East Sydney Learning Centre

Looking for early education environment & architecture inspiration? In this article, we’ll look at this project to see how it aligns with early education philosophy, how the design facilitates learning, the activities that would suit these spaces and we’ll look at how you can use elements of the design as inspiration for your own service.

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Brief Overview of the Project

The East Sydney Learning Centre, designed by Andrew Burges Architects, is an innovative childcare and community centre located in Sydney. The centre is housed within a four-storey former warehouse building from the 1920s. The architects transformed the space into a “mini city” for children, complete with tiny house-shaped rooms and even a sandpit on the roof. The design concept was to create a city at a child’s scale, with pathways resembling streets and laneways, gardens as recreational spaces, and bright yellow pipes across the ceiling representing infrastructure.


Alignment with Montessori, Steiner or Reggio Principles

While the article does not explicitly mention Montessori, Steiner, or Reggio principles, several design elements align with these educational philosophies:

  1. Child-Centered Design: The “mini city” concept places children at the center of their learning environment, allowing them to explore and interact with their surroundings. This aligns with Montessori’s emphasis on self-directed learning and Reggio’s belief in the environment as the third teacher.
  2. Natural Materials: The use of natural materials and plenty of plants creates an engaging environment for children, resonating with Steiner’s emphasis on natural, holistic learning environments.
  3. Engaging Spaces: The house-shaped enclosures, skylights, and ventilation stacks provide varied and stimulating spaces for children to explore, aligning with Reggio’s emphasis on aesthetics and environment in learning.


How the Design Facilitates Learning

  1. Interactive Spaces: The house-shaped enclosures on each floor function as quiet zones, allowing children to have focused, individual learning experiences.
  2. Connection with Nature: The rooftop sandpit and use of natural materials throughout the building foster a connection with nature, promoting sensory learning and exploration.
  3. Varied Learning Environments: The design includes double-height play spaces with sloping walls, offering diverse spaces for different learning activities.


How the Design Helps Teachers Create Inspiring Lessons

  1. Versatile Spaces: The varied spaces, from quiet zones to open play areas, give teachers flexibility in lesson planning, allowing for both focused activities and group interactions.
  2. Natural Elements: The presence of natural materials and plants can be integrated into lessons about nature, sustainability, and the environment.
  3. Urban Design Elements: The “mini-city” concept can inspire lessons about community, urban living, and social studies.


Activities and Lessons Suited for this Space

  1. Nature Exploration: Activities involving the rooftop sandpit, such as digging, building, and sensory exploration.
  2. Role Play: Using the “mini-city” design to role-play different community roles, like shopkeepers, residents, and service providers.
  3. Art and Craft: Using natural materials found within the centre for creative projects.


How Other Teachers Could Use Elements of This Design in Their Own Kindergarten Environment Planning

  1. Incorporate Natural Elements: Even without a complete redesign, teachers can introduce plants, natural materials, and sensory play areas into their classrooms.
  2. Create Varied Learning Zones: By rearranging furniture and using dividers, teachers can create quiet zones, play areas, and group activity spaces within a single room.
  3. Integrate Urban Design Elements: Teachers can use urban design elements, like miniature buildings or road mats, to create a mini city within their classroom, fostering role-play and community-based learning.


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