Project and completion: 2014
Place of construction: Prague 7, Elementary School Fr. Plamínkové
Floor plan dimensions: 4.0 x 7.5 m
Material: spruce squared-timber, wire-glass
The outdoor class encourages children to learn
Outdoor classes are rare in Czech schools. But their benefits are so obvious that they are gaining more and more supporters. Whoever tries learning outdoors once, between the trees and fresh air, likes to return to it very often. Especially when pupils themselves can participate in building their non-traditional classroom.
Teaching outdoors was already known of in 1926 when well-known writer and archaeologist Eduard Štorch founded the so-called children’s farm. Outdoor teaching, according to his findings, provided a number of advantages. The pupils were much more relaxed and attentive. A similar experience was recorded by Mgr. Jarmila Macečková, director of the Plamínkové Primary School in Prague, who liked the idea of building an outdoor classroom in the school grounds. “Teaching in the classrooms located in the east is very demanding, especially in warm weather. Therefore, the idea of building an outdoor classroom became very interesting to me”, says J. Macečková. The project was funded by the relevant city district, where school management found support for their objective.
The children built their own class
Architect David Kubík from Huť Architektury plus Martin Rajniš and Petr Štambach from studio A3B, came up with the idea, produced the order and also built the design. Implementing such a project was a challenge. “We wanted to design a wooden structure that would be much like the popular Kapla building set. It was our wish to bring the outdoor class closer to children and to awaken in them the interest in a new learning space. In the children‘s game, you are composing timber sticks of the same thickness, crossing and interpreting. It is simple and there are an endless amount of variations and shapes. We have created a wall structure that repeats the layers and has dimensionally variable modules“, explains Kubík.
“The children helped to build the joinery, then seeing that it’s fun by signing the bottom of the planks. Wood is close to people, and it is a sustainable source. They could easily get involved and give a helping hand”, adds Kubík. It is also a pleasant fact for the client that obtaining the construction permit for this type of construction is very easy, because it is designed as self-sufficient, without connection to the complex. The implementation of the whole project is so quick. The outdoor class has many benefits for its users. It is not only pleasant to visit in the summer heat, but the classroom is so popular that lessons take place in the autumn and from spring to summer.
“Children enjoy the classes in the outdoor classroom very much. Teachers appreciate that pupils are more open, more communicative, more cooperative, more willing to speak openly”, explains J. Macečková. Another advantage of the outdoor class is the variability of the interior arrangement of light wooden furniture, which makes it easy to organise group lessons. Then there’s the connection with the environment. The space has proven itself in the Plamínková elementary school, for example, when teaching foreign languages, children are better conversed and more direct.
Planed spruce wood with guarded edges and treated with natural oil is used for the construction of outdoor classes,. The floor is plank, the roof is made of safety glass, the class is equipped with a large sliding board. The children sit on the folding chairs and on their laps, they have an A3 plywood board. A larger entrance to the class can serve as an outdoor theatre for parents as well.
“The construction does not require terrain modifications for the foundations. It is based on oak blocks, which are placed to the required height. There‘s also a variant of the outdoor classroom with a solar panel or a propeller where the class is supplied with electricity to charge a computer or connect a projector. With a simple bulb, students can see a practical demonstration of modern energy management. Part of the classroom can include a rainwater barrel, so children are able to soak a sea sponge for wiping the board”, adds architect Kubík.
text: Klára Chábová
Photographs: Petr Králík