In this modern age, where one can experience rapid urbanization and automation, the design and architecture of buildings seem limitless. Yet in this modernization, spaces for children’s learning and development are overlooked. Although the infrastructure is transforming rapidly there is a question that requires an answer; does our built environment fulfill a young child’s need- physically, mentally, and cognitively? An understanding can be built by studying learning systems locally and delving into children learning spaces globally. Children perceive their physical environment in a very distinctive manner- this means that they learn and develop skills through play, and if Nature is integrated as the crucial element, learning can be hastened up. Thus, emanates the fact that a child learns and develops through Play in a Natural Outdoor environment. Integrating playful children learning space into open urban spaces or urban parks can serve hands-on exposure and can be experienced at different times of the day, hence making it a Space- The Third Teacher.
The concept of the design revolves around one main feature- Play, Learn and Grow. The idea is to dissolve the boundaries and take a journey towards the future of learning. To incorporate play as a tool for the learning and development of a young child. To make connections between inside and outside, and integrate nature for a better learning experience.
Built environment and nature play a vital role in child development (age 1-6). In the perspective of child development, early childhood is a period of fantasy, imagination, and wonder and children learn through sensorial and motoric activities. This learning is activated (and influenced) by the various functions of the features in the environment that surrounds them.
In middle childhood, children shall dispose of to nature and outdoor. This teaches them the evocative workings of the world and logical reasoning through their handling of objects through play. Playing is the stimulant of the cognitive faculties in the human body because active experience with the environment affords children to form logical thought.
It is evident with the research that providing children with learning spaces that will facilitate outdoor learning through play, and incorporating nature into learning environments promotes productive development mentally, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. The space should be designed in such a manner that it enhances the learning process, yet it should be playful at the same time and include activities that will boost motor skills, cognitive skills, and development in a child. The learning must endure throughout the day, thus serving as the Third Teacher.
As per the research conducted, findings and analysis suggest that a prototype is to be developed which can be implemented in any public zone or urban park regardless of one selected site. The constraint lies in the fact that some work in this field is being done in neighborhood parks. However, neighborhood parks lie in immediate residential zones and are easily accessible by the target audience (age 1-6) in comparison with any public zone or an urban park. Therefore, any park, specifically a neighborhood park, which lies within the residential zone has the potential to be the base of this prototype.
Among the most readily available and easily accessible public spaces, neighborhood parks lie topmost on the list. Neighborhood parks are situated in residential settings which is why there is a sense of certainty of a safe environment. And the target audience can access easily it under the supervision of adults.
This Prototype is based on three modules. Module 1 is based on the physical development of a child and is named as Play-Pod. Playful and live problem-solving activities are incorporated in this module encouraging a child to engage physically and mentally.
Module 2 is based on the active learning of a child which develops the brain and gross motor skills of a child and is named as Learning-Pod. The enclosed space on the lower level is a convertible space and can connect to the outdoors. The colorful counting screens help a child to learn in a playful manner. This pod acts as an active learning room during school hours, and a gathering space for parents and children in the afternoon and evening, where they interact with each other and grow together as a community.
Module 3 is based on the sensory experience of a child to master the 5 senses and is named as Sensory-Pod. A herb garden, sensory grass pit, and a live music area have been integrated where they get the hands-on experience that develops their cognitive skills and senses such as sense of touch, sight, smell, and hear.
The three modules can be plugged together via ancillary and service pods and can make three playful and unique forms according to the need, area, and shape of a neighborhood park. The spaces and functions of this prototype are designed in such a manner that it doesn't change its core functions and nature in any form. the roof is the anchoring element as a whole, it contains live games yet they are developing floors at the same time and has an outdoor art studio which converts as a communal space for the community in the evening.
These Pods can be placed in any neighborhood park according to the need and requirement. This space acts as a Third Teacher and promotes informal learning, mental, physical, and cognitive development in a child through play.