Kate Groch: How Physical Spaces Change Learning Experiences

Our rural community spaces are full of buildings that have been converted into computer centres or homework centres. These are rooms that have had computers installed but that lie dusty and unused. Places with good intentions but no energy or success.

At Good Work Foundation (GWF) we always talk about the “human software” – it is our team that makes the energy that is the success of GWF Digital Learning Centres. And I stand by that and I often say “give me a great teacher and a tree and I will make magic.”

So when I was asked to write an article on how physical spaces can have an impact on a person’s behaviour and attitude, I had to ask myself: would Hazyview Digital Learning Centre (HDLC) have the same vitality (and measurable success) if it was in a small building, built as a home or a clinic first, and converted into a computer centre later?

While I am sure that our team at GWF would make a plan and do the best they could (as they always do) I realise we have another member of our team that makes a huge impact on what is going on here: our space, our barn, and our “university.”

I believe that beautiful spaces can inspire a person to greatness: these are spaces that make you stop and look up.

I remember standing on “Jammie” Steps at the University of Cape Town (UCT). It was my first day there and the buildings were a huge inspiration for me, a first-year student starting my tertiary education journey. I loved knowing that I was part of something bigger but also knowing that I had a part to play in creating what happened there.

I remember standing in the Cathedral at Mont Saint-Michel and being in awe that the people who started the building never saw the finished project but they believed in the vision of the project. It was a moment that, in part, inspired me to be part of something bigger than just me – GWF.

I remember standing at the Taj Mahal and being moved that people can create wonderful things. And being inspired to be someone who creates something wonderful.

When we stood in the banana packing shed in 2012 and made the commitment to building HDLC, we looked up. We committed to building a space that inspired people to greatness. A place that is world-class with rooms designed to inspire learning. A place where you could walk through one door and leave through another with a different life, a better life, and a future of opportunity.

And we see it everyday.

While our students come from homes that do not have a lot of money, from homes where circumstances are difficult, there are NO disadvantaged students here. These are young people inspired to greatness. These are young people who want something better for themselves and their families.

And everyday they walk into a space that supports those dreams.

So yes, the human software is vital to the success of this mission. But our space of learning makes it that much easier for every student to believe in what is possible.

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The “barn” at Hazyview – a space where education is challenged. A space that is filled with light, with the Digital Tree of Knowledge, with inspirational individuals on the walls. A space that is unique.

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Teaman Manzini in one of Hazyview Digital Learning Centre’s state of the art computer labs.

"I commit to creating spaces of wonder and learning." - Kate Groch

“I commit to creating spaces of wonder and learning.” – Kate Groch

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