It all started with the topic ‘ma maison’ and the idea of asking my Year 8 students to create their ideal bedroom.

My students were enthused about this project from the start – the prospect of having a blank canvas upon which they could project their design ideas was instantly appealing.
I wanted them to be involved in the entire planning processs, and to develop critical thinking skills along the way.
I also wanted them to engage with the broader community, discover a new profession, and still learn and use the French vocabulary around bedroom furniture.
But above all, I wished to link French with the arts, and to bring a focus on aesthetics throughout the project.
I encouraged my students to work from an architect’s perspective when drawing their bedroom plan.
I was very lucky to connect with Peter Schreuder, Managing Director of DS Architects, and his assistant, Martina Wylie.
I have learnt a lot from our conversation (including how an architect can quickly draw sketches according to what you would like and your lifestyle), and I finally understood why there is ‘art’ at the start of ‘architect’. There is a strong focus on aesthetics, but also practicality.
Martina made a video to launch the project with the students. The art teacher was kind enough to give of this time and explained to my class all the components of creating a drawing plan and the things you need to keep in mind, such as: paint colours, flooring, furniture, lighting, power points and scale.
Students drew a mood board to get a sense of the type of atmosphere they wanted to work with.
Then they were given a real A3 architect’s sheet to get planning.
Several sessions later, the plans were finished. The most creative ones were emailed to the architect and we waited for the professional feedback.
Peter, despite his very busy schedule, took the time to create a video to review in detail each bedroom plan and praised students for their creativity.
It means so much for a 14-year-old when a professional is interested in their work!
What I learnt that day was that you don’t need to be an expert in each field to launch your own design project, but you can always ask for help.
It is also fantastic when you can work with other subject teachers and learn from them. When you can do a project using French, and also work with the community with non-native speakers, it creates so many bridges.
Be ambitious for yourself and for your students. Don’t limit your project to only things you know.
At the end, I was very keen to know what Peter, who is very involved in education and uses his practice to improve learning, has taken from this experience:
‘The project taught me that everyone thinks about design differently and we should be happy about that, rather than trying to make rules about how to design. It also taught me that there are lots of different ways in communicating a design and you do not need to have studied drawing or technical drawing in order to communicate your design ideas.’
He went on:
‘The project made me smile and very happy! It was lovely seeing the children think about design and the type of house/bedroom/living area they would like to live in. It reminded me of how I thought about design when I was a child and being more imaginative and less constrained than I perhaps am now.’
My students certainly used a lot of their imagination.
One of Peter’s favourite quotes is ‘Be curious, not judgemental’, by Walt Whitman.
I think teachers should make this quote their own.
Annie Haddad is a French teacher at Parkdale Secondary College. She is a member of AFTV (Association of French teachers of Victoria). She believes that French must be relevant to the teenage world. She believes interacting with native speakers and French companies are essential to prepare students to enter the workforce.
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