Right from the first day of school, many children feel a huge sense of disappointment with what they encounter. Child psychologists have long argued that changing the approach we take on education would help children love school rather than hate it. We’ve all heard pre-schoolers talk about how they can’t wait to sit at their school desk and run to their next class. In fact, we probably remember that feeling of excitement ourselves the first day we went to school.
In the city of Espoo, Finland, the Saunalahti school has found a brilliant way to overcome this problem. Beginning with the school building itself. They’ve created a building that doesn’t look like a school at all. Instead, it looks more a like modern art museum! Experts from VERSTAS Architects made sure they moved away from the typical dour design for a public school.
Across its 10,500 square kilometers, there’s a primary school, a secondary school, a kindergarten, a youth club, theatre, cafeteria, library, and gym. Teaching takes place in a relaxed atmosphere and children are allowed to sit wherever they want. Discussion between them in class is even encouraged.
The pupils are allowed to move around the classroom on their miniature office chairs and if they want, they can even lie on a sofa with a computer in front of them. Laptop computers, in fact, are this school’s version of the blackboard. Most of the children’s lessons are built around the concept of team projects.
The cafeteria is where both students and teachers meet as part of the learning process. There’s also a stage there — the dining hall doubles as a useful venue for performances, meetings and celebrations.
The school’s open areas are specially designed to give the children space to walk around and is divided into different areas for primary and secondary school pupils.
In the evenings, the school turns into a leisure and sports center for all the citizens in the neighborhood. The sports hall and hardware workshops are always in use.
When decorating the building, architects used natural materials that help to create a warm, comfortable atmosphere. The external brickwork has been done using different building methods and in random patterns to help encourage the children’s learning. In the children’s play area, the walls are painted in bright colors. Each class has a different colored hallway, so it’s impossible to get lost.
The school’s open spaces have been carefully connected up with the internal hallways and areas provided to each age group while all areas of the school form part of a connected whole. The designers believe that any fence or barrier will just encourage the children to rebel against restrictions, therefore, the whole place is open.
The school’s large windows facing onto the street give the sense of a connection with the outside world. Places for the children to sit are located right by the windows, so the children don’t feel locked behind four walls.
Schools designed like this have departed from the traditional educational model and children’s educational progress is much higher, whilst the amount of psychological problems often experienced by school children is reduced. At the same time, such modern schools can transform a neighborhood because they offer a focus for activities to the local community.
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