At the beginning of the school year, the new early childhood building opened its doors to AISB students ages two to six, in order to meet the demand of the growing student population. We had heard a lot about it, but wanted to see for ourselves. Here’s a look at what we found:
The school was designed based on the Reggio Emilia method of design. The method is based on the education philosophy. The environment that the students are taught in should be interactive and serene.
The outside and the inside of the school have a very modern and colorful design that is both inviting and welcoming. The building has a lot of large windows to provide natural light, including the main entrance, with its orange and white awning to provide shade. On the ground, there are musical chimes that students can step on to make music. This is an interactive element based on The Reggio Emilia method of design.
The forest green section of the building has a playground, made of wooden and metallic elements. In front of the playground is a giant tunnel under a hill covered with grass, and a huge sandbox. The students are encouraged to and have fun.
As you enter the main entrance on the right there is a white desk, that again has a very modern and serene design. Everyone who enters the building has to take their shoes off and put on a pair of indoor shoes in order to keep the school clean.
The first thing that you see when you walk in is a fountain and plants. This element brings the outdoors indoors and gives a very relaxing and calming environment for the young students to learn in. This main area in the school has high glass ceilings for natural light to come in and also provides light for the plants. Behind the fountain and plants is the library. The library is an open concept so that students can easily access books. The walls in the back are painted bright orange and pastel green and they make the school look very inviting and calming.
The hallways are very colorful, the walls are painted in very light and welcoming colors. The ceiling has different colored windows and the couches are also made in different colors and they all have an innovative and modern design.
After our tour, we had a few questions. Luckily, the early childhood principal, Mrs. Rosella Diliberto, gave us an interview on the new building and the improvements that were made, as well as all the main points in the building that are truly innovative.
Q: When designing the school, what inspired the architects to make it the way it is now?
A: We had a Romanian architect design the actual building and the exterior facades. He was aiming to create a different sense of space, compared to our previous spaces, yet keep some communal architectural features with the rest of the campus.
The interior design and furnishings were completed by a team of Italian designers who are experts in creating environments to support the developmental and pedagogical needs of infants, toddlers and early learners. There was a lot of conversation, dialogue, sketching, and mapping out ideas with this team and our early childhood team so that we could understand the types of spaces and environment we were interested in creating for approximately 190 students.
Q: And were the colors used for a purpose? What was the reason behind the color choice?
A: The walls and furniture colors are part of a unique color concept. The interior colors were chosen intentionally and we consciously avoided the use of primary colors, both in the hard and soft furnishings opting for a gentler chromatic approach.
Q: What is different in the new building from the old early childhood school, and what are the improvements that have been made?
A: The space has been considered a “third teacher” and hence environments have been designed with early learners in mind, compared to the older spaces where the environments were more effective for the needs of elementary aged students. The challenge was to design a ‘polysensorial’ environment in which functional and aesthetic choices support an image of the child that is competent, an inquirer and equipped with multiple languages. There has been great attention to lighting and the quality of the overall furnishings to foster a sense of aesthetic and beauty, where children are the protagonists. Spaces have been designed to provoke a sense of wonder, curiosity, and autonomy where students become agents of their learning within a social environment.
Greater attention has been placed for parents’ involvement, for communication during children’s drop-off and pick-up times, and for family engagement and presence within the center.
Q: Are more students able to fit in the new school, than the old one, and if so how many more students fit?
A: Yes, we are now able to accommodate a larger number of students compared to the previous spaces allocated for our early learners. If we were to be at full capacity we could fit close to 200 students.
Q: What are the main attractions in the new school?
A: We have 11 classrooms, 2 dedicated sleeping and resting areas, an open library concept amidst a Winter-garden, 3 large open collaborative spaces we are calling piazzas, a digital atelier, a music and movement room, a gym, a designated dining area and food preparation area, outdoor covered porch areas outside each of the classroom, a generous outdoor play area, a doctor’s office, a separate adult collaborative space on the first floor and a separate parking lot for the early childhood parent community.
Q: What is the students’ favorite thing in the school?
A: The students seem to particularly enjoy jumping on the chimes when entering and exiting the Early Learning Center, playing on the outdoor hill with the built-in tunnel and exploring the new and varied spaces within the building, all this with their friends.
Q: What is the teachers’ favorite thing in the new school?
A I believe the teachers really appreciate the entrance into the building where the open library and high ceiling Winter-garden setting is accompanied by the splashing sounds of the fountain centerpiece.
*Thanks again to Ms. Rosella for giving this interview. The early childhood building is a great addition to the community. If you haven’t been by yet, make sure to check it out for yourself!