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Liesbeth van der Vossen

The school holidays may have been quiet for some, but here at GVI Cape Town we seized the opportunity to repaint and decorate classrooms with educational murals, with the primary goal being to help enhance students overall learning experience. Over the course of two weeks our dedicated volunteers transformed 3 empty rooms into vibrant, stimulating classrooms where young pupils could learn in a fun and interactive environment.

Studies show that classroom environment can affect a pupils learning and academic progress and therefore a well-designed classroom is crucial for effective learning. The colour and design can make the learning environment a more desirable and stimulating place which in turn affects students motivation and willingness to participate. Approximately 65% of the population are visual learners with the human brain processing visual information 60,000 times faster than text. A well-designed, visually enhancing classroom can produce a much more powerful and memorable learning experience than only relying on verbal or textual queues.

Our volunteers worked as a team to come up with innovative designs which focused on basic numeracy, literacy, shapes and colours. The volunteers showed great resourcefulness and flexibility when it came to working with limited materials as well as the ability to work well under pressure and time constraints. As the co-ordinator, it was important for me to delegate tasks in accordance with individual volunteers strengths and weaknesses in order to get the best out of the team as a whole. We quickly established a positive working environment where ideas could be shared easily without judgement or criticism. This benefited the overall flow of the project and allowed us to feed off each others creativity.

It was also essential for the volunteers to work closely with the teacher to make sure we were incorporating her ideas into our plans. We wanted to create a space where the staff also felt confident using the designs as tools in their own lessons. In two of the classrooms, the teacher wanted very basic designs with numbers from 1-10 and basic shapes. However, in the final (and smallest) classroom, she wanted us to include numbers 1-30 as well as the days of the week and months of the year. Fulfilling these requirements forced us to be very strategic with our planning as we needed to utilise the small space to the best of our ability. We decided to design the whole classroom with an ‘underwater’ theme as not to confuse the students with too many clashing images. Personally, this room was the most challenging to decorate as we had run out of black and white paint and only had a small supply of primary colours left. Lucky for us, we are volunteers and that means that we are used to adapting to our environment and working with the little we have. Our team absolutely smashed the project and now we are lucky enough to work with the students once a week and watch as the environment we created for them nourishes their minds!


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