[Image: The finished "math playground" in Uganda, by Project H Design].
Project H Design recently completed the installation of a "math playground," or Learning Landscape, at the Kutamba School for orphans of AIDS in rural Uganda.
Part outdoor classroom, part spatially immersive lesson in arithmetic, the project gives students a place to study in at least two senses of the phrase. On the one hand, it's simply a forum for learning; on the other, it is literally a place to study: the space itself, if I've understood this correctly, serves as a model for play-based education.
[Images: The "math playground," by Project H Design].
That is, within the numbered arrangement of tires and benches is a spatial pedagogy: using the landscape itself, any number of spatialized games, such as "Around The World" and "Match Me," can be used to teach elementary mathematics.
[Images: One the finished benches, via Project H Design].
The didactic landscape was, at one point, simply a kind of mathematical test-landscape in a U.S. gymnasium before being tried out by the students on site in Uganda, before reaching its final installation.
[Images: Testing out the landscape, via Project H Design].
Check out the whole research, design, and installation process through their Flickr sets.
[Images: Via Project H Design].
I absolutely love the idea, though, that it might be possible to derive mathematical lessons from the built environment surrounding us. That, somewhere in the walls, roads, and buildings we find ourselves alive within, are equations waiting to be deduced, geometries to be studied, forces that we can isolate, graph, and understand. Whether through games or lectures, it is the spatial world itself that we study.
[Images: A handbook to spatial learning, via Project H Design].
Of course, this is one of the most basic things you do when you first study engineering: you look at a bridge, tower, or other structure and you try to figure out how it stands or works. Or you stand behind Notre-Dame in Paris, staring at those stone cobwebs of intersecting buttressed supports, and you try to understand how it is that cathedrals gravitationally function.
But how incredible would it be to realize that, say, your entire city had actually been organized by urban planners two hundred years ago as a kind of inhabitable lesson in mathematics or logical reasoning, like something from the early theories of Friedrich Froebel?
In an unbelievably interesting exhibition held two years ago in Pasadena, the Institute For Figuring explored the educational system of a now relatively under-known man named Friedrich Froebel and his influence on what we now call kindergarten. To quote from their online exhibition at length:
This piece originally appeared on Geoff Manaugh's site, BLDGBLOG