BOLD colours, interesting nooks and crannies, unconventional classrooms and lots of open spaces are what is needed to stimulate learning in both young and older students.
The soon-to-be-opened Taylor’s International School Puchong has been specially designed and purpose-built to get students excited about learning, says Taylor’s Schools president BK Gan.
Based on a labyrinth formation with the library in the very centre, the colours and curvy, organic layout already has potential students itching to start classes when the school opens in January 2015.
“For this school, the design process was not confined to just the architects, interior designers and contractors,” says Gan.
“In fact, it was a collective brainstorming effort with teachers and academics, all coming together to help design the building.”
“We wanted the academicians to have a say in how to design the space before we actually got to the drawing board because they know what’s needed to conduct lessons effectively,” he continues.
Gan also says the 31,900 square meter purpose-built school was planned after surveying other schools to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to learning.
Taylor’s International School Puchong principal Paul Rogers emphasises that a stimulating environment has been scientifically proven to encourage lifelong learning in young children, and this was achieved at the school by using captivating colours, flexible classroom layouts and atypical furniture designs.
NWKA Architects Sdn Bhd principal director Ng Wai Keong says they wanted to shift away from the preconceived notion of what schools should look like.
“Schools built in the past all look the same and that doesn’t inspire learning among the students. This time, we got input from Taylor’s Education Group to find out what their aspirations are and incorporated them into the architecture,” Ng explains.
“We noticed that children nowadays are not spending enough time outdoors. They’ve lost touch with nature,” says Santa Fe Interior Architecture Sdn Bhd interior designer Fendarie Su, who was part of the interior design team for this school.
“The interior design aims to bring the students back to nature,” Su says, explaining that the library was inspired by a flowing river and the cafeteria modeled after a cave with its lights and poles that resemble stalactites and stalagmites.
“We’ve installed tables that look like trees and carpets that resemble grass to interlock the landscape with the indoors,” Su continues.
“All the design elements throughout this campus are meant to be fun and encourage learning through play, a very important element for child growth and learning,” she says.
A sense of discovery, exploration and adventure were also prioritised in their efforts to create spaces that would keep the students enthusiastic about learning.
Su adds that bright colours were used to make the place look more cheerful, a far cry from the bland and muted shdes of paint used on older school buildings.
“It’s difficult for teachers to create an interesting environment in the box-like environment of traditional classrooms. Here, we’ve allowed it so that teachers can arrange the tables and chairs any way they like to engage the whole class and pique student interest,” says Rogers.
“Learning does not only happen in the classroom per se. It can happen everywhere. We’ve made it so that teaching and learning can take place all over the school grounds and buildings,” Ng adds.
“The new school’s layout provides more opportunity for classes to be conducted outside the classroom such as in the Break Out areas located on every floor, or the staircases where there are seating areas lining the sides. Moving around to different places stimulates the student’s minds as well,” explains Rogers.
He says that the Break Out areas are also ideal for students to come together, interact and work with their peers.
“Here, we do not want to define the class by the classroom but rather by the Year group that shares in collaborative learning,” Rogers adds.
He explains that collaborative learning is where students are encouraged to learn on their own while the teachers act as facilitators and “information disseminators”.
“We want them to interact more instead of constantly having their noses buried in their mobile devices,” Rogers points out.
One of the coolest places in this school is the library.
“If a place like the library, where all the books are, looks like a mausoleum, young children will not be attracted to it.
“However here, it’s cheery and you don’t have to sit at tables and chairs to do your reading. We have nooks and corners, holes in the wall that students can climb into, and even beanbags to do their reading on,” Gan says.
The new school will also be fully wifi-accessible to support their aim to have lessons carried out all over the campus.
Gan adds that there will be trolleys with tablets and laptops wheeled around so that teachers and students can make use of the devices for their lessons.
“Students will also have identification tags which can be used to purchase anything here using a cashless system, and also to borrow books from the library,” Gan says, adding that parents can also track what their children are spending on as every purchase is recorded electronically.
In order to ensure the well-being of its students, the school will be implementing various strict safety measures.
These include a system where parents are issued access cards that allow them into the school compound to drop-off and pick-up their children.
Gan explains the sophisticated system will have parents “tapping in” and driving into the designated arrival and pick-up zones located in the underground carpark.
“The idea is to create smoother traffic flow. There will be teachers and teaching assistants on hand to ensure the students are aware their parents have arrived and also to make sure they are safe,” says Ng, adding that school buses have a separate waiting area, with 12 parking bays, on the ground floor.
Instilling green habits is part of the school’s curriculum, which is why most of it, including some of the outer walls, is covered in greenery.
Ng says this helps keep the buildings cool without the need to blast air-conditioners, apart from adding to the aesthetic appeal of the school.
On top of that, the large roof has been specially-designed to allow cross-ventilation to happen.
Cross-ventilation, according to Ng, happens when air flows into a building and is compressed before passing out through another opening.
“This creates a breeze through the corridors’, almost like a wind-tunnel,” he says, adding that utilising cross-ventilation will also drive down electricity bills.
Another way to maintain low energy consumption is by using natural lighting, achieved by having large windows and narrow buildings to allow in plenty of light.
“Indirectly, we are also teaching the students to adopt a ‘green lifestyle.’ When they enter the room, they don’t automatically reach for the switches,” says Rogers.
“Being green is a huge part of the curriculum and it’s so much easier to teach something when you’ve got examples around you.
“Students get to live it, rather than just being taught about it.”
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