Schools and TAFE

Distributed learning, distributed classrooms: EBD Schools and TAFE

EBD is proud to announce that we have almost 1000 children currently in our primary and high schools program. Whilst the majority of our students live within our neighbourhood, there are also students from node schools in our neighbouring communities (West Melbourne, Docklands).

For the older generations, the distributed ‘Quarter Schools’ is still a radically different type of school than those that existed at the turn of the century.

Quarter schools were initially prompted by a need to meet the post-Kyoto target – with many of the older schools rapidly renovated to incorporate cutting edge sustainable technologies. It was realised that the creation of low carbon lifestyles needed a whole community approach, and schools seemed to be the natural place for this focus. Schools, however, had become fixed institutions and were often no longer the heart of growing communities. Families were unable to simply walk to their local school.

Quarter schools evolved as a flexible and distributed education model comprised of hub schools and node schools. In the Quarter School model, the hub is a retrofitted older school, which houses much of the school’s infrastructure. This includes the school’s administration (systems and staff), services (eg. nurses and councillors) and school supplies, as well as shared education resources such as sports ovals, assembly areas and the school library. The hub is supported by a series of nodes.

Nodes are smaller, more flexible learning spaces that can be positioned wherever a demand for schooling arises. Nodes hold approximately 70-100 students, depending on demand, and may be housed in different types of buildings such as converted residential homes, old shops or ex-industrial spaces. The nodes are supported by teaching staff and technology enables students in nodes to be connected to each other in different locations. When school has finished for the day, local communities are able to make use of the nodes for community learning centres.

EBD was the first purpose-built extended school. Yet as we have grown over the last 15 years we too have adapted spaces that were not initially expected to be part of the school, for example, some classrooms are in the middle of a residential apartment building. When parents come to collect the younger children, the building really feels more like a vertical street.
With the help of ACUR, EBD has access to cutting edge technology. The advanced communication technology allows students at the West Melbourne and Docklands hubs to take part in classes with their EBD peers. Learning is not limited to technology and the classroom. EBD’s integrated education strategies ensure that learning takes place across the entire neighbourhood. Classes are held in many of the outdoor and community spaces.

The classroom nodes within EBD are distributed across the site, but they are easy and safe to walk to. The nodes in Docklands and West Melbourne are also within a safe and walkable distance. The activity between the nodes and the Hub has integrated the school into the daily life of EBD’s working and residential communities. At lunchtimes students, workers and residents all cross paths. Whilst all spectators are welcome at the sports days, some grandparents are on strict notification not to bully each other.

Our EBD Sustainable Small Industry TAFE courses continue to be popular. To date our TAFE courses have enabled thousands of city workers and residents to transition to a low carbon lifestyle. Some of our most popular courses include urban food production, low consumption water technology systems, EBD DIY media production, electronics hacking, recycling and repair, and garment re-working. Whilst many of our students participate in the courses to update personal skills and knowledge, others are using the TAFE as career training. These students are highly sought-after graduates within the sustainable trades and industries. Upon graduation some students accept industry placement, and often move from the local area taking their skills into the greater metropolitan area. Others decide to start their own business, extending their studies by enrolling in EBD’s small business program. The TAFE is closely linked to ACUR and the business incubator. It is not uncommon for promising students to joining these facilities to further their education or gain mentorship for their business. Six of our current incubator businesses have followed this EBD TAFE path. EBD courses also attract other TAFE educators who participate in our 3 month residential placement program.