Putting creativity back into education

Forget the college admissions process: In competitive cities around the globe like New York, the stories of harried parents trying to get their kids in to the perfect preschool, elementary or middle school are legendary. So what if your brood doesn't get into your first choice or the options as a whole just aren't appealing? It seems a number of creative thinkers are taking matters into their own hands.

Earlier this week, we stumbled across the following post on Unbeige, Mediabistro's design blog:

Could it be? Those wacky performance artists tackling some as run-of-the-mill as education? Sure enough, this past September, the Blue School opened its doors to its first batch of students on the Lower East Side, where the curriculum is modeled to "achieve a new kind of balance between academic rigor and academic enchantment." According to the school's site, the education model consists of two components: 

1) a core curriculum of language arts, science,fine arts, social studies, performing arts, math, physical arts and fitness, and technology and media literacy; and 

2) a set of values: creativity and expression; family and community; playfulness, exuberance and fun; physical and emotional well-being; global and environmental exploration; and individual interests and learning styles. In short, "our values relate in some way to the idea of connection, whether it be the connection to a community, to one's emotions, or to one's artistic voice, to one's body, to the world, to one's interest, or to one's sense of joy and wonderment."

A new approach, certainly, and that doesn't even touch on the school itself, which is profiled in Time magazine's November 24 issue. Interior elements include long tubes snaking through the corridors, an interactive water table, and the Wonder Room, which features a light-up floor, climbing wall and padding.

It's a new way of thinking about education and what's more, this NYC introduction follows on the heels of A.P.C. fashion designer Jean Touitou starting his own nursery school, Ateliers de la Petite Enfrance (A.P.E.) in Paris. And from the sounds of it, it's a place we wouldn't have minded as a kid: cashmere blankets at nap tip, Aalto chairs at the tables. While the $16,000 tuition bill may make us think twice in today's economy, the concept raises an interesting question about the role of design and creativity in today's learning environments. Throughout the year, Contract keeps an eye on the education realm and how interiors can play an important role in the learning process, but can design—and the creative thinking it requires—be even more dominant in the process?

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