Sarit Shani Hay has accepted the challenge of creating the first inclusive school in Tel Aviv, designed to provide a comprehensive educational perspective for children in today’s society, a learning environment that encourages accessibility, equality and flexibility in design. Shani Hay, a pioneer in the field of children’s environment design, has been involved in the design of public places for years, focusing on innovative learning spaces throughout Israel.
The project received the FRAME Social Jury Award 2020 for its positive impact on society and the environment.
This public school covers an area of 2,000 square metres and has been designed in such a way as to allow students with disabilities to integrate into classes with greater ease and improved usability. Twenty-five per cent of the students have physical disabilities, emotional problems or autism and interact in spaces that encourage cooperation and celebrate student diversity.
“This project gave us the opportunity to explore in depth what happens when design meets pedagogy and how we can use design as a tool for social change – as a means to promote inclusion and improve the well-being of all children,” explains Shani Hay.
An ongoing dialogue with educators and experts has enabled the transformation of a concept of educational inclusivity into a real physical place. This space features a distinctive design that encourages children to participate socially in a variety of ways, enhancing a sense of belonging and thus empathy. The school has classrooms that can be used for different types of courses and activities, such as physical therapy, yoga/meditation. In each classroom, sustainable and flexible custom-made furniture has been incorporated, with soft and welcoming spaces, calm colours and natural wood. A number of learning support elements have also been incorporated, such as an abacus with engraved letters and shapes that allows the children to learn Braille and sign language; a circular bench divided in half that communicates a sense of togetherness and group.
“My firm’s mission is for the 21st century educational environment to continue to embrace and implement inclusive learning so that all children grow up equal in society,” says Shani Hay.