The Fuji Kindergarten, outside Tokyo, is a unique school designed to embrace the natural rhythms of a child by creating a magical environment that inspires learning, curiosity and play. No child is forced to sit quietly while keeping a lid on their natural enthusiasm until their designated times for creative play. Here children are encouraged to follow their instincts. This schooling atmosphere does not force children to learn – really they cannot stop learning.
Takaharu Tezuka designed the school thinking as a child. His own son and daughter inspired his vision by closely watching their desires and habits. Soon, his children’s desires became his own desires which led him to co-design this mystical kid wonderland with his wife.
For some reason unknown, children love to run around in circles! The school was designed to not fight against a child’s natural impulse. Tezuka built the foundation circular where the roof is set up somewhat like a running track.
The kids will run in circles continuously as if they were training for a marathon.
“This shows the rambling travels of one little boy over the course of just 20 minutes. Over the course of his entire morning, he covered 6,000 meters, or 3.7 miles!”
The classrooms have no walls and the school embraces noise. Kids can develop anxiety when they are forced to be quiet, are walled-in and constrained to a chair. “The principal says, ‘If the boy in the corner doesn’t want to stay in the room, we let him go. And he’ll come back eventually because the circle comes back.’” — Takaharu Tezuka
The newest addition to the school is called “Ring Around The Tree” inspired by the song “Ring Around The Rosie”. The tree is believed to be mystical because of its uplifting history. It was almost uprooted after a typhoon then dried out soon after due to subsequent trauma, but then naturally enlivened and now hosts the play of young children.
I imagine a few parents looking at this picture and feeling uneasy with a young child climbing a tree this high. The school was designed to be deliberately risky. Tezuka says, “Children need to get some injury. That makes them learn how to live in this world.” And so, he says, there needs to be a “small dosage of danger.”
It’s apparent this kindergarten is an inspiring example for desired changes in some ‘sit and learn’ schools of younger children. Considering not every school has the funding to re-create their buildings, creative modifications can still generate a vast difference.
Is this design & teaching philosophy a cut above the rest? That is for you to decide.
TED Talk: The best kindergarten you’ve ever seen