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DREAMZ at Kids’ Country

What do design thinking, project based learning, and an educational philosophy that originated in Italy after World War II have in common? DREAMZ!

Two years ago, Kids’ Country was trying to solve a challenge: how to create dynamic learning and play environments that meet the unique needs and interests of children in the 3rd to 5th grades. The answer, the DREAMZ Project (Development and Revitalization of Environments Allowing for Meaningful Zones).  The goal of DREAMZ is to engage children to help design diverse and vibrant zones in their after-school rooms that would spark discovery, creativity and collaboration.

DREAMZ is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, an educational philosophy in which teachers partner with children and parents, and the physical environment becomes another teacher when it is designed to reflect and build on children’s interests. Following the WWII, people believed that children were in need of a new way of learning, so the concept was born as a way to allow the child to construct their own learning. They begin to form an understanding of themselves through learning to communicate their experiences and how they see the world.

DREAMZ uses design thinking in creating environments that effectively integrate learning, foster curiosity and creativity, and build problem-solving skills and collaboration.  Design thinking is making its way from the business and technology sphere into K-12 education. An effective 21st Century protocol for “solving problems and discovering new opportunities” (Fast Company 2006), design thinking is an especially engaging process for children and educators.

At it’s core, DREAMZ is a collaboration between Kids’ Country kids and our teachers. During the planning phase, the children talk about their current environment and how they’d redesign the space to encourage their interests.  All the children actively engage in the creative process, using design thinking tools and sharing their ideas. They imagine and learn how to lay out their room in different zones where they can explore, create, tinker, do their homework, read or play games. This intentional process, which takes six months from planning to implementation, creates a unique level of teamwork among the young participants and the physical environment inspires curiosity and creativity as soon as kids walk in the room.  It has also impacted the kinds of programming and activities Kids’ Country offers.

Investing $25,000 per site, Kids’ Country has implemented the DREAMZ Project to date at five sites: Montair, Greenbrook, John Baldwin, Bollinger Canyon and, most recently, Vista Grande, with more being planned every year. Check out the photos of our DREAMZ rooms and watch out for more DREAMZ projects to come.

Check out the photos of our DREAMZ rooms and stay tuned for the reveal of the new DREAMZ project at Green Valley this April!

Kids' Country supports a child's natural curiosity and love of learning in a safe and inspired environment where they can discover their passions and achieve great things.