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Reading Clinic transformed with students in mind

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Job well done: Jennifer Lang of WeeThrive, which creates learning spaces for children (Photograph supplied)

About a year ago Jennifer Lang’s name kept popping up on Maj’s List.

The Reading Clinic was looking for someone to transform its tutoring rooms and the recommendations for the “creative” teacher came fast and furious.

Many of the people posting were clients of WeeThrive, her company that creates learning spaces for children.

“I was lucky enough to be recommended to The Reading Clinic by several people who I have worked with because they were searching for somebody who understood different learning styles of children.

“They wanted somebody who could work with the needs of those children because the people who reach out to the Reading Clinic are obviously there because they have some higher learning needs.”

The rooms have been completely transformed. There have been many positive comments from students and teachers about the “wobble seats” and bouncy balls offered as chairs, the colours on the once-white walls and the added space thanks to the removal of office supplies and cabinets.

Special place: Room 4 at The Reading Clinic before it was transformed by Jennifer Lang with funding from the Kitson family (Photograph supplied)

The project was funded by the family of the late Elizabeth Kitson, who started the clinic in 1968 as a way of helping children with dyslexia.

“[They] interviewed me and then we went from there,” she said.

The idea was to redesign four rooms at the Serpentine Road premises so they were better suited to the needs of students.

Ms Lang worked closely with Juliet Pearman, the Ican math programme director, and Amy DaCosta, the core reading programme director, to come up with a plan.

“We talked about what would be appropriate for the children who come through their doors: how to create a good learning environment, not over stimulating or distracting but also not too clinical or bland.

Room 4 at The Reading Clinic after it was transformed by Jennifer Lang. The project was funded by the Kitson family (Photograph supplied)

“They had been working in rooms that were not fit for purpose and proposed the change. So we were lucky enough [that the Kitson family] agreed with the overall idea and the need for a better space for the children and through their generosity the whole project was funded.”

To ensure she was on the right track Ms Lang also surveyed the tutors and students of The Reading Clinic to find out what they wanted.

“We asked them what they thought was important and what they would like because you can't design a space for children without having their input. And so we were able to give most people what they were looking for and what they enjoyed.”

Ms Lang, who teaches at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation and runs WeeThrive as a part-time business, says it is “incredible” how much of an impact a good environment can have “on the mental state and ability of children”.

“I've seen it time and time again in my classroom, in play rooms and in different spaces all over the place,” she said.

“I was lucky enough when I was working in London to be involved in a project with a lady, Alison Clarke, who was doing a PhD on children's learning environments. She [showed me] how to look at a space and change it with the children at the heart of the change.

“So I got some training very early on in my teaching career and it just went from there. I've been working with children's spaces ever since.”

She was thrilled to be able to pass that knowledge on to The Reading Clinic.

“It's taken about a year to complete and in addition to other big changes in space, we have four beautiful tutorial rooms in The Reading Clinic.

“A lot of the children who go through the doors have ADHD and are overstimulated or easily stimulated so the spaces are painted in colours that support a calm learning environment.

Room 3 at The Reading Clinic before it was transformed by Jennifer Lang. The project was funded by the Kitson family (Photograph supplied)

“So we've got calm, beautiful, muted colours and fit-for-purpose furniture which was specially ordered. We've got some lovely ball chairs, wobble stools and chairs that allow one to sit in many, many different positions.

“Flexible seating aims to help the child to concentrate on what they're trying to learn by allowing for comfort and some movement rather than trying to control their body to sit straight and still, because sometimes that's just not possible.”

Room 3 at The Reading Clinic after it was transformed by Jennifer Lang with funding by the Kitson family (Photograph supplied)

It took a while because it had to be done around the schedule of The Reading Clinic, where “children are in there doing their tutorials day in and day out”, and Ms Lang’s own work.

“It was important that I respected their space while they were trying to learn. I couldn't be in there drilling and sanding and painting and doing all of the good stuff that had to go on.

“There was an awful lot of stuff that had to be moved and redistributed and The Reading Clinic team were absolutely amazing. They did so much work to help that project along.”

The Reading Clinic (File photograph)

Ms Lang designed, ordered, built and painted and learnt a lot about construction along the way.

“I have had no carpentry training. I've always been interested in how things are put together but I was learning along the way and I cannot thank the people at Atlantic Millwork enough because they talked me through different types of wood and how to protect and treat the wood. They spent time with me when I asked my questions and they were absolutely delighted to do it.”

Essentials for ADHD learning

Lighting, colour and “a good desk area” are the best places to start when designing for someone with ADHD.

As children with Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder “may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours or be overly active”, having the basics in place is a good start.

“Lighting is really important with children with ADHD. It can't be strip lighting; it’s very harsh. So you would want a softer bulb,” said Jennifer Lang, founder of WeeThrive.

“And if you have ADHD you have a difficult time sitting still so it's really nice to be able to have a flexible option like a wobble stool or one of the bouncy ball chairs.”

Paint colours should also be “toned down”, she added.

For more information: weethrivebermuda@gmail.com

Keith Adams was another massive help when it came time to put the floating shelves together.

The murals she painted herself.

“The colour palette comes from their logo – red, purple, green and turquoise. So I took blue, purple, green and red and I muted them into colours that would be pleasant to sit in.

“They're very, very, very light tones and shades of those four colours and inside each room there is a matching colour palette of furniture.

“I've had a lot of positive comments and it was really nice to be able to do it; to have the creativity.

“We came up with the ideas together but the Reading Clinic Team allowed me to go ahead with my vision and that was an amazing feeling because it's a big risk – you could hate what somebody does. But they didn't. So I'm happy.”

For more information on The Reading Clinic visit www.readingclinic.bm

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Published February 17, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated February 17, 2023 at 9:31 am)

Reading Clinic transformed with students in mind

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