Creating spaces that inspire learning

The open-air Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo is said to be among the best in the world.

With almost no wall partitions, a rooftop boardwalk and trees that grow through its classrooms, it resembles a giant circular playground in which its 650 children can fall and pick themselves up as part of their learning experience.

Its founder and principal, 59-year-old Sekiichi Kato, visited Singapore at the weekend and told a seminar that he believes similar educational facilities could easily be constructed here.

"The design of an environment has to encourage a child to learn," he said, adding that the school itself is a tool to stimulate the children's imagination and support their development.

However, he said that while educators here can learn from the models of other kindergartens, they should still do what is best suited for their young learners.

Over the last two days, Mr Kato, together with his wife Mrs Kumiko Kato, 55, who is the school's vice-principal, and Mr Takaharu Tezuka, 52, its architect, touched on topics such as the secret to the kindergarten's success and designing spaces for kids.

Organised by Greentree Montessori and Chinese Montessori International, the seminar, held at the National Museum, was attended by some 170 participants, including early childhood educators and school leaders.

Ms Charmaine Soh, founder and director of Greentree Montessori, hoped that the seminar would encourage educators to "think out of the box" and make changes to their teaching environment.

Children are uncomplicated, she said. "Given some trees to climb or some space to run, they will be happy, and they learn, too."

Those who attended said they hope to incorporate the kindergarten's best practices in their own centres.

Pre-school educator Henry Ong, 45, will explore a few of these practices - such as looking into the design of his centre and organising outings to expose the kids to nature and the outdoors.

He said: "It is good to create an environment for children to have the freedom to learn and try out new things."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Creating spaces that inspire learning'. Print Edition | Subscribe