The Essentials of Early Learning Center Design – Part Two (Inspire Curiosity)
Children are naturally inquisitive about the environments they occupy. This is especially true in the critical developmental period between the ages of three and five.
This installment of my series on early learning design focuses on the relationships between students, parents, and learning spaces, which should be flexible and interactive teaching tools.
Where the Intriguing Things Are
For an early learning center expansion, the British School of Chicago wanted to create a multipurpose space that offers indoor/outdoor connectivity and responds to students’ inquisitiveness. When children walk into the space, leaders stated, they should no longer feel like they are in a school.
The large windows with views to the campus are just the beginning. The design, inspired by the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, creates a learning habitat rich in things to see, touch, and experience.
Since the school is a couple blocks from the Chicago River, the team thought in terms of riverbanks and oak savannas. This is reflected in the curving floor pattern and ceiling ribbons.
The concept of flowing extends to the branches that grow out of columns clad with reclaimed lumber.
A Portal to Playtime
Students are not the only ones whose curiosity the early learning center should pique; parents want to see how their little ones respond to different stimuli and interact with their peers. Thus, the design should give moms and dads views of their children in action.
A “portal wall” in a parent lounge concept (also developed for the British School of Chicago) has openings that frame views of the multipurpose space. The lounge offers a great way to welcome family members of enrolled children and showcase the nature-inspired environment to prospective students and their parents. Note that the windows enable views from both parents’ and children’s perspectives.