Jan White Natural Play

Natural Play, Natural Growth, in the Early Years


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Fantastic conference on Environments for Young Children, Berkeley, California, 27-29th June 2012 – Call for proposals open till 25th March!

Shelter 4, Rachel McMillan Nursery School, London, UK

The Global Collaborative OnDesign for Children (OnDesign) is a recently formed working forum of the World Forum Foundation on Early Care and Education, a grass-roots, global network of people working with and for young children.  We are an enthusistic and experienced group of early educators, architects, landscape designers and others who focus on issues related to designing spaces where children can learn and grow – indoors, outdoors and the spaces in between.

The OnDesign collaborative seeks to bring together practitioners and researchers from around the world to engage in a variety of interactions, debates and collaborations. We are seeking to engage professionals involved in working with young children, as well as policy makers, architects, landscape architects and designers in a collaborative effort to understand the needs of children and how best to deliver stimulating environments to support learning, discovery and joy.

The OnDesign Working Forum came together in May 2011 at the World Forum on Early Care and Education conference in Hawaii.  The initiative has been spearheaded in particular through the enthusiasm and dedication of Ken Jaffe, Director of International Child Resource Centre (ICRI) based in Berkeley, California, and is already a good mix of early childhood educators, architects and landscape professionals from across the globe, with a driving group spanning the UK (Jan White), Brazil (Vera Melis), Mexico (Ivan Galindo Herrara) and eastern (mike Lindstrom) and western USA (Paul Roberts and Ken Jaffe).

We are eager to make it possible for practitioners and researchers in all relevant fields to come together so as to learn from each other and to initiate collaborations that can take thinking and action into new places.  It is important for us that this is a global initiative and that we are learning about and developing the quality of environments for young children in all parts of the planet and all walks of life, and the Global Collaborative OnDesign for Children is thrilled to announce its first International Working Forum

Boroondara Preschool, Melbourne, Australia

This working forum will challenge views on model building design for children, present state of the art building reviews from around the world, provide opportunities for deep discussion of approaches to incorporate the latest design features into children’s buildings and spaces, and establish an international network under the Global Collaborative OnDesign for Children that will offer a dynamic interface between architects, landscape designers, early childhood educators, planners, local and national governments, and the greater public on issues related to design of optimal buildings for children.

  • Dates: June 27-29, 2012 evening reception on Tuesday, June 26, and lively sessions Wednesday, June 27 through Friday, June 29. We also hope to offer optional extensions before or after to visit model sites, celebrate International Mud Day, and enjoy a tour of hidden treasures in the gorgeous San Francisco Bay Area!  More information on these extension activities will be provided when they are confirmed.
  • Location: the Clark Kerr campus of the University of California at Berkeley – Clark Kerr is a beautiful, self-contained mini university with lovely grounds, great food, and world-class facilities including lodging. Across the bay fromSan Francisco,Berkeley is known for its ethnically diverse community, culinary attractions, and amazing building design and scenery.

URGENT – The call for presentationsis open until 11pm, 25th March!  We are planning for a wide variety of presentations, discussion groups, posters, interactive workshops, centre visits and active, hands-on sessions.  If you would like to participate, contribute or just have a suggestion for an interesting topic, please submit an outline proposal online.  We will make selections that create a stimulating, global and well-balanced programme over the three days.

To learn more about, contact or join OnDesign, and for up-to-date information on the Working Forum conference with registration, submission and accommodation details, please visit the OnDesign section of the World Forum website.  To find out more about the World Forum in the UK, contact the UK representative, Laura Henry at Child Care Consultancy.

St Kilda & Balaclava Kindergarten, Melbourne, Australia

 All images (C) Jan White.  Thanks to Kindergartens in Melbourne, Australia (visited with the help of Sue Elliott and Play Australia) for these images showing attention to transition zones that make it easy for children to move between indoor and outdoor environments as part of the ‘indoor-outdoor’ programming that has remained common in Victoria.

Rachel McMillan Nursery School was set up in a very poor part of London in 1914 by nursery pioneers Margaret and Rachel McMillan, with a design that intentionally enabled children to be outdoors as much as possible – the big ‘shelter’ windows folded right back to allow plenty of fresh air indoors as well.

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