A garden where children flourish

The introduction to this TED talk The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen by Takaharu Tezuka states:

At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world’s cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.

Some things that appeal to me about this kindergarten include:

  • the lack of boundaries between inside and outside, and between classrooms
  • the freedom of a child to choose to be in, or to leave, a space
  • the space and freedom for children to run
  • the sounds of happy children
  • the opportunity for children to help each other
  • and the attempt to use architecture to change the lives of children without controlling every waking moment

There are a few things that concern me, that make me feel uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just my urge to control being challenged.

What do you think?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

15 thoughts on “A garden where children flourish

  1. Bec

    Sounds very interesting! I haven’t watch the video, but I find the discussion here in the comments extremely insightful. I gather that sometimes when we see something (e.g. the schooling system) as flawed, then there is an appeal to inverting everything about it in order to find the solution. Perhaps it’s more complex than that!

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  2. TanGental

    Hmm, I’m a bit sceptical too. Yes some good points, I agree about the freedom to get hurt occasionally but then he ruins it by blagging the kids have the best athletic ability – which suggest yet more ridiculous tests for the far too young. I suppose if I had copyrighted this I’d be selling it damn hard too.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh I hope they didn’t test their athletic ability! Oh no! That would be terrible. I hope he was just running away with his comments! 🙂
      Actually your comment reminds me of one made to the group of parents (including parents of my grandchild) whose children started prep this year. They were told that all the prep children were very unfit. No test had actually been done. The PE teacher assumed they would be because they all lived in apartments and used the lift rather than walk up the stairs. What sort of uninformed stereotyping comment was that!? My son and his partner were highly incensed! And so they should have been. They live in a house with stairs (no lift) and couldn’t stop their children running around and getting plenty of exercise, even if they wanted to! Comments like that don’t give teachers a good name. Maybe the architect was just getting caught up in his enthusiasm for his building, but it still doesn’t excuse it! 🙂

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  3. lucciagray

    I am always wary of schools that don’t prepare children for real life, or in this case for real schools.
    As a teacher I’ve seen so many fads and trends that I’m sceptical. I don’t believe learning is any more natural than working 9_5, but thanks to people who work 9-5 our lives are comfortable. The supermarkets are open, doctors await our visits and teachers are at school while parents go to work.
    A world where everyone does their own thing might be great, but it’s just not the world I want to live in.
    I think perseverence, honesty, and hard work, will get you most places, the rest is idle chatter.
    Sorry to be so negative, but I just don’t believe it.
    I love Ken Robinson’s Ted talk on creativity in schools, that’s a real talk on changing education and bringing out the best in every student.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Luccia. I appreciate your comment. I am always open to hearing the views of others. It gives me the opportunity to think a little more deeply, to reflect on my beliefs and make any adjustments that seem pertinent.
      As one in favour of alternative modes of learning, and not necessarily enamoured with the rigidity of many traditional schooling practices, we may have to agree to disagree on the value of the way that ‘real schools’ prepare children for ‘real life’. I intend sharing a talk about “readiness” by another educator later in the week. If you care to pop back and have a listen, I’d be interested to learn what you think about his views too. In some he reminds me a little of Ken Robinson.
      So, I do agree with you about Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity and am looking forward to reading his recent book in which he talks about schools he believes are doing a great job. I also agree with you that living in anarchy would not be something that would appeal to me. I definitely like some sort of sense and order. Perseverance, honesty and hard work are also things I aspire to and admire, so we are agreed on that also. However I am not keen on young children being robbed of the opportunity to be what they are by senseless preparation for their future lives marching to the beat set by others. I’m not sure that that is what Ken Robinson would describe as bringing out the best in every student.
      I do think we are probably more attuned than my response may indicate. I was interested to hear feedback on the kindergarten as, while there were things I liked, I had some concerns and wondered if others would see them too. Thanks for helping me see some I hadn’t. 🙂

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      1. lucciagray

        Thanks, Norah, for your thoughtful reply. I’m all for creativity and exploration in schools, but I’m worried that learning may not be valued enough. I teach EFL, and however creative you get if students want to learn English they need to speak, spell and write, and that involves hard infividual work, too, at some point. Some parents and politicians want us to think that if our classes are ‘fun’ students’ll magically learn. Teachers know it doesn’t happen like that.

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        1. Norah Post author

          That’s true too. I think learning should be fun. But it should be learning. And it should be fun. I know hard work is also involved. But hard work can be enjoyable. You only have to watch the persistence of a young child learning to do something new. However I think you and I are talking about different ends of the spectrum. You are talking about adult education (where hopefully they have some choice) and I am talking about early childhood (where often ‘choices’ are imposed). Unfortunately I see the room for fun being very quickly eroded in early childhood classrooms and it is not a trend I like to see. Thanks for sharing your additional thoughts. 🙂

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  4. Sarah Brentyn

    It’s spectacular architecture, so there’s that. Great. Does that mean better learning? Kids just walk out of “class” whenever they want? (Because they eventually return when they feel like it?) Um. Okay. Freedom for kids (especially this young) is fantastic but a playground does not make a school. His very last point about not protecting out kids so much and letting them fall sometimes is a good one but this “school” seems much more like an innovative day care.

    I think the attention this is getting has much more to do with the architecture than anything else. Also, when anything is on TED Talks, it seems to get a lot of positive attention.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment. Actually I was reading the situation as child care, rather than school, so your comment drew me back to that. My five year old grandson is in school this year. I’d rather him have the freedom than the confinement of desks and forced “learning”.
      You are right about a playground not making a school, and that it was the architect promoting the building. Also right about the TED talks, but I think discussion helps to develop understanding of benefits and drawbacks.
      What I really liked about it was the consideration that was given to the needs of children, rather than the controllers and existing patterns, in the design. Whether everything was best practice is probably debatable and remains to be seen.

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  5. Annecdotist

    This reminds me of the freedom that children had before the streets were given over to cars. I’m sceptical of people being nostalgic about their childhoods but I do think that this ability to roam is one way in which my generation certainly had it better than kids today. Being penned in is so frustrating for some kids, it’s no wonder they struggle to learn.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m not so nostalgic about my childhood. We did get to roam though. Some children don’t get many opportunities just to run and feel the wind on their faces and in their hair. Some adults (like me!) don’t take it. 🙂

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