Importance of Constructive Play in Early Learning Environments

Featured image: St Clare’s Primary School. Scott Burrows Photographer (@scottburrowsphotographer) VIEW PROJECT

Importance of Constructive Play in Early Learning Environments

Our team of architects at Enrich Architecture designed the educational learning spaces at St. Clare’s Kindergarten. When construction was underway, we noticed the kindergarten children who were then occupying classrooms at St Clare’s Primary, were interested and curious about what was happening close by. As architects with a background in designing educational spaces, we are passionate about how the end-user, the students – will be able to learn and grow in these environments in a practical sense.

At this time, the teachers noticed the students’ curiosity towards the construction sites and took it as an opportunity to make it a unique learning experience for them. The students were encouraged to make observations, imagine what the spaces were for, and make their own predictions about what might happen next. They also used building blocks to recreate their drawings or “mini-construction plans.” Not only is this a fun activity for children, and a great way to get them involved in things happening around them, constructive play has many added developmental benefits for children.

What is constructive play?

Constructive play is an organised form of play that is goal-oriented and thoughtful. It allows children to engage with materials to create something, problem solve and learn about the attributes of different materials. 

This type of play can range from simple things like counting bricks, measuring weights and moving objects. It is an engaging and different way to help young minds develop and think independently to make decisions based on what they’re learning. Activities like this help foster creativity, problem solving and fine motor skills, team-work skills, and hand-eye coordination. Giving children the opportunity to nurture creativity and be inquisitive in a learning environment is a necessity in education.

Children’s development when designing learning spaces

We consider constructive play in building design to ensure indoor and outdoor areas have a range of textures for sensory exploration and learning. From the dirt and bark chosen in the garden to the open plan classroom setting for moving around furniture and playing with building blocks and scales. These elements are all essential when designing spaces for young children as they add diversity and adventure to their play. 

Independent problem-solving activities are a fun way for children to engage with the world around them and foster their early-learning development. We love hearing stories of what the teachers and educational leaders at centres like St Clare’s Kindergarten are doing for their students and being a part of the process. Who knows, after taking an interest in constructive play activities, maybe one day these children will be our next generation of architects!

Using Building Design to Maximise the Potential of Learning Spaces

Featured image: St Clare’s Primary School. Scott Burrows Photographer (@scottburrowsphotographer) VIEW PROJECT

Using Building Design to Maximise the Potential of Learning Spaces

​Classrooms are people-centric, social spaces for learning, meeting, exploring and thinking. The design scope of learning spaces has evolved over time, and now in 2019, it is much different than what it used to be. No longer do classrooms need to be designed following the “sage and stage” model with a platform for teachers at the front of the room and all chairs facing that way. As modern architects, we ensure we reflect on the past to create spaces rooted in their history, while staying up to date on new research and changing trends when it comes to architectural design. This allows us to design educational spaces that reflect the spatial requirements of current pedagogy whilst also being mindful that in the future, the built environment may need to be converted, scaled or modified to suit.

Flexibility of Space

Collaborative classrooms with a diversity in seating arrangements have been shown to help students break out of ruts, stay focused and gain fresh perspective. In a similar sense to effective coworking office spaces, having different “zones” and flexible seating helps students to work collaboratively and more productively. Compared to 30+ years ago, there is now more in-depth research on individual students’ learning styles and creating spaces to enhance this. As future-forward architects, we use these insights to develop learning spaces to be open and fluid. This ensures there is a variety of ways furniture can (and should) have the ability to be shifted around to create learning zones to suit students’ needs.

Spaces that Nurture

Studies have found that enclosed spaces increase cortisol, the stress hormone, which makes them detrimental to learning. Rooms with high ceilings stimulate “visuospatial exploration” which means these spaces make people more attentive and focused.

Emotional connections and attentiveness are crucial for a positive learning experience. Incorporating open plan learning spaces and high ceilings into the architectural design of schools can encourage these fundamental learning responses amongst students.

Educational spaces are not limited to the classroom, spaces outside and adjacent to the formal teaching space are important to the delivery of good educational environments. Creating a connection to outdoor break-out spaces and learning areas, space for the individual and outdoor collaborative learning areas increase opportunity for learning arrangements.

Awareness of Environment

We’ve completed numerous architectural projects for schools across Brisbane, and natural lighting where possible is always a high priority.

Studies have found that students who learned in classrooms with more natural light, achieved higher grades than those from the same area that did not. As well as this, low levels of light affect students’ ability to regulate their body’s natural sleep cycle, making them more likely to feel sleepy in class. Designing classrooms to leverage natural light or use artificial lighting that mimics natural sunlight can improve students’ school attendance rates, achievement levels and overall health.

Just like adults, if primary school-aged children are distracted by a glare from the window, inadequate lighting or uncomfortable acoustics, they’re focused on the distraction rather than their learning. Distractions can be stressful, and when our kids are stressed, they’re not learning as well as they could be. Proactive thinking from the architecture team during the design phase can eliminate these small stresses that make the biggest difference in the long run.

When designing any space, we know it is essential to do our research, listen to our client, and think proactively about what the end-user will practically use this space for. This is especially important when designing learning spaces for students — our future generation. We use this approach to guide our design decisions from start to finish, mindfully creating modern, practical spaces that can be evolved to suit in the future.

Featured image: St Ita’s Primary School. Scott Burrows Photographer (@scottburrowsphotographer) VIEW PROJECT