ‘The Third Teacher’, learning spaces not only increase the focus and productivity in a classroom – they also inspire.

In our 21st Century world, we expect spaces to have the tools and equipment to support the work going on in that environment. Imagine if operating rooms looked like they did 75 years ago! Why then, do many schools still have classrooms that do? Like other progressive international institutions around the world, Nanjing International School strives to make our spaces match and support the kind of learning that we define in our mission and our strategy.

“It means that our spaces should reflect the inclusive nature of our school,” said Mr. Kasson Bratton, Director of Learning at NIS. “We know student learn best in environments where they feel safe, comfortable and are able to make meaningful choices. Our spaces should reflect this, inspire creativity, and focus on making thinking visible. They should invite students to make choices, about where and how they learn best.”

This started with our purpose-built campus that opened in 2004, the only one of its kind in Nanjing. Then it evolved with the creation of our Design Centre, and then more recently, our award-winning Early Years Centre, which was designed by renowned Australian studio EIW Architects to embody our school's innovative strategy: Student Voice and Student Choice and Bursting the Bubble.

EIW was recognised for their fresh approach, understanding, and diverse use and design of space at the Learning Environments Australasia Awards in 2020 as a category winner. Our Centre's fantastic and truly 21st Century spaces support visibility, choice, and flexibility, with floor-heated 'campfires' rather than fixed, traditional classrooms, soft, snug spaces for quiet learning and escape, as well as dynamic furniture that meets the needs of both students and teachers. The dynamic outdoor area offers a diverse range of physical, social, and sensory activities in a fun and safe environment.

What’s next?

Our upcoming HUB will be a multi-level, centralized space on our campus that elevates and amplifies learning, complementing our aspirations to place student voice and student choice at the centre all that we do. It will not be just a library or an IT space: it will be an integrated environment for curation and creation, quiet study and vigorous discussion, with flexible, agile furniture that can facilitate a variety of needs at different moments in time.

“The design of our HUB project was a collaboration between our students, teachers, and architects,” said Mr. Bratton. “The HUB’s design is a perfect reflection of our definition of learning in that we recognise that a great deal of learning comes through how students collaborate and interact outside of the classroom, especially in our Secondary School. This means the HUB’s second and third floors are designed around student need in terms of the learning, study, and collaboration they do outside of the classroom. Spaces like these are identical to those they will spend time in university and beyond.”

Mr. Bratton explained that the design of our learning environment at NIS is an important part of realising our mission and strategy. “We look forward to our physical learning environment inspiring our students and connecting their learning across our campus and the world.”