Dr. Lomino in China: February 14
February 14: The Factory
I had already seen several photos, and two former foreign directors shared their views about the Factory with me by email, but I was completely unprepared for how astonishing this place is! We arrive at the nondescript building in an industrial areaafter a 35 minute bus ride through morning rush hour traffic. The teachers help children up several flights of stairs to the main entrance. The area is immense—10’s of thousands of square feet. It is a former factory that has been transformed into a giant children’s learning center. Various areas are divided with picket fencing, including a science room with microscopes and other instruments; a mechanical center with an actual car for children to play in; a sewing center with yards of fabric, thread of every color, mannequins, long tables and dressing areas; an art center that includes everything budding artists need to create masterpieces; a meeting spot for eating breakfast and lunch; a woodworking center; a clay pottery area with pottery wheels; a hydrology center with large tilted sand tables and water hoses for creating rivers, lakes and dams; a construction site for children to use real cement blocks to create buildings and walls; the largest sandbox I’ve ever seen with ridable tractors, pails and shovels; and finally a napping room with wooden platform beds, inverted umbrellas decorating the ceiling and curtains with cut-out star shapes to mimic a night sky when they were drawn.
It is difficult to take it all in. The Factory is easily large enough to accommodate well over a hundred children at one time, and has all the earmarks of an incredible children’s science museum.
I meet here today with Kingsley, the new school Manager and Allen, the assistant manager to learn more about their vision for No Boundaries and also how I can help them meet their goals. Both men are obviously passionate about the school, and I look forward to knowing them better!
One of the teachers shares a concern that there is no exhaust system, so when power tools are being used to cut wood, sawdust in the air can be hazardous. I am also told that some of the themed areas are seldom used, particularly the mechanical center, because the tools and displays are more appropriate for older children. Many of the teachers don’t feel competent enough to supervise activities in some of these centers. They need more training I think.
I thought of several features that could be added such as an aquaponics lab, a touchable natural history museum that might include nature finds from the Forest, plus taxidermist animals, pelts, bones, shells, etc. I also thought about raising silk worms—what a wonderful way to integrate Chinese cultural history and science. Along those same lines, weaving and using a loom would be very hands-on as well as a way to teach a cultural craft. The same could be said of basket weaving.
My strongest recommendation is to provide more time for free play in the Factory—planned activities are good, but I did not see the children engaging much in creative and imaginative play. This is the perfect place!
Today’s Insight: The very best learning is always hands-on. The more ways we can involve children’s senses, the more they will remember.