The Hive.

We had many visitors during Term 1 and I mean many visitors. One of the comments made more than once has stuck in my mind.

“This doesn’t feel like a school.”

At first I didn’t know how to take his comment. After all we are a school so shouldn’t we feel like one.After a bit of probing what seemed to be meant was that the school didn’t have any of the institutional feel that one usually associates with a secondary school. It lacked the feeling of an institution.

I felt far more comfortable with this as I have never quite understood the link between institutionalisation and learning. However it does beg the question, if we don’t feel like a school then what do we feel like?

After quite a bit of thought I think I have arrived at an answer.

We are a hive.


Like a hive we are an enclosed structure. Like a hive one of our main purposes is to raise the young and like a hive we need to protect the dwellers. But so does every school. In fact so does every institution.

Like a hive Rolleston College is made up of a large number of cells or learning spaces. Unlike  a hive these are not all the same but all of these cells are linked to ensure he ultimate strength of the whole structure. The learning spaces at Rolleston are indeed all linked and interdependent.

In fact like a hive our cells allow for independence but also ultimately their connection means there is also a high degree of interdependence. Autonomy and accountability both.

Like a hive I hope there is a buzz of activity within the college, a buzz where everyone knows their individual roles and goals as well as the need to co operate and collaborate to ensure the collective good.

Throughout history the beehive has been used a symbol for community, in particular a strong community. It has also been used to symbolise industry and production, concepts I would like to think are the result of our buzzing activity.

To me the hive symbolises an environment that protects the individual and allows them to produce but also relies on the collective efforts of all the hive members to remain collectively strong.

Yes I have tortured the metaphor but I have just read this overview from the Rolleston College design team outlining the brief they worked to during the design process. It captures the ideas of cells that are flexible but also combine to form community, it captures the concept of a structure that protects and nurtures, in many ways there is a strong link between my tortured metaphor and this overview, at least |I hope that there is.



The design reflects a move from teacher-centric models to learner-centric models and allow for a variety of evidence-based pedagogies and organisational models to be employed by the school. Particular attention has been paid to the vision of Rolleston Secondary school which centres on being engaging, supportive, innovative and challenging. Flexibility is a key design feature in order to change and adapt to the way the Rolleston community is growing and changing.

To provide adaptability, Rolleston Secondary School has been designed to accommodate a number of different organisational and teaching models. The flexibility provided by general learning areas and Learning Communities and Learning Neighbourhoods spaces that are adaptable and reconfigurable for a number of models and programmes (such as >Yr13 or a teen parent unit). This is achieved through design approaches such as having reconfigurable general learning areas that can be discrete within the school or fully integrated and part of it. General learning spaces provide a range of learning settings: small, medium and large spaces that can be used for a range of different organisational models.

The entrance to the school is welcoming and inviting to the wider community. The whare is embraced by the ‘arms’ of the building to welcome the community in. The strong human feel (not an institutional feel) is enhanced by the visual connection through the foyer providing the visibility of entering a ‘learning community’. The Whare is at the heart of the experience of entering the school yet still connected and accessible to the wider community. Manaakitangi (raising up people’s mana) is established immediately upon arrival with the whare linked to foyer and adjacent to student cafeteria, where food technology is, allowing hospitality.

The campus master plan has been developed to support student involvement in sustainability projects but also to ensure that learning at Rolleston Secondary School will be authentic, enjoyable, engaging and collaborative.

To support the development of community, learning communities consist of 150 students with teams of teachers, with each learning community connected through circulation and social learning spaces to those either side of it. The configuration of the general learning unit for each community designed to enable a wide variety of groupings of students and teachers, based on pedagogical need but centred in the vision of ‘engaging, supportive, innovative and challenging.’

Circulation and information learning spaces offer learners and teachers the ability to ‘hang out’, along with attractive outdoor areas which helps to break down the traditional notion of learning starting and stopping in defined places or times.

The design stimulates physical and visual connectedness to inspire curiosity, investigation and collaboration. The arrangement of specialist and general learning areas makes use of natural connections to promote interdisciplinary learning, while the reconfigurability of the general learning areas allows for a wide range of organisational models including, year levels, vertical groups, project groups and learning advisories.


One thought on “The Hive.

  1. I like the analogy Steve. I think it is great that it doesn’t feel like a school. We are perhaps moving beyond the institutional norm in education.


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