Noah Cohen-Tzemach, an industrial design student at Hadassah Academic College (HAC), saw the plastic playground sets and artificial grass that sprung up across kindergartens in Israel as both an eye sore and a missed opportunity for the children they were meant to serve.
“Preschoolers learn primarily though sensory experiences, so well-designed natural gardens provide better opportunities for social, emotional and cognitive development.”
Cohen-Tzemach dedicated her final year in The Dan Department for Creative Human Design to research and develop alternative designs and products for school, inspired by the natural yards and gardens once enjoyed by children. Her final project, ‘The Nature of Things,’ is a design manual created specifically for educators working with young children during the most influential stage of their life. Included are clear instructions on how to enhance the overall outdoor experience through introducing a variety of stimuli that cater to the senses, encourage curiosity, creativity and meaningful connections. For instance, Cohen-Temach revamped traditional sandboxes with sleek and modular designs that help children acquire and learn crucial skills- like fine-motor development through playing and planting in the soil and dirt. The manual also maps out an array of possible group activities, such as gardening, which encourages better cooperation with friends, increases levels of patience, responsibility and self-confidence.
Cohen-Tzemach’s manual has never been timelier, as Israel cautiously reopens schools and kindergartens in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. ‘The Nature of Things’ offers practical advice on how to create a dynamic educational environment and a much needed safe alternative to learning indoors. Best of all, during times of such uncertainty, fresh air and nature can help soothe and reduce stress among children and teachers alike!