M.I.P Essay: Part 4 Process followed at St. Michaels’ Primary Background: St. Michaels’ Primary makes use of a new kind of teaching methodology based on the philosophy of multi-grade learning. This philosophy involves collaborative learning, where students in the same classrooms, but in different grades, learn from each other. Therefore they are not limited or restricted by just learning from their teacher. Teaching doesn’t just happen in a linear format, communication happens in many other ways. The basis to this project was first and foremost to come up with a proposal that would benefit St. Michaels’ primary school, and to make the learning environment a better experience for pupils. The proposal was intended to support the school’s multi-grade teaching methodology by remodeling existing spaces of the school. This intervention had to be sustainable, cost effective and efficient and would contribute to the quality of the entire educational experience. During the second academic block, all the students were split up into groups in order to come up with ideas for the project on what would benefit the school. The initial idea was to construct a mezzanine level in each of the classroom to create more space on the ground level. This idea was a good one, however in order to do this, it would have interrupted the students’ learning time. Therefore, we had to come up with an idea that wouldn’t take the children out of their classrooms and this they could continue with their lessons while we were in the construction phase. All the groups were required to take photographs, make sketches and analyse the site in order to gather information on the design matrices such as context, function, technology and form. The design matrices are the building blocks of the project. Design-Build Process: The design-build process starts with the design matrices: context, function, technology and form is what follows thereafter. In terms of context, there were certain things that had to be taken into consideration. Firstly, the layout of the site had to be observed along with the existing building configuration, climatic conditions etc. The next design matrices that had to be looked at was function, by observing students behavior, speaking to the teachers and the principle, and observing the equipment and furniture etc. For technological purposes, observing local vernacular architecture as well as building methods and listing available resources within the immediate environment and possible donors or sponsors. The students had to get involving into sourcing materials that would be used to build the intended structure. By combining these design matrices, it created the idea of what had to be built. Once all the design matrices were taken into consideration and analysed, the idea of an outdoor classroom area came into being. This would also be used as an assembly space. The design idea redefined the entry to the school. The new assembly/outdoor classroom area was never utilized properly and now links the classrooms to the playground. Timber decking constructed that provides
access to the veranda and also acts as a stage for the assembly area. The construction phase started with setting up different groups who worked on different parts of the project. The project was split up into categories, namely the pergola (main structure), top stairs (decking), bottom stairs (links to playground), fire place and other (gardening, painting, sanding etc.). The category that I mainly worked on was the pergola, which is the main structure. However, I made sure that I got involved in every working category so that I would learn as much as possible. My main focus however, was the pergola. Setting out and digging the holes for the foundations were the first step in the construction phase of the project. We then set out for the placing of the gum poles, which are the linear elements that define the space. The poles were positioned and properly centered; they were then braced with timber beams and planks. Once the poles were braced, 100mm layer of stone and rock was put into the foundation, followed by the concreted fill. After the concrete settled and dried, it was time to mark the heights in order for the beams to be placed. The heights were marked through using a tool known as a pipe level. A pipe level makes use of water and gravity to get super accurate level readings. I found this method quite fascinating; because of how simple it was, yet so useful. Holes were then drilled in the poles, for the beams to be fixed at the specified heights. Holes were then drilled and then the beams were bolted and fixed to the gum poles. The rafters were to be laid on top of the beams, spaced and fixed by connector blocks. These rafters were fixed to the connector blocks. These rafters were fixed to the connector blocks with nuts and bolts. The final step was to put on the corrugated roof sheeting on for the overhead plane of the structure. The corrugated roof sheeting was placed on top of the rafters and then nailed with screws. The veranda was thus completed, the fireplace, top and bottom stairs as well as the garden area was completed before the pergola. Nonetheless everything was completed, once everything was finished built, the floor was then laid with woodchips as the floor finish. The handover ceremony took place on Friday afternoon after everything was completed. The CPUT students, along with the lecturers, the St. Michaelsâ€™ principle and staffâ€™s hand printed on the focus wall, which gave the project the final touch. To experience this whole process and then completing it was the greatest feeling in the world. Everyone celebrated, and the CPUT students had a braai and everyone was able to enjoy a very memorable day. I also feel that this project contributed to the schoolsâ€™ learning environment. It will make for a better learning environment for the pupils. It can serve as an outdoor classroom. It is also a much more practical space to have assemblies as it is located just outside the classrooms and allows better access to classrooms.