Human Habitat

Learning from a Living Building

It was great to read Dale Mikklesen’s perspective on the UniverCity Childcare Centre.  As the Executive Director of the SFU Childcare Society and Operator of UniverCity Childcare, I was reminded of the journey we took together to design this unique living building.

In my role as ED, my mind and heart is continually focused on providing the best for the children in our care.  As society continues to evolve in many areas, so does our thinking about how children learn and our respect for the way they understand the world.

My journey with the design team in creating UniverCity Childcare Centre (UCC) was profound in different ways.  Firstly, it had always been my dream to design a childcare space that respected children’s competencies and aligned with preparing our children to be good stewards of the future.  Secondly, I became more environmentally conscious myself as I was immersed in the Living Building concept of our new childcare space:

SFU Childcare Society values children as the heart of our respectful, collaborative and reflective community by providing them with a place to develop their potential through freedom to explore and engage the world around them.”

– SFU Childcare Society Vision Statement

My role on the design team was to ensure that the building met the demands of a suitable space for preschool aged children to inhabit and learn together with their teachers.  I have been impacted by the Reggio-inspired philosophy on how children learn and engage with their world and this perspective influenced the design elements of UniverCity Childcare Centre.  One of the key points in this philosophy is that the environment is the third teacher.  It seemed that the decision to make this building a Living Building was an amazing connection to our curriculum philosophy!

I found that our design team developed into a collaboration of ideas and learning from the other.  As they openly heard my perspective on the curriculum philosophy, I opened my eyes in a new way to living sustainably.  To this day I continue to be amazed at the connections we built together in creating this amazing learning and caring space for children.

We, as the SFU Childcare Society, are engaging our world with our unique curriculum approach and as a model for teaching young children sustainability for the present, not only the future.  My role as a partner in a collaborative design team has evolved into a team of teachers and other co-collaborators who continue on with the actual engagement with the third teacher, the living building that is the UniverCity Childcare Centre.

Currently the SFU Sustainability Office and SFU Faculty of Education support the UCC children, teachers and families in four key areas around sustainability: gardening and composting, the forest, the living building and grounds and recycling.  We have intentionally engaged with the children and families in these four areas to learn from and with the children of UCC.

The Living Building project and its sustainability features have also spilled over to our west side of campus facilities.  We have, with the support of the Sustainability Office, applied for a grant to create a community garden for all twelve childcare programs to gather and learn together in community.

The impact of the Living Building that is UCC continues to influence not only the children who live there, but our entire SFU Childcare Society community.

Human Habitat, Education, Sustainable Communities, Community Engagement, Environment

About the Author

Pat Frouws is the Executive Director for SFU Childcare Society and a 2012 Prime Minister's Excellence in Early Childhood Education Award Winner. SFU Childcare Society, located at UniverCity and the west side of campus is well renowned their excellence in care and learning for over 300 children in fifteen individual programs.

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