Michaelhouse Makan Centre Opening/ Academics
Michaelhouse launches innovative new Makan Centre
Michaelhouse, one of the KZN Midland’s best known senior schools for boys, is celebrating the opening of the Makan Centre – a life-changing, high-tech educational hub located at the epicentre of the school.
Made possible through the generosity of Pietermaritzburg’s Makan family, whose sons Divesh (1991) and Paresh (1994) matriculated at the school, the new centre will drive academic innovation with a focus on implementing new and creative approaches to teaching and learning. These incorporate technology into both project-based and personalised learning programmes.
It will also serve as the home for the school’s future-fit curriculum, a transdisciplinary, project-based learning program that will help learners develop the 21st-century thinking and learning skills to equip them to be future leaders.
Speaking at the official opening of the Centre, Rector, Antony Clark, said that Divesh Makan, who had forged a successful career in the USA’s Silicon Valley, had a future vision which not only corresponded with the aspirations of the school itself but proved a perfect marriage between the age old wisdom embodied within the walls of the 127-year-old academic institution and new approaches to learning which sought to embrace rapidly evolving technology in resolving key issues for future generations.
“Divesh Makan came from a humble background in Pietermaritzburg and found his niche, particularly after his Michaelhouse years, as he moved to the Silicon Valley where he has excelled. We are immensely grateful to him and his family for their contribution to Michaelhouse,” said Clark.
The centre took a year to complete after two years of “conceptualization”.
According to Nick Grice, from Interplan Architects, who designed the facility, natural light was seen as a key factor in the new building and the connection between inside and outside. “Light was brought into the centre of the building through large glass shopfronts around the perimeter of the roof, some screened by dense green foliage. The existing building remains largely unchanged on its front façade, but opens up to the outside more and more as one moves back into the new extension.”
He said the media centre which occupies two levels had been modernised and replanned. “A new internal bridge connects it at first floor level to a central gathering space and the new teaching areas. Stacking doors allow the flexibility of opening up spaces completely or dividing them into more cellular spaces. Breakaway rooms give options for collaborative project work or quiet study.”
Grice added that it was agreed that the facility needed to be central in the school – and the existing media centre was felt to be an ideal starting point. “The new centre will benefit from the extensive resources in the existing media centre, while introducing a range of new teaching areas – both for collaborative and practical work. The spaces for learning are flexible and transparent, so that students can be aware of different learning processes going on around them.”
Technology was seen as a key element of the new centre. Interactive screens are placed in all the teaching spaces. There is also a new AV studio where students will learn about film and animation. An adjacent lecture theatre was upgraded and now opens up onto the foyer thus enhancing its versatility.
Clark explained in his address how, during a meeting three years ago, 11 academic staff discussed the evolution of education in the 21st Century, including the creation of an ideas laboratory for future-fit teaching, coding, the creation of apps, animation, video production, sports analysis and the furthering of entrepreneurial ideas. The notion of how to tackle real world issues such as inequality, food and water scarcity and climate change in a trans-disciplinary way prefaced a conversation about the fact that fresh problems and the need for real time solutions would develop exponentially over the next decade.
He said the approach to teaching in the Makan Centre will be student–centric and trans-disciplinary.
One of the senior teachers involved in the planning of the Centre, Gerry Noel expanded on how the impact of the construction of the Makan Centre will be significant as it will provide a space that is conducive to holistic learning, future-fit teaching, play and discovery. He said, “The future-fit curriculum and the learning spaces and technology available in the Makan Centre will prepare learners for a hyper-connected, uncertain, and unpredictable future by improving student engagement, increasing student achievement and developing 21st-century thinking and learning skills. Through social action, entrepreneurship and creativity, boys will have to collaborate and design ideas and solutions for some of the most pressing issues that their generation and generations to follow are likely to face. These will require skills of the 4th industrial revolution which sees the blurring of boundaries between physical and cyber systems.”
Clark said that, going forward, Michaelhouse planned to connect with other schools both locally and internationally who are operating in this future-based educational space.
Grice explained that the Makan family had approached the school with a view to creating to creating an exciting area for academic exploration and problem-solving and they were thrilled with the end product.
In the spirit of using new technology to solve real world problems, the Makan Centre has also inspired the use of sustainable energy. “With all the glass used in the elevations, there were practical considerations of heat loss or heat gain. Externally, double glazing was specified, with solar performance glass on east and west elevations. Skylights were also double glazed and treated for UV. Internally, acoustics were more of an issue, and ‘soundstop’ glass was specified for ‘shopfronts’ so that the teaching spaces can operate independently of each other. Provision was made for adding solar panels to the roof – connected to a battery room on the first floor. Altogether, this has been a really exciting project on which to work and everyone is looking forward to getting into the spaces and making things happen.”