In one of my graduate courses, the assignment was to create a beautiful learning space for children.
“You know when you are in a well-designed environment – you don’t want to leave. Purposeful, engaging, and beautiful environments blend and balance the best elements of home, school, and community life together” (Bunnett, 2012).
I chose a loft space primarily used for reading. My goals for the environment included: bringing in natural elements, creating a sense of peace, and incorporating children’s ideas into the design. I began my work by asking the children for input. I asked them what they would do with the space if they could design it however they want. After the initial suggestions of creating a swing from which they could jump to the ground below, I reined them in and asked for some safe suggestions using the materials already in the space. Many of their ideas included creating a tree-house type space. While at recess one child found an awesome branch that we found space for in the new loft design.
Some keywords taken from Reggio Children (2003) that inspired my work were: overall softness, community, rich normality, constructiveness, multisensoriality, osmosis, and relation.
The loft space before:
Before the space includes lots of primary colors and patterns. It is full of energy, brightness and light, but lacks the peaceful sense I wanted in a quiet reading space.
After the space is filled with blues and whites (peaceful colors). Although the posters from before were book covers that seemed appropriate for a reading space, having two beautiful pieces matted on black poster board set a back drop for creative thinking and imagination (two traits important to any life long reader).
Hanging sheer curtains from the ceiling over the reading cushions brings softness to the space, inviting readers to curl up and stay a while. The children suggested turning the bookshelf to create two spaces in the very long narrow loft. On one side there are pillows for diving into a good book and, as you enter the loft, there is a desk with the children’s book recommendation binder and books on the shelves from which to choose.
Having an aesthetically pleasing space with natural elements, peaceful colors, and softness conveys the message that this is a space in which to be comfortable, relax, and enjoy a good story. Upon entering the newly designed space children exclaimed: “It’s awesome!” “It’s like a Japanese garden.” “Thank you!” One child who has trouble reading, was elated when she found a book recommendation she had written in the recommendation binder.
Bunnett, Rochelle and Diane Kroll. Transforming Spaces: Rethinking the Possibilities. Community Playthings: 2012.
Curtis, Deb, and Margie Carter. Designs for living and learning: Transforming early childhood environments. Minnesota: Redleaf Press, 2003.
Reggio Children Domus Academy Research Center. Children, spaces, relations: metaproject for an environment for young children. Italy: Grafiche Maggei, 2003.
*see links to some of these references in my Inspiration:Literature & Film page