What would you do if you were asked to design a completely new Kindergarten school? The requirements: Make it something different and new that we have not seen before.
Takaharu Tezuka took on the challenge in Tokyo. He designed a round school that is open in the middle. The roof has numerous purposes-it is a running track, a place for children to explore and it can also become a stadium seating so children could take a seat to watch what was happening in the courtyard below them.
He explains about the school he designed in his TED Talk entitled, “The Best Kindergarten You’ve Ever Seen.”
To encourage learning, the building is completely open. There is no divide between classrooms and there are no corners. Tezuka joked that shy kids cannot hide in a corner at this school.
“If they leave, they come back,” he said with a chuckle, “it is a circle.”
There are numerous skylights located throughout the structure. Children on the roof have the opportunity to look down at the students in the classroom below and see what they are learning.
For recreation, the students can climb on a massive tree that has more than ten limbs. The tree is surrounded by cargo nets so children can climb on the nets and in the tree. This also gives them an opportunity to explore nature. One tree is even built into a classroom. The base is in the classroom below and the branches are on the roof where children can play and climb.
The students also have their very own water pipes for washing boots, playing in the water or splashing their friends. This was intended to be a place for children to wash but it has morphed into something different.
Tezuka is a visionary who tries new things. His latest design is a jungle gym structure for the children to play on. It is a round structure that looks a bit like a spiral staircase but is much wider. There are ramps on the parameters of the structure and stairs in the middle. The climbing structure has three levels. Children work together to climb up the ramps or over the stairs.
“In this kind of occasion, they learn to help each other,” Tezuka said.
There are other benefits associated with the round school. Throughout the day, children are encouraged to run, explore and move. They have mini relay races on the roof and can play games like tag. However, since there are no walls to stop them, the games continue longer. The principal said there was no training, the children just kept moving and playing throughout the day.
“These children have the highest athletic ability among many kindergartens,” Tezuka added.
He adds that the structure is successful because children can control what they do. There are times they might fall, but then they learn how to get up and keep moving.
Overall, Tezuka’s design encouraged us to think of school in a whole new way and also seemed to promote large motor skill development. While he didn’t say it directly, we are guessing students at this school are more focused on their lessons after they get all of their high energy out on the roof.
We felt very inspired thinking of new ways we can teach children by watching this TED talk. Tezuka summed up his feelings nicely by stating, ““I think that architecture is capable of changing this world, like people. “[This school] is one attempt to change the lives of children.”
© Let’s Talk Kids, 2015