At The Clifton School, we consider the environment a third teacher. Every physical element – color, light, natural materials, hanging and open dividers – contributes to a feeling of openness and invites exploration. Each room, including our spacious hallways, is paned with large windows that flood our interior spaces with light and provide a seamless transparency between the indoors and outdoors.
The main building is designed as a large square with an open-air central courtyard. Each wing of the building houses a village of classrooms (Infant, Toddler I, Toddler II, and Preschool) that opens into its own larger community space, called a “piazza.” Both the classrooms and the interior piazzas are designed environments that support the children’s on-going work, inspire new investigations, and offer opportunities for collaboration among different age groups.
An adjoining fifth wing houses the administrative offices, conference room, nursing room, teachers’ lounge, kitchen, and storage facilities.
Each Preschool classroom has a mini-studio of its own in addition to the large studio that is shared by all classrooms in the school. The studio is a beautiful space that holds a wide variety of natural, found, and recycled materials, as well as the basic supplies associated with art.
The atelier (studio) at each school are an integral part of our educational culture. Children working in the studio are introduced to these materials in a way that helps them understand the material’s unique properties. Once they are familiar with how the material works and what it can do, they begin to think about how it can be used to symbolically represent their thoughts, ideas, or theories. The materials then become a language or vehicle through which children can communicate with their friends, adults, and the larger world.
This is another large, light-filled community space for quiet study and reading. Moveable furniture allows the space to be adapted for other uses as well, such as music class, storytelling and meetings for larger groups. In the summer, it becomes our space for junior camp.
Each classroom has a glass door that opens onto an outside playground designed with children of their age in mind. Hills, flowering trees and bushes, green-space, sandboxes, paved tricycle paths, and ingenious, multi-level play-scapes built of natural materials make these spaces both beautiful and inviting.
Some structures remain in place while others, such as tree stumps, shade awnings, tires, picnic tables, and water-play stations are shifted often to support the children and their work.
In these outdoor spaces, you’ll see children hunting butterflies, building castles, waving wands made from long-stemmed grasses, hear their laughter and glimpse their joy.