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Education

Rabbits and cabbage patches replace classrooms in this school model

Jerry

Remember being dragged to school by your parents when you were younger? You probably had far better things to do like play in the mud, and blow the seeds off of dandelions. But what if being in nature was part of your school day? This is the idea that won designer, Edoardo Capuzzo Dolcetta and his team of Rome based designers the AWR International Ideas competition.

The team imagined a farm and school for preschoolers that has three innovative approaches to traditional schooling: learning from nature, learning from technique and learning from practice. This preschool’s Montessori-like model, a type of schooling which focuses on the child’s total mental and physical development, aims to infuse urban farming with nursery education, a model that will become increasingly relevant as countries adapt to climate change.

Some background: the AWR (Architecture Workshop Rome) award, it is an Italian based award granted to multicultural architecture, interior design, industrial design and urban planning in a multidisciplinary environment. The AWR consists of a network of designers, many of whom have developed ways to improve urban zones. One of their past winners designed a London Nursery School based on the concept of what a school of the future should look like. The AWR’s model for collaboration is exemplary, because it encourages out of the box thinking to transform and reinvigorate urbanized zones.

Dolcetta, commenting on his and his team’s win, said that he understands that this  school model seems strange: open spaces filled with growing vegetables and visiting animals replacing traditional classrooms. Dolcetta says,”The school is designed as a cluster of gabled buildings that overlook a variety of garden plots and livestock pens.” 

Dolcetta expects people to find this blueprint for a school a little crazy, but it’s exactly this type of thinking that the world needs to transform education to better engage and fulfill students. Too many schools focus on mechanical learning models that emphasize memorization and other forms of rote learning and that seem completely separate from a kid’s life. Reintroducing an appreciation of nature allows students to view their education as part of a holistic lifelong experience.

Above all, Dolcetta’s model demonstrates the importance of balance in school. Yes, technology in the classroom is great, but just using smart technology can limit a child’s perception of the natural world.  By supplementing current, popular models of schooling, with a format similar to Dolcetta’s Nursery Field’s Forever, children may develop stronger emotional and interpersonal skills set. To give an example, a child growing their own garden, will not only need to pick their fruits, and vegetables, but also understand how to properly tend to their produce. 

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Farming is just one teaching method that builds on a child’s skill sets. Howard Gardner, the king of multiple intelligences and innovative education, says that children possess eight forms of intelligence, and that curriculums should promote each type. Those types are: naturalistic, linguistic, visual, kinesthetic (movement based), musical, logical, intrapersonal and interpersonal.  An engaging curriculum for a child would include classes that promote each of these intelligences.

A great example is algebra taught through rap in Silver Spring, Maryland. In an hour-long course, teacher Jake Scott seamlessly delivers lessons based upon Gardner’s logical, musical and linguistic intelligence models.

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Teaching the young generations to appreciate and work with their environment will help in achieving more environmentally sustainable urban zones. Plus, as climate change intensifies, the emerging generation will need to be as eco-conscious as possible. And a child who knows where their food comes from and how it is produced will be a more socially conscious consumer, and have the potential to change how food is produced, traded and sold globally.