Desks, chairs, walls, doors, windows, corridors, closets, bulletin boards, courtyards, playgrounds, assembly halls, staffrooms, stairways, bathrooms… all these elements populate our memories and experiences of school. They are for most of us bit players in the drama called school where we, along with teachers, peers and maybe parents are the main actors. But if stage sets are as important to creating a sense of story as are actors, then those inanimate elements too play a major role in structuring our experience of school – and learning.
For our year-end thematic issue this time we decided to look at the spaces provided by schools and how they influence or determine our experiences. We began by considering physical spaces – the architecture and design of schools (as explored briefly by R L Kumar’s work, described here), the arrangement of interiors (as detailed by the Kalinjiyam team), and the organization of furniture and other elements (as discussed by Seetha Anand Vaidyam). Questions of ergonomics, the proportions and contours of rooms and the colour of walls, are all issues that need to be considered carefully when we think of creating physical structures that are to be occupied by children of varying ages and temperaments, and some of these are explored in the following pages.
But soon we realized that the constitution of space went beyond the physical, that the relationships we create or constrain among students, and, indeed, co-workers. It’s about mood and spirit, and that indefinable thing called “ambience” that is produced by much more than the furniture, the displays and the size of a room. It includes the hopes and the fears that are generated by a group, the tone of discussion, the freedoms we allow and disallow.
So our range of articles widened to include some of these important considerations that structure our emotional, psychological and intellectual spaces, with discussions of inclusiveness, ways to create opportunities for different kinds of activities, etc. We finally emerged with a package that brings together ideas, experiences and viewpoints from teachers, designers, and students.