Inclusive education has traditionally been defined as students with disabilities having full membership in age-appropriate classes in their neighbourhood schools, with appropriate supplementary aids and support services, Lipsky & Gartner (1996, 1999).
However we believe inclusiveness today needs to be redefined to include all through the recognition of diversity.
Every child is special with unique needs that need to be integrated into what we do every day.
No child should feel isolated or different rather their unique abilities and culture heritage should be supported and shared on a daily basis through a centre’s pedagogy.
When our client Rick Fourie from the Creators Educational Trust dreamt about a place for all children that inspires wonder and imagination, they knew they had to allow their own imagination to be free and all inclusive.
They wanted to do something that was accessible for all and naturally inclusive, a centre that inspired supportive relationships while recognising each child’s own way of interacting with their world.
In a world where dollars and cents seem to be so intertwined with every conversation around quality early childhood education, many centres are being developed for cost effectiveness rather than heart-felt philosophy.
Too often generic boxes act as classrooms with resources loosely grouped into the basic areas of family play, block play and art.
Creator’s two main philosophical threads that drove the design of their new centre were relationships, creativity and sustainability. They wanted to create a space that was flexible, connected and inspiring.
They could see a place where children and staff were able to work one on one, or within small groups or easily have large group celebrations.
They could also see a place where the environment played a big part in sparking imagination and creativity. The ongoing collaboration between the client, the architect and the consultants has delivered a beautiful human space grounded in sustainability.
The design concept is centred on the client’s philosophy: “All learning flourishes in an environment where strong, loving relationships are formed”.
During the design process, a great deal of thought was invested in how to provide an environment that encourages inclusiveness through spaces for collaborative learning, small group learning and individual retreats, all while being a connected whole.
The result from this process integrated the client’s philosophy to create an environment that supports every child’s and teachers unique needs and cultural heritage as part of the centre’s every day activities from those children or teachers who use a wheelchair, have limited hearing or sight, are within the autism spectrum or have an introverted sensitive nature.
This centre that cares for eighty children is no bigger than two average homes in the area.
The centre is split into two smaller home-like blocks, one for preschool children and the other for the under two-year-old children though these two blocks are joined by open glazed atrium space, giving the visual impression of two smaller centres while providing continuity internally and inviting nature in, while orientating the centre in such a way as to embrace the beautiful grove of mature protected oak trees on the site.
The traditional Māori Wharenui (meeting houses) inspired design integrates plenty of natural filtered light and ventilation.
Circulation spaces within the centre have been designed out completely, and even the entrance hall doubles as dining or activity space.
Extensive use of glass creates complete transparency throughout the centre and promotes a sharing and open approach to life.
The large eaves that create the dining room and activity space also naturally manage the temperature and glare into the rooms.
A warm homely feel is created with the kitchen at the heart of the centre and the use of sustainable natural materials and resources throughout the centre.
The centre also includes a winter garden, internal water and sensory studios, a separate art studio and innovative internal movable walls that allow the spaces to be configured into any number of engaging or quite spaces with clear visual clues.