Exploration Loop – Xian County Sunshine Kindergarten

Project description

Sunshine Kindergarten is a progressive school that provides innovative learning and STEAM curriculum to an underprivileged rural community in Hebei, China. The project modernizes and expands the facilities of an existing school founded in 2004.

The school’s design encourages young learners to nurture their curiosity and engage in creative exploration at a hugely formative time in their lives. The design introduces a covered walkway in the form of a loop that connects new learning spaces to pre-existing spaces. Disparate elements of the original school are woven together as a unified whole. The loop becomes a social condenser where students mingle and interact with intersecting spaces and programs. A new multipurpose room is also connected to the loop and serves as a central column-free social space.

A flexible and informal learning space, the loop encourages independent exploration. The area below the loop supports activities that require more space, such as building large foam block structures. This space can also be transformed into imaginary environments for role play, such as a market street with food carts, and it can serve as an indoor play area when the weather is bad. Such activity is naturally guided by everyone’s interests. Thus, the space assumes the role of “third teacher” by supporting self-directed learning and helping to lighten the workload of teachers.

The Sunshine Kindergarten includes spaces for large and small shows, a range of playscapes, as well as classrooms set up for traditional teaching. The design incorporates ways to connect students to the real world through experience-based learning. The school has indoor and outdoor gardens for students to learn from nature. Two STEAM classrooms are designed with hands-on activities in mind. There are kitchen and carpentry facilities and spaces that support art, engineering, and astronomy activities. A mobile STEAM corner allows teachers to bring such activities to different places in the school.

To help students gain confidence and learn independence, the school is designed at the scale of young children. A mini outdoor stage structure, treehouse and greenhouse are intimately sized for young learners. Small nooks in classrooms allow for personal space and focused activities. And appropriately scaled furniture and shelving provide tools and materials easily within the reach of young learners, encouraging independence.

The design promotes social interaction and creates a cohesive learning community through an interconnected campus of diverse spaces and programs. By strategically incorporating spaces and tools for independent play and development, the design aims to cultivate the lifelong learners of tomorrow.

About Byron G. Fazio

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