I realise that almost every school in the world operates on an extremely tight budget and that my fundamental principle that ‘all schools should be beautiful’ sounds like an impossible dream from this perspective, and a definite block to transitioning many ugly schools to beautiful organic schools.
I would like to make the comment that beauty comes in many different ways and need not be expensive. I believe that children are endlessly creative if they are encouraged to participate in personalising their space, as are parents and other community members.
With regard to cost, gardens can be created at no cost from slips out of parents’ or interested community people’s gardens. Reggio Emilia has a community run recycling centre called the Remida where community members bring things that they no longer need and the Reggio school teachers and children can use it as a source of all sorts of materials that they need.
If community members can be included in the school then there is probably a long list of skills that can be accessed when necessary at very little cost (for example: sewing, cooking, woodworking, gardening).
I have found that children love to feel responsible for looking after something like a garden, and are happy to take care of it. Children also love projects – I was thinking of the example of beanbags – if children decided that they wanted beanbags to sit on at school, they could source unused material from their community, they could borrow parents’ sewing materials or even machines to sew the material together and they could stuff them with anything from used plastic bread bags to dried leaves. This project could cost almost nothing if it was taken up as a project.
Once again, I believe we need to start asking how we can do this rather than saying it cannot be done.