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Innovative Japanese Preschool is Built to Encourage Puddle-Jumping

Creative architecture helps create a space where children feel free to play, and learn, at the exact same time.

image via (cc) flickr user sixybeast

As a small child, I was absolutely petrified of thunderstorms. I can’t quite pinpoint what exactly caused my phobia, but whenever a bad storm would roll through town, the first rumble of thunder would send me scrambling under the bed, fingers stuffed firmly in my ears, to wait until things settled down. But as much as I may have been afraid of the thunder and lightning itself, I loved what usually came next. As a “reward” for making it through the storm, my parents would coax me out from my hiding spot, take me outside, and let me loose for a few glorious minutes of uninterrupted, adult-sanctioned, puddle jumping. For me, as scary as the storm may have been, running free to stomp, tromp, and splash my way from puddle to puddle was well worth the fright.

It’s that same sense of childish delight which architect Hibino Sekkei elicits in his work at the Dai-ichi Yochien preschool, in Japan. There, students are not only allowed, but actively encouraged to romp through the giant puddle which Sekki’s design ensures will pool in the school’s courtyard after every rainstorm.

image via Hibino Sekkei // spoon-tamago

image via Hibino Sekkei // spoon-tamago

Japanese art and design site Spoon-Tamago explains that the puddle-producing courtyard is an extension of the school’s overall sense of free flowing movement, and open educational philosophy. In fact, Sekkei, his architectural firm, Hibinosekkei, and Youji no Shiro, the firm’s educational design department, specialize in this sort of early childhood learning construction projects, focusing on how to manipulate light, sound, and space to create optimal environments for children. For example, the Hibinosekkei-designed DS Nursery features floor-to-ceiling windows in the childrens’ bathrooms (the stalls, of course, are entirely enclosed and private) to create a sunny, cheerful feeling that is meant to assuage the fear a child might have of entering a dimly lit bathroom on their own.

It seems unlikely that this sort of experimental educational architecture would find widespread application in the United States. Still, it offers a unique way of understanding how school buildings themselves, and not simply the lessons taught within, are an integral factor in the development of young minds.

[via spoon-tamago]

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