Blog Task #2: Observation

Our school is undergoing a period of renovation and rebuilding which is expected to last for 12-18 months. The entrance to the school has been relocated and I have been observing old and new visitors as they enter the school grounds.

Sketch showing old and new entrances

Sketch showing buildings near entry points to the school

I have observed visitors –

  • Parking their car – after slowly driving around the roundabout, reading the signage on the fence

  • Some enter via the single gate, down stairs, along verandah

  • Others walk from one gate to the other three before selecting the entrance

  • Some visitors observed asking others for directions

  • [Overheard on phone – asking for directions] …  “Never been here before…”

  • Walking through the playground – looking around, turning, left, right, peering aound corners, up stairs!

  • An early morning  delivery man, couldn’t find a teacher/maintenance man, walked back to the gate, reread sign, made phone call

  • Rereading signs

  • Calling in at the library [on same level as office] – asking for the office

Entrance via single gate

Entrance via single gate – note signage


View from entrance [above photo]

View from entrance [above photo]

View from veranda towards office

View from veranda towards office – black and red signage indicating library, hall and main switchboard

View from office towards the 'single gate' entrance - note distance between office and gate

View from office towards the ‘single gate’ entrance – note distance between office and gate

Other entrance - single + double [vehicle access] gates

Other entrance – single + double [vehicle access] gates

View from entrance [previous photo] - words on brick wall are the school motto

View from entrance [previous photo] – words on brick wall are the school motto

View from building towards entrance [single + double gates] and carpark

View from building towards entrance [single + double gates] and car park

Me, empathising, walking in the shoes of a first time visitor/irregular visitor

  • Walking/driving along the street adjacent to the school grounds, I noticed the “Welcome” to the school sign facing the street remains and is clearly visible despite the front entrance to the school is now blocked off and construction site temporary fencing has been erected.

  • There is no signage indicating where/how to enter the school. The construction site clearly states “Keep out!”
  • [No parking permitted on either side of this street – one side is bus only]

  • I walk/drive back up the street to the car park adjacent to the church.

  • I enter the carpark – question to self – is the car park for the church or  for the school or for both? Some parking spaces have clear signage  stating “Parking for parishioners only”.

  • I note three gates – which one is for entry to the school – the single gate or the single + double gates?

  • Read signage – all asking visitors to report to the office. Single gate open, however, sign points to the lower single + double gate.

  • I decide to enter the school via top gate because it is open – walk down the stairs along the verandah, looking for the office – not sure where to go next. Turn around,  retrace my steps.

  • I leave the school, re enter via the other gate, following the direction on the yellow sign [one of the lower gates] – walk through the playground, looking for the office.

  • Not sure which direction to walk.
  • I note one building with large words [school motto!] – not the office.

  • It’s reasonably early morning – I seek a person to ask – no one visible. Hear machinery [garden blower] in the distance. Wonder whether to follow the sound?

  • Decide to wander around the building … note signage to the library, hall and main switchboard. [downstairs].
  • Decide to walk a little further – windows appear to be ‘office style’ – yes!
  • Alternatively – I hear children – follow the direction of their noise – students at before school care – ask the staff for directions to the office.

My comments on other student blogs –

Lisa’s blog –

Sharon [Ronnie’s] blog –

Jerry’s blog –


About plee

I am a Teacher Librarian and Learning Technologies Co-ordinator at a Catholic Primary School in Sydney's Hills District.
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6 Responses to Blog Task #2: Observation

  1. meghastie says:

    Even though this is a temporary situation, it’s amazing how spending a moment or two thinking about it from the point of view of a visitor, has the capacity to make some small but significant changes. simply by putting up some clear directional signs, it send the messages like “you matter”; “we care”; “welcome” . 1/2 hour of laminating and posting signs at all the junctions would make the next 12-18 (read 20!) months so much more bearable for not only the school community but everyone who visits.
    It’s bizarre that sometimes in our attempts to make our school environments better places, we forget some of the basic inclusive courtesies. for me at the beginning of this learning space awareness journey, it reinforces the centrality of designing a whole process – not just the building at the end, but a process of change, of adjustment and tackling the whole redevelopment from the perspective of the all potential users – current and future.

  2. sara.rapp says:

    Hi Patricia,
    This is a great blog post. I often visit other teacher librarians in their libraries and I am amazed at how difficult it can be to find reception at almost every school! Signage is often nonexistent and often in the wrong place. It’s odd, because it’s so important that random people don’t aimlessly wander through school grounds before signing in, but it’s inevitable. Usually I have to resort to asking someone. Your school looks to be similar. This is a major design issue that needs resolving practically everywhere–great choice! And I love that you have specifically chose to empathise with a first-time visitor and follow in their probable footsteps. It seems really to work well to include this step in the design process.

  3. mpickworth says:

    Patricia, I love the way you have ’empathised’ with a potential first time visitor, how confusing for external visitors to your school. If the reconstruction process is planned for 12 – 15 months then perhaps ‘design thinking’ is necessary here to alleviate the problem, albeit a temporary one. Serious design thinking by an ‘inter-disciplinary team’ consisting of parents, teachers and construction workers, could be of great benefit, as recommended by Brown, T and Katz, B.
    Reference: Brown, T and Katz, B (2011), Change by design, J Prod Innov Manag;28:381-383

  4. Monique McQueen says:

    Hi Patricia. It is interesting that we both chose to look at people’s entry into our schools. First impressions do make a difference. Emphasising from a first time visitor’s point of view, takes it back to a very raw human point of view. More feedback to come on the Google Doc.

  5. says:

    You seem to have described every school entrance I’ve ever been through – I cannot wait to see what your brief ends up being for this. SO rich!

  6. Sharon Hanson says:

    The visitor to the school is always an interesting issue. We have the same problem with the library being very close to the school entrance, we often get visitors in asking for help. Good signage and directions are very important to lessen the frustration of visitors.

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