School’s amazing new immersive learning area and sensory garden unveiled

A school has unveiled its newly completed immersive learning space and a sensory garden.
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The ‘Smartpod’ installation has been built to the rear of Winchelsea Primary School in Ruskington, replacing an old mobile classroom. It allows children to fully immerse themselves in a learning experience surrounded by video walls, feel vibrations through a touch reactive floor and seating and even pick up authentic smells.

When Helen Duckett took up the headship 15 years ago, she wanted to reinvigorate the curriculum and boost Winchelsea’s attendance rate and reputation.

“We began implementing immersive and experiential learning which involved transforming our classrooms on occasions into different learning environments such as an air raid shelter complete with blackout, air raid sirens and cramped spaces, so the children could feel what it was like, to make learning more engaging, fun and innovative,” she said. “We also had a whole school alien invasion.”

Winchelsea School headteacher Helen Duckett sat in the Smartpod on a rumble bean bag and the immersive screens behind.Winchelsea School headteacher Helen Duckett sat in the Smartpod on a rumble bean bag and the immersive screens behind.
Winchelsea School headteacher Helen Duckett sat in the Smartpod on a rumble bean bag and the immersive screens behind.

She said it was clear this boosted children’s understanding and attendance rates and been praised by OFSTED.

However, Miss Duckett admitted it is very time consuming for staff to make all these changes and so she worked with companies to develop the Smartpod, which has three way projector walls to create learning environments such as underwater, dinosaurs and space. She demonstrated an air raid shelter in T he Blitz where children can experience the sounds and even smells of gunpowder and feel the bombs dropping through vibration bean bags. There is also an interactive floor and the room doubles up for after school provision.

It was funded through school fundraising, budgeting and grants from the Co-op, Tesco, the Rotary Club, Moy Park and Ruskington Fun Day proceeds.

A Zen courtyard is also now complete for pupils in recognition of the emphasis on mental health post-Covid. It has musical water fountains, windchimes, sensory plants and an interactive soundboard.