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The Dream School of Tomorrow
'Amra Shobai Raja amader ei Rajar Rajottey…' Yes indeed, children are the rulers of their own kingdom. The ARCHKids-- Architecture for Kids 2010 was arranged by the Department of Architecture, Brac University. It commenced with the afore mentioned song as 25 youngsters between the ages of 5-12 years sang to their hearts' content with the guidance of the renowned singer Sadi Mohammad, the Special Guest at the occasion. The theme of this year's ARCHKids was “Dream School”. The children selected were from different schools and their ideas, integrated as one, was to come up with a school of their dreams.
At first, the children watched parts of an animated film UP with their parents. The volunteers then handed out t-shirts, helped put them on along with their badges before taking them on a tour of the department where the senior students' work were exhibited. Some wondered what the drawings represented, a few inquired about the models while the others silently observed in amazement. In due time, the tour ended and the children were taken to a room where they had to sit facing each other and introduce themselves. The participants were students from Nalonda (Chayanaut), Auronee Biddalaya, T&T Ideal Girls' High School, South Breeze School, Cherry Blossom School, Play Pen School, Australian International School and The City School International.
We all take time getting acquainted with one another and so do children. The feeling of insecurity exists among us all. To break the ice, the children were asked to hold each others' hands and were handed out candies on the basis of which they were put into groups. There were 5 groups in total each consisting of 5 children with 2 volunteers and a teacher's assistant for guidance. While they enjoyed their candies, the children participated in the mask-making activity. They were handed out masks that they could paint however they liked. In the process dozens of artful masks were produced. Some kids were not confident with their artistic skills but observing their peers, inevitably gave into the flow of creativity. Everyone put their masks on as soon as they were finished (including the teachers and volunteers) and the room turned into a crowd attending a masquerade party!
Each group was then handed out a blank base of 30”X20”, some trees of different sizes (toothpicks with cotton) and a set of 14 white blocks 10 in bigger modules (to represent classrooms) and 4 smaller ones (a principal's room, teachers' room, café and library) and of course a set of colours to design the school of their dreams. Their countless questions were answered by the volunteers and teachers' assistant who were always on the vigilant. And so, the flurry of actions began. The children were asked to think about things that their own school lacked. What is it that they thought was vital to a school? What would make their institution more to their liking? What elements would make them love their school more and encourage them to look forward to it more than they already do? Young minds whirred as some already took felt tips to
draw windows on the classrooms and picked up paintbrushes to give life to the trees.
Out of the five dream schools that were designed, each had some common features. Every child wanted a huge playfield that took up most of the base. Some segregated the grounds to form a basketball court, cricket pitch and football field. Some even declared that since this was a “dream school” anything is possible and so the final World Cup match between Spain and Netherlands would take place here! Swimming pools was another common feature. The once white base was soon filled with an array of green, yellow and blue.
The trees were not limited to just green. There were red trees (Krishnachura?) and some multi-coloured ones too. Some formed a single building with a few stories, others were individual blocks with a tree beside each block but they were all together, clustered to one end of the base while the outdoor spaces were arranged in the other parts. I have to admit, their level of perception is remarkable. Besides the trees, the building blocks were also multi-coloured an orange building with purple glass. And why not? It is a dream school after all. One group decided not to have a principal's room. “We don't have a principal in our dream school”. Instead they had 2 cafes, one closer to the building blocks and the other closer to the fields. When asked how that would be accessed, one of the kids answered, “It's a dream school, you can fly there!”
At the end of their designing activity, each group presented their work in front of everyone. A speaker among the group explained the designs. Each school was given a name. There was 'A Green School', 'Greenland', 'Wonderland', 'Dream School' and 'Colour School'. People were drawn on the fields. Some designed their school gate while others drew huge butterflies fluttering throughout the school. They all had messages to share as well. They all wanted open spaces, be it fields or swimming pools. They realise that harmony can be achieved with a blend of both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Each group's work was appreciated by the on-lookers. Sadi Mohammad awarded each child with a certificate while photo shoots ensued in full swing. Prof. Zainab F. Ali thanked the parents for encouraging their children to participate. At the end of it all, the children were asked what were missing. A child declared 'food'! The handing of food to each kid brought about the happy ending. Before joining their waiting parents they exchanged hugs and goodbyes with all the volunteers and teachers.
ARCHKids is an outreach programme of the Department of Architecture, BRAC University. It began in 2005 and has had a number of events where either school children were invited to the department or faculty and students from the department went out to various schools. The objective of this programme is to encourage creativity in kids and open their minds to architecture and their surroundings. It is a fun event for not only the kids but grown-ups too; who are involved in arranging the programme where an idea as perceived by a child is portrayed. Every child has a dream which he or she wishes to turn to reality. Of course their imagination may run wild (with multi-coloured trees and blocks and intentions to fly) but there definitely is a way to fulfill their more practical wishes. After all, the kingdom is theirs and so is the future.
(The writer is a student of BRAC University)