Rosan Bosch

Educational space designer

Physical spaces should be as diverse as the people who use them

How to encourage creativity in the classroom

It used to bother me a lot that my children wouldn't want to draw or read when they got home. They talked about school as something negative and boring. That's when I started to want to change that perception. I went to see my children's teacher and was told, "Well, I'd really like to change that, but I can't. I have 30 children, we're in the classroom alone and my problem is that, although I'd like to do some things differently, in a learning environment, when some students are talking, it distracts the others. And that's why we have to do more or less the same thing at the same time. There will always be some children who are bored". I thought that I could use my skills as a designer and artist to help them. I could change the physical classroom environment so that teachers could work with children differently. That was the beginning. I wanted to save to my children, to help them hold on to their desire to explore.

Creativity does not need to be encouraged as it's something we all possess. You're born with creativity, every child is born with creativity, it's not just artists who are creative, everyone is creative. What happens is that school dampens this creativity. It's a matter of holding on to this creativity, of stimulating and helping it to grow and to create opportunities within a school's physical environment, it's organization and its social context. Students should be stimulated and also feel like they're allowed to be creative.

Creativity is a very basic instinct that gives you the opportunity to act on your own passions, curiosity and motivation; it comes from somewhere inside. The problem is that, if we create classrooms as usage defined spaces, the teachers and children who use those classrooms will be controlled by them. In effect, the classroom will control the children. They won't be able to move around freely, go where they want or work on what interests them, like drawing while the teacher is talking, for example. What we do with design is, instead of thinking about it as a way to control a space, we focus on creating learning landscapes. The design of these learning landscapes is based on accepting the fact that we're all different and that we need different physical environments, colors and materials, depending on the situation, in order to work.

As a child, your main teacher is the adult that stands at the front of the class. However, you also learn from your classmates and your physical environment, as this enables you to discover under what circumstances you learn best. Nowadays we think that the most important thing children learn at school is how to learn. We base our assumption on the notion that 65% of primary school children will have a job when they leave school, which is no longer the case. Therefore, we're aware that one thing children must learn at school is to learn how to learn. And to do that, they need to discover: How do I work? How do I concentrate? When I have to concentrate very hard, how do I do it? If I have to collaborate with you on a project, what sort of physical environment do we need to create the best working conditions?, etc. From this perspective, the physical environment helps both students and teachers learn how to learn.

What's important here is diversity and how to arrange it. I believe it's very easy. If we create environments that are designed with diversity in mind, these physical spaces communicate with us. Because the truth is that a uniform environment does not allow for diversity. There will always be someone who has to keep quiet so as not to distract others. With more diverse environments, schools also have to change the way they organize their schedules. Schools that have been designed as learning landscapes will not be successful if we continue to use them in the same way as traditional schools. The system won't work if a teacher has to monitor the individual activities of 30 pupils. We need to think about how to best allocate the time a teacher spends with students. This is where the concept of "autonomy" is important, as it encourages independence, project work and target-based endeavors. Above all, traditional schools seek to control how children physically move around. In the future, what we want is for these children to grow into adults who know very well when to remain seated and when to move around. We want them to learn how to handle independent learning. If we don't give children a bit of independence now, how are they going to learn how to become independent adults?

More on Rosan Bosch

Rosan Bosch is the Director of the Rosan Bosch architecture studio and an interior designer. She has created innovative spaces in schools in order to improve learning environments. She has also written books such as "Designing for a better world starts at school" and has participated in similar projects in hospitals and libraries.
What is the main lesson you have learnt in your career?

I think it's important to ask ourselves why we do things a certain way and why we don't try to improve them. Up to now, all children are placed in a physical environment that we know hinders learning. We know this is bad for children. There's no doubt about it. There's a lot of evidence that shows that this type of environment prevents children from learning or limits their ability to learn. This is bad for learning. Under the school system we have in place at present, children are always going to look for easy challenges in order to get good results. The system we have uses tests that punish children if they are deemed to have failed in an endeavor. We know that a uniform environment that does not allow for individuality or diversity demotivates children. We also know that a third of high school students leave school due to a lack of motivation. We know a lot of things are wrong, but we don't improve them. It's difficult, but to allow things to remain the same is not an option, because it's damaging our children. I don't believe there's a single mother or father out there who doesn't want the best for their children. So, I ask myself, what's going on? What are we waiting for? Why don't we change things faster? Let's start now.

"Motivation is the most powerful force we all possess".

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