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Guiding values at the foundation of the building project

By Ianthe Lauwaert, project supporter

At Robin's Nest we work out of a living spiritual impulse * formulate the actual impulse! We strive to manifest this impulse in everything we do: in the early years setting with the children, in the way we work together, in the way our fee structure works, in the planning of the building and in the building itself, in the relationships we build with our community etc. This impulse is reflected in everything that follows: the ecological character of the building, the way in which it supports the incarnating child and the way in which we include the community in the project.

* Ecology and nature connection: Robin's Nest is a place where children can truly be connected with the natural world. Daily life in Robin's Nest is in harmony with nature: the children play in the woods, care for chickens and rabbits, go on daily walks, help garden in their biodynamic smallholding, ... Movement and being outdoors are integral parts of the life in the setting and help to bring the children into their bodies. We connect and care for the plant and animal kingdoms, explore varying terrains through the cycle of the year and work with process wherever possible. It is important to us that the new building reflects our relationship with nature. In terms of the ecological and environment impact of the building, the design, building approach and use of the building aims to be restorative for our natural environment - i.e. the overall outcome being that the land and environment is in a healthier state than without us being there. We plan to be self-sufficient and any consumption of natural resources or waste creation will be minimal and negated by the positive. The straw and clay house will have a very low environmental impact, using only environmentally friendly materials, as much as possible locally sourced. This we feel is an essential model for the future and provides a wonderful picture for our children.

* The incarnating child: At Robin's Nest we work out of a contemporary and living understanding of the Waldorf pedagogy. Our pedagogy supports the development of the child and it is important to us that our new building supports this as well. Therefore the building has been designed specifically to support the incarnating child and as a space of inspiration to the community of Emerson College and wider. Our aim is for it to cultivate and sustain flexibility of human thinking and consciousness, be in harmony with its abundant natural environment and integrative with its community. For this aim we invited Keith Struthers, from Natural Architecture to be our architect. During the design week (which was a community process that took place in May 2018) we asked: "How does a shape of a building affect the mood inside, and how can we best shape our building in particular forms to support the mood we want to create?" Building a kindergarten or a class seven is a different thing. Not only the shape affects the mood, but also the materials. Our building is designed specifically to support the developing young child. In the building process we will make certain choices that are based on this value. For instance, due to the sculptural nature of the building we will need specifically laminated timber, which in our case will be manufactured by a company in Namibia - this company is one of the only three in the world that manufactures this laminated timber and has developed this skill over the years in collaboration with Keith. In this case we prioritise the design, even though we are making sure that the delivery happens in the most ecological way possible by using a container that would otherwise return back to England empty.

* Community building: Robin's Nest is a child minding setting which is primarily there for the children, but we uphold the vision of being there for the whole family. Having a permanent building will help this vision to manifest. Once in a permanent building we foresee forces being freed up to do more outreach work, to reach those families who would otherwise not find Robin's Nest.

We spend time fostering relationships within the community and strive to incorporate the many gifts and talents that those within Emerson College and Forest Row offer. The children are all part of these processes and through them experience healthy social relationships so vital for our future. The children are given plenty of opportunities to learn the essential skills of negotiation, forgiveness, creativity, persistence and openness through play.

Also for the building process it is our vision to involve the community. We will consciously create learning possibilities around the building in as many different aspects of its realisation as possible (the clearing of the site, the erecting of the timber frame, the filling of the walls with clay and straw, the landscaping and inside works etc). It is important to us that we carry out each step with as much consciousness of the community as possible. We want this new building to be a community project and one of the leading projects in the rebirth of (education at) Emerson College. Many hands and hearts are - and will be - part of the whole process and by taking this new step in Robin's Nest's biography we are simultaneously co-creating the new future for this place. In every single step we take we want to hold the picture of the whole. The journey is the destination and it is exciting!

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