Created by BIG and WeWork, this open-plan school in NYC offers another model for education.
Coworking and other flexible collaborative workspaces are taking off all over the world, offering all kinds of perks that aren't necessarily available in a regular 9-to-5 office. One big perk is childcare: while not all coworking spaces offer this service (here are some that do, though), things are slowly changing.
Driving that change is coworking giant WeWork (apparently one of the world's richest startups), and it seems the company also has its sights set on changing the education industry as well, having recently launched the WeGrow school in New York City. Intended to be a more open, Montessori-style type of school that will offer its young students weekly nature visits and mentorships, WeGrow's interactive learning environment was designed in collaboration with architecture firm BIG.
Located in the neighbourhood of Chelsea, WeGrow's interior features rounded elements that act as seating, shelving and as habitable spaces -- some of which are reminiscent of treehouses suspended in the air. Cloud-like, acoustically dampening structures made out of felt hang from the ceiling. Lots of natural materials and soft fabrics are used to create a free-flowing space that will inspire youngsters to explore and learn through play.
The open plan facilitates easy interaction between students, aged between 2 to 11 years old, and who will be encouraged to mix with and learn from one another, unlike in traditional school environments where children are separated by age, as the architects explain:
Playful and transparent, yet homelike and structured, WeGrow will nurture the child's education through introspection, exploration and discovery. BIG's design for WeGrow seeks to undo the compartmentalization often found in traditional school environments and reinforces the significance of engaging kids in an interactive environment.
The school's fluid layout from larger spaces to more private nooks will allow children to transition easily from activities that emphasize collaborative learning to "independent and collaborative interaction with materials." Basics like math, science, social studies and language arts will be covered, as well as equally important areas like music, drama, dance and fine arts, and even well-being practices like yoga and mindfulness. In addition, students will participate in a weekly nature visit up to a farm in upstate New York, where they will learn about growing food.
Similar to the notion of having a network of WeWork offices, WeGrow is aiming to develop a global network of WeGrow schools, which will be open to both children of WeWorkers and the general public. Students can tap into the network of WeWorkers for mentorships, too.
It's a beautifully inspiring space and forward-thinking curriculum, though it doesn't come cheap: tuition fees start at USD $22,000 for nursery-aged children. Nevertheless, the implication is clear: if the way we work is changing in the twenty-first century, shouldn't our schools change as well? To see more, visit WeGrow and BIG.