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  • Robert Barker

Box-town – kids create an eco-town

This post was written a week before lockdown, but has been rather delayed by the reorganisation required by Covid-19.

However, we still wanted to share the wonderful experience we had together with the children and brilliant teachers at a local Infants School.

We had a wonderful morning, building a new #ecotown with 130 children aged between 4-7. We were astounded by the results – their creativity and productivity!

We asked the children to bring in a shoebox sized home that they had made at home, to be assembled into a town. In advance we had planned out a theoretical model that could be built with the boxes and the space needed to fit 130 shoe boxes. We also worked out various other things that we might need to make the town sustainable, such as wind turbines, solar panels, trees, a school, a park and such that they could build on the day.

On the morning the whole school gathered in the hall, carrying the most fantastic array of shoe box houses. We asked all of the children to lay them out on the ‘#brownfield site’ we had laid out. Low and behold you could barely move! There was no room for the school, park or much else. We were going to need to stack some of the houses if we wanted to make an eco-town. The first lesson of density had commenced!

We introduced the children to a few ideas about sustainable town planning and architecture and then it was their turn to build the shared facilities.

Throughout the morning we worked with small groups of children to organise the shoe-box houses into streets, courtyards, clusters and towers. While we worked with each group, the rest of the school, was busy making the trees, turbines, school, playground, allotments, a hospital, a fire station and various other things that a discerning 5 or 6 year old might expect in a town.

Towards the end of the morning each class returned to set out their creations. We briefly discussed where the different buildings and public spaces might be best suited as we laid them out. The park was at the heart of the town, complete with a playground, cafe and a sculpture with an invisible flag (which we felt showed that the town was non-denominational). We had some multi-functional spaces with street side allotments, a wind turbine avenue and plenty of roof top gardens. And we had some great planning with the supermarket near to the town farm and the station to save on carbon miles. With a nudge and a squeeze, we managed to fit everything in and still have room to move about. And mostly everything was made from waste materials so it was super recycled.

The most rewarding feedback was that all the kids reported that we need to make space in the town for all the other parts and places, not just houses.

The children worked so well as a large team. We were later told that it had been beneficial for some of the children who normally struggled with sharing and collaboration. We can’t help thinking is if this is what 4-7 year old children can achieve in a morning, imagine what we could achieve ‘box planning’ with grown-ups!

Thank you to all the amazing children and teachers at Dulwich College Infants School.


#primaryschool #masterplanning #ecotown

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