School design, particularly public school design, is often lumped in with the design of other institutional structures like jails, civic centers and hospitals, to detrimental effect. My high school, for example, had the dubious distinction of having been designed by the architect responsible for San Quentin. (The convicts got the better building.) Schools fulfill a practical function, to be sure, but shouldn’t they be designed to inspire?
Many preschools already are: outdoor activities are emphasized — swinging, walking, digging. But as kids get older, in this generation more than any that has preceded it, the time they spend in nature decreases significantly.
Throughout the United States, students are installed in institutional, even citadel-like environments early on: they arrive at school in cars or b…
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