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A new kind of kindergarten design encourages kids to be their silly selves.

Thinking about what young students really need caused a major do-over for what a kindergarten could look like.

A new kind of kindergarten design encourages kids to be their silly selves.

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.

Here's how the kids spend their day.

Photo courtesy of Capital One
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Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.

While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.

That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.

"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."

Since 2019, she and her fellow Capital One associates have partnered with the Capital One Coders program and Girls For A Change to teach coding fundamentals to middle school girls.

The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.

Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

As it turns out, underdog stories can have cats as the main character.

Purrington Cat Lounge, where "adoptable cats roam freely and await your visit" and patrons can pay a small entry fee for the chance to sip coffee alongside feline friends, boasted legendary adoption rates since its conception in January 2015.


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