Thinking about what young students really need caused a major do-over for what a kindergarten could look like.
What does a school do with 5- and 6-year-old kids?
The old answer was coax them into little chairs — at least until “creative time" — keep 'em relatively organized, and keep a lid on their natural enthusiasm. Basically a constant riot-control situation. And a first taste of standardized education.
But kindergarteners don't need to be forced to learn — really, they can't stop learning.
So educators in Tokyo had a different idea.
Architect Takaharu Tezuka explains in a TEDx Kyoto talk how one school created a kindergarten that doesn't fight against kids' natural impulses. It counts on them.
The roof is a giant ring of a playground. Why? Kids love to run in circles.
The single, continuous classroom has no walls.
Teachers asked kids to use crates to create their own areas, but somehow it didn't quite manage to get done.
The design has child psychology in mind.
Kids can get anxious when they feel walled-in or constrained. That doesn't happen here. And since little dynamos thrive in environments with lots of noise, they've come to the right place — there are no acoustic barriers.
“The principal says, 'If the boy in the corner don't want to stay in the room, we let him go. And he'll come back eventually because the circle comes back.'" — Takaharu Tezuka
This shows the rambling travels of one little boy over the course of just 20 minutes. Over the course of his entire morning, he covered 6,000 meters, or 3.7 miles!
Things are deliberately a little risky.
Parents have a hard time figuring out how much protection is too much protection. But children, Tezuka says, “need to get some injury. That makes them learn how to live in this world." And so, he says, there needs to be a “small dosage of danger."
Should all kindergartens be like this?
Dunno. But there's a lot of discussion these days about standards-based teaching and why our kids don't seem to be learning as much as they need to.
This refreshingly creative and successful take on kindergarten is at least a reminder that there's still a lot to learn about educating children, especially at this miraculous young age.