IN ENGLAND, once a child is three he or she is entitled to 15 hours per week of free childcare funding before they enter primary school. AWR — Architecture Workshop in Rome — recently held a competition to seek new educational designs for a preschool. The questions they put forth to their contestants were: What does a school do with 4- and 5-year-old kids? How should the nursery of the future be? How should children spend their days in these places?

The winning entry — called Nursery Fields Forever — came from design team aut–aut based in Rome who wanted to see an emphasis on farming and nature. Instead of the traditional classroom with maybe a garden plot outside, the classroom is the garden. In the design the building is open-concept where fresh vegetables are grown and harvested, and which allows farm animals inside. The intent is for children to have a more intimate relationship with nature and to understand and appreciate where food comes from, something that is sorely needed in Western society. In the US, for example, around 60% of adults have little knowledge about food production; most Americans know more about pop culture than what they’re ingesting.

In an article at fastcoexist.com, team member Edoardo Capuzzo said, “We tried to make a different way to learn. So not reading a book, or listening to a teacher, but experience directly based on practice. A typical school has desks and chairs—in our school, there are not these things. And there’s the freedom to stay inside or go outside.”

Besides learning about growing food and animals, the children will also have firsthand experience with alternative energy sources as the school will be powered by solar and wind.

The graphics below show how the school would work in concept, as well as what the school grounds could look like.