By HWZ International South Africa

We are living in the era of climate change – we see it and, what’s more, we feel it every day. Children learn about it in schools, even in kindergarten. They are taught what people seem to forget: How to coexist with nature.

The first and maybe the most important phase of a child’s life is probably is the classroom or the school building itself. Teachers want to encourage pupils to have a positive relationship with natural materials and maintain a sustainable way of life. This can be achieved by adding some timber panelling instead of walls and ceilings, and wooden furniture instead of plastic tables and chairs. According to studies, natural materials have a positive effect on people and their concentration – precisely what children need in their early educational development. It is important that they can focus and learn new things.

There are several case studies of classrooms that have used timber in an interesting way. One of them was architects from Austrian studio feld72, who built a stunning timber-clad kindergarten located in the small village of Valdaora di Sotto in South Tyrol. The designs are considered as a kind of ‘embracing gestures between tradition and modernity; between past, present and future’.

HWZi International South Africa, in collaboration with Wood Student Foundation decided to support Ark Angels Educare and build a new Kindergarten in the informal settlement of Overcome Heights, Cape Town. The structure was built with solid timber panels, fully sustainable. This wooden kindergarten is a safe haven for children, it offers them not only education but also a new hope.

Another case study is Elementary School and Kindergarten Nucice in the Czech Republic. Interiors of the inspiring school are almost completely wooden and sustainable, there is timber panelling on the walls and NOVATOP acoustic panels on the ceilings. Chairs and desks are also in wood. There was a similar project for Kindergarten Dacice, where the NOVATOP acoustic panels were used in their music rooms and auditoriums.

Many years ago, people used to live with nature in harmony. The case studies are an example of how to teach children to be at one with nature.