Magical Wooden Classroom Helps Children Bond with Nature

The past decade has probably seen the worst environmental damage humans have ever caused in history. However, it is also probably witness to the best human efforts in reversing the tragic situation and working towards accountability. Chile will create five new national parks in a preservation effort, China will reforest an entire area as big as Ireland (6.6 million hectares!), and announced most recently, Australia will spend 500 million dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

If we are to continue these attempts at environmental preservation, then financial support from the government has to be accompanied by cultural efforts.  By which I mean we need education. And who else can we educate more than those who will inherit this earth? To continue our environmental progress, it is children who foremost need to understand how nature works.

That’s exactly the objective of this magical wooden classroom designed by Studio Weave for Belvue School.

[T]he building was created to help reconnect students with nature and it opens up to an adjacent woodland recently acquired by the school to serve as an educational nature reserve . . . Constructed from a low budget originally allocated for a cargotecture school expansion, the 1,600-square-foot Wooden Classroom comprises a “cozy lounge” informal teaching space and a “sociable kitchen” student-run school cafe next to the woods.

With curved ceilings and clerestory windows, the wooden classroom is entirely provided with natural lighting and ventilation. Students may appreciate the neighbouring woodland through large window walls. To constantly check in with the nature aspect, a forest management specialist was consulted by Studio Weave throughout the construction process for Belvue School.

“We identified that the boundary between the playground and woods marks the border between familiar school territory and the magical, mysterious world of trees,” said Studio Weave. “This very important threshold, symbolising the entrance to another world, like the gate to the secret garden, or the cupboard to Narnia became a focal point and we consequently designed the woodland classrooms to act as a gatehouse between one world and another.”

If that doesn’t sound magical, I’m not sure what does. It makes me want to be a child and rediscover the earth with fresh eyes again. Maybe that’s what we all need to really care for nature. Then again, bringing back the past is totally impossible. So here’s to hoping the children retain the wonder and magic they experience in this gorgeous wooden classroom to the bigger world once they themselves grow bigger in the future.

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Senior Professor Schools Teachers On The Art Of Fun

It’s stories about locals risking their lives to save animals from an active volcano or a modest restaurant feeding the poor that restore my faith in humanity. Amidst a slew of tragedies, I became doubtful of the human capacity to do good. I then came across the story of Dr. Richard Overfelt, an 88-year-old professor who helps schoolteachers rediscover their love for educating. And to say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

“We cover teachers up today with statistics, with data, and testing almost every other day,” Overfelt said. And as a result he says “there isn’t enough time and energy to really teach the kids.”

Excellent point. On the first day of classes at Truman State University, senior professor Overfelt dresses in a clown costume. It’s unusual but hilarious, and nothing like Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. Overfelt teaches educators not just to revise their curriculums, but to relate to their students on a personal level. Looking back at my own academic life, I suppose I can confirm that what made the most impact to me then as a student is exactly what the senior professor tells his successors.

“I teach that if the heart is empty, it doesn’t make any difference how full the head [is],” said Overfelt.

Many have credited him for their decisions to remain in their professions, learning how to better educate and, in the process, have fun. Which leads me to say this… Maybe I ought to commission a therapy session with Dr. Overfelt on demotivating Mondays.

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Library Books Are Free To Rent For L.A. Kids

In places like New York, educational institutions are becoming less restrictive towards low-income families. This is so much so that children are now enjoying free lunches to ease financial burdens and prevent bullying. But the fact remains — many continue to struggle with other expenses such as tuition fees and school materials. Realizing the sheer significance of free knowledge, L.A. County has waived library fees for readers under 21.

“When charges accrue on a young person’s account, generally, they don’t pay the charges and they don’t use the card,” [library administrator Darcy] Hastings said. “A few dollars on their accounts means they stop using library services.”

As past fines persist, the county is also offering a “Read Away” service for young bookworms. Simply by picking out a novel to digest for an afternoon, students can eliminate fees at $5 an hour.

“You tell them you’ll read and they’ll sign you in and you start,” said Leilany, a fifth-grader at Morris K. Hamasaki Elementary in East L.A. “When your head starts losing the book you can stop reading and they tell you how much money they took away.”

Reading for fun and paying off debts? Sounds like a win-win for literature lovers looking to knock off a couple of bucks!

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Mountain Man Paves Road For School Children

As the saying goes, a parent will do whatever they can for their children. If you’re anything like military mom LeAnn Boudwine, who sends care packages to soldiers, family goes beyond blood. Whatever the case, parenthood often demands sacrifice — or, for Jalandhar Nayak, moving mountains. To help his children cut down their 3-hour trip to school, the vegetable seller paved a 5-mile route by hand.

“My children found it hard to walk on the narrow and stony path while going to their school. I often saw them stumbling against the rocks and decided to carve a road through the mountain so that they can walk more easily,” he [said.]

Armed with only a chisel, hoe, and axe, the dedicated father spent two years picking away. Naturally, his actions became a subject of public interest, to which the local government responded by paying for his services. It will also construct the remaining 4 miles, which Nayak predicted would’ve taken another three years to carve through.

“Nayak’s effort and determination to cut mountains to build a road left me spellbound,” the local administrator, Brundha D, told reporters.

Truly, nothing compares to the love we receive from our parents.

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School Welcomes Back Young Cancer Survivor

Nothing compares to the heartbreak of a cancer diagnosis. Every year, 12.7 million people fall victim to bad news, of whom 7.6 million don’t make it. Though breakthroughs such as personalized vaccines have been gradual, nonprofits have been helping to ease the pain of chemo. And, of course, nothing beats the support of family and friends. To help recovering leukemia patient Bridget Kelly feel at home, hundreds of neighbors welcomed her back to school.

