Given the demand for their Early Childhood Education program, YCIS hired Fielding to create a state-of-the-art Ronghua Campus in Shanghai for their youngest learners, 500 students ages two-six years old. The challenge called for an extensive interior and exterior renovation of Shanghai’s old Gubei Clubhouse building as well as major site work, including a new parent drop-off area, changes to parking and site access, and creating outdoor learning and play areas.
The Fielding team was tasked to dive deep into the school’s Emergent Curriculum and respond with meaningful spaces designed to support and celebrate play-based and project-based learning.
The Fielding team initially began engagement with YCIS to plan and design schools in multiple cities at many grade levels. Early in our Discovery visit, we were inspired by CEO of Yew Chung International School, Dr. Betty Chan’s presentation about the Emergent Curriculum based on play and exploration. It was clear this curriculum was present during our site visits. We noticed some self-directed learning taking place, but not enough evidence that the curriculum was truly student-directed. This raised an important question:
How can curriculum emerge based on individual student’s interest at all grade levels?
Questions we posed to the school community included: Where do you want to be? Where are you now? How do we close that gap? What is your local ethos, and what elements of this ethos should be incorporated into the design?
We found that: the community was interested in developing 21st century learning spaces, and a school in which the leadership is strongly involved in directing pedagogy; flexibility, communication and critical thinking and problem solving are the 21st century skills were deemed most important; and, that the ethos of China emphasizes positive values, caring, and global-mindedness.
Learning communities became the foundation for this emergent curriculum that supports and emphasizes constructivism. The underlying tenets include highly valuing children and their ideas, viewing them as capable, autonomous, and in need of teacher support rather than teacher direction.
In these spaces, the East would meet the West in a learning and co-teaching model where one Chinese and one Western teacher are partnered. This approach to both curriculum and pedagogy leads to bilingualism with children taking the lead in choosing learning experiences and in the language that is used when doing them.
Spaces are designed using flexible layouts that can change according to classroom activities and needs. This supports an agile learning environment where students engage in collaborative, community, and small group settings. The campus also includes a range of features that support student-driven experiential learning both inside and outside the building.
What was once an abandoned and decrepit building has been reinvented as a vibrant and playful learning community. The YCIS Ronghua campus is filled with spaces, amenities and educational experiences that surprise and delight young students and inspire them to explore new ideas in a safe and nurturing environment. Details like color, window heights, surfaces and lighting are honed to the perspectives of the child, always leading them to the next opportunity for learning and play.
Intentional spaces place great emphasis on the holistic development of each student, mind, body, and soul, while nurturing globally minded individuals moored by a strong moral compass. In this process, connecting students to their own selves, each other, nature, and the local and global community is key.
Learning spaces are designed using flexible layouts that can change according to classroom activities and needs. This supports an agile learning environment where students engage in collaborative, community, and small group settings. The campus also includes a range of features that support student-driven experiential learning both inside and outside the building.
The campus was also awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and is the very first school campus in all of Shanghai to receive a LEED designation. An important environmental consideration for ensuring healthful learning spaces was the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ); as such, sensors around the exterior of the building continuously monitor the air quality, prompting targeted HVAC adjustments that can be customized and individually controlled.
By incorporating the forward-thinking Learning Community model, the campus provides an educational landscape where our young learners can explore and grow in an architectural space that adapts to the rapidly-hanging outside world in which they inhabit.Mr. Don Collins, Co-Principal,Yew Chung International School (YCIS)