With 2022 upon us, more than 20% of the 21st century is complete. Are our educational facilities evolving with the times?
A look back in time
Friedrich Froebel (1752-1852) was a German educator who invented Kindergarten. He believed that in play, children construct their understanding of the world through direct experience with it.
Many of Froebel’s principles mesh with the modern approach:
- Childhood is part of life itself and is not just a preparation for life.
- Attention to the whole child is important, both physically and mentally.
- A quality education includes not only the learned knowledge and skills, but the context in which they are learned.
- The individuals (both adults and children) with whom the child interacts are of utmost importance.
- Self-discipline is emphasized.
- Inherent motivation is valued, resulting in child-initiated, self-directed activity.
So, what did we do with the knowledge bestowed by Froebel?
We set up fun and positive kindergarten classrooms where children learn through play. They interacted with the teacher and their peers or were free to sit down in a corner and build a tower out of blocks.
Kindergarten rooms were designed with different activities in mind. A variety of “workstations” for different-sized groups would often include a playhouse corner, theatre space where kids could dress up or manipulate puppets, active play areas and a welcoming circular space for learning and story time.
The party is over, kids! Get into line and forward march to grade one. For the next decade, students sat at desks that were arranged in straight lines, facing the front. The heavy wooden desks hindered flexibility and integrating large tables for collaboration tended to clutter the classroom.
This setup wasn’t very helpful for the teacher either. How can one engage students, make eye contact and draw them out when the classroom was arranged in this fashion? How does one know when they were struggling? How does one find out when they were thriving?
Well, it’s not back to kindergarten, but the fluid design of today’s schools definitely contributes to a more 21st century-friendly environment! This new approach respects the fact that education is not simply a preparation for the future. It is the “now” part of life. We must acknowledge that from day one, each and every student is a part of the real world.
With furniture designed to be flexible and intuitively reconfigurable, students are given the tools to take responsibility for their environment and their learning. Collaboration, independent study, public speaking and whole-class settings stimulate creativity and promote student engagement. Talk about agile!
So, let’s keep moving and keep the exhilaration alive!