“Her classmates wanted to let her know, ‘You were out for 15 months, but we absolutely did not forget about you,” [said] Kristin Healy, a school parent who helped organize the gathering.

The 8-year-old, diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia in 2016, underwent chemotherapy for 88 days. Bridget’s then-3-year-old sister acted as donor for her stem cell transplant. For over a year, the bright second-grader caught up with studies at home. The massive welcoming committee was more than well-deserved.

“It was almost overwhelming,” Bridget’s mother, Megan Kelley [said]… “She felt so special and so welcomed after such a long and hard road.”

Understandably, surviving the trying condition is every patient’s ultimate goal. Life is just a little less bitter with a hand to hold.

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German School Ditches Bratwurst For Vegan Lunches

Schools around the world have played a role in the battle against depleting resources. The Panyaden International School in Thailand built a sports hall that gloats a zero-carbon footprint. Now, the German International School in India is shifting to strictly vegan lunches.

The school, now 100% vegan, makes its own mock meat, produces vegan cheese from cashews, and bakes its own bread. Care is taken to see that nutritional requirements are met, by substituting animal products with protein-rich food such as quinoa, lentils, seitan, beans and hemp seeds.

The shift was prompted when the school began rehabilitating injured and abandoned animals. Besides the guilt of consuming mutton meters away from one of the school’s goats, administration believed veganism was more ethical.

“We wanted to reduce the human impact on the environment and eating less meat is the simplest way,”

To prepare for the transition, teachers dedicated classes to informative documentaries. Staff treated parents to a vegan buffet, which was more “delicious and nutritious” than expected. With avocado toast becoming the next millennial craze, I can’t imagine getting teens to up their veggie intake to be too much of a stretch.

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Danish School Is Covered With 12,000 Solar Panels

Solar energy has proved to be a clean contender in more ways than one. It has sustained trains and even entire villages. Now, it’s powering an international school in Denmark using over 12,000 solar panels.

C.F. Møller’s International School Nordhavn in Copenhagen uses solar panels to produce clean energy – and also as a part of the building’s aesthetic.

The panels cover over some 6,000 square meters of the school’s facade. They account for half of the school’s electricity needs.

The solar panels were developed by Swiss research institute EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne).

While the school’s exterior appears sea foam green, the panels are actually clear. A particle-generating technology is what gives an appearance of subtle color.

While the likes of MIT may be home to the budding engineers of the world, C.F. Møller is not so far behind with its technology.

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NYC Public School Lunches Are Now Completely Free

When trapped Houston bakers baked bread for Harvey victims, it didn’t matter who they were. If someone needed a loaf of bread, regardless of status, it was going to be delivered to them. The selfless act is inspiring many, and now the Big Apple is offering public school lunches for free.

This move has been long sought by food-policy advocates and many members of the New York City Council, who said that some students would prefer to go hungry rather than admit they cannot afford to pay for lunch. Nationally, the practice of “lunch shaming” — holding children publicly accountable for unpaid school lunch bills — has garnered attention.

In the end, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña believes that all communities matter. The initiative will save families up to $300 a year — a vast amount for those under the poverty margin. New York City finances will remain unaffected.

City officials said the program was not expected to cost the city more money. The state recently changed how it tracks families that are eligible for benefits like Medicaid, matching them with the schools their children attend.

The program aspires to reach at least 200,000 more children. A lot of satisfied stomachs are to be expected.

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Rural Classroom In Kenya Sports Solar Roof

To ease difficulties within rural communities, startups such as Off Grid Box are doing their best to provide essentials. Without significant funding, water and energy supplies aren’t always on a high. However, a secondary school in Kenya is prioritizing its students by sporting a solar roof.

One of its iron-sheet roofs is covered in tiles fitted with energy-producing solar cells – an innovative solar-power technology known as “building-integrated photovoltaics.”

Compared to solar panels, the tiles are cost-friendly, although pricier than conventional rooftops. Strauss Energy, along with the United States African Development Foundation, is responsible for providing tiles to the Gaitheri school. Since then, the school has supplied not only reliable energy to its students, but alternative classes as well.

We’ve got 18 computers, but power was a challenge before Strauss Energy came on board,”

Monthly, Gaitheri saves $14.50 on electricity. With some 45 million Kenyans lacking access to electricity, Gaitheri’s solar tiles are groundbreaking. On the plus side, photovaltic equipment is becoming cheaper and more accessible, with the potential to light up buildings anywhere in the world.

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Bamboo Building Can Withstand Natural Disasters

If consumers can go green, so can infrastructure. So far we’ve seen the emergence of vertical gardens and power-generating houses. Now the trend is hitting schools across the globe. This bamboo building in Panyaden International School in Thailand doesn’t only have a zero-carbon footprint — it can also withstand natural disasters.

Designed by Chiangmai Life Construction, the Bamboo Sports Hall features a modern organic design that draws inspiration from the lotus flower. The large multipurpose facility was built to withstand local natural forces including high-speed winds and earthquakes, and it boasts a zero-carbon footprint.

The facility is huge, to say the least, at 782 square meters large. It is modeled after a lotus, in honor of the school’s Buddhist values. It can accommodate up to 300 students and includes varying sports provisions.

“The bamboo used absorbed carbon to a much higher extent than the carbon emitted during treatment, transport and construction.”

The use of bamboo partners well with Panyaden’s “Green School” mission. The material has a lifespan of at least 50 years.

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