1. This retired airplane that was upcycled into an interactive kindergarten classroom.
Creativity must fly around at lightning speed at this private school in Rustavi, Georgia. Headmaster Gari Chapidze brought a Yakovlev Yak-42 airplane to his school in 2012 and turned it into a sleek classroom for his 20 kindergartners. His idea was that young children should be encouraged to explore their curiosity, something they now get to do regularly, thanks to the airplane’s 1,500 still-functional buttons. The fact that they can take in the rest of their lessons at chairs and tables along the plane’s windows is just an added benefit.
2. This preschool that turns into a giant, interactive puddle after rainstorms.
What do little kids like more than jumping in puddles? Um, nothing. That’s why Dai-Ichi Yochien Preschool in Kumamoto, Japan, was designed specifically to collect rainwater so that students can have a little fun after a storm. The school’s courtyard also acts as a badminton and softball court on dry days, a splashable pool on rainy days, and an ice skating rink on cold winter days. Sign us up, please.
The Green School in Bali is all about nature — it’s set in nature, built using natural materials, and its open plan encourages students to learn according to their natural impulses. Its two buildings, which are separated by a river, are even connected by a bamboo bridge! Run on solar power and renewable energy sources, the school has an organic garden that students cultivate, communal learning spaces, and even housing for staff. Plus, it’s really cool to look at.
4. This open-concept high school that doesn’t need no stinking classrooms.
No classrooms? No problem for Ørestad Gymnasium, a high school in Denmark. Instead of being walled in, students learn in one of four study zones. The design encourages students to take responsibility for their education; teacher-led classes only occupy 50% of the school day, the rest of the time, students learn on their own anywhere they want in the building, including on cozy, cushioned gathering areas. Ørestad is also notable for being completely digital — computers and iPads with Google apps are the sole learning materials.
If you can dream it, you can achieve it. Right? That’s what children in Sangkhlaburi Village, Thailand, were told when they were asked to draw the school of their dreams. One of them drew a flying ship, which Japanese architect Kikuma Watanabe translated into the design of this school for orphans. The airy, steel, grass, and bamboo structure on top is now a communal learning area, and the domes that support it are Buddhist prayer rooms.
6. This old shipping container that became a school filled with possibilities.
Contain yourself, because the Vissershok Container Classroom in Cape Town, South Africa, really is as cool as it sounds and looks. The container was refitted into a school for underprivileged children who now get to learn inside the 1,937.5-square-foot room. Outside, they have an amphitheater-style playing area and a vertical garden that make the most of the school’s limited available space.
Learn hard, play hard, is definitely the mission of Fuji Yochien, a kindergarten outside Tokyo. The circular school has two levels connected by low stairs, a slide, and even a tree that students can climb up and down. There are no walls, which allow a natural, free flow of sound, and children are even encouraged to rearrange the furniture once a month. Architect Takaharu Tezuka said in a TED talk that the school was designed to allow kids to be kids and encourage them to listen to their instincts.