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Snehal Khatavkar
Design researcher. Design strategist


The design envisions the school where the child learns through exploration and observation. The project focused on understanding the different ways in which a child assimilates and perceives information. The findings through this study is reflected in the various design iterations within space planning, furniture and products.  

Project type : Competition - Grassroots by UNI.

Shortlisted (

Year: 2020

Role: Architectural design, Play and learn module design, child development  research 

Physical abilities
Cognitive developement
Emotional needs 

The anganwadi school 

Over the past two decades, India has seen the percentage of its children enrolled in school increase exponentially. Now above 98%, India’s education system is the largest in the world. However, India is now in the midst of a Learning Crisis, where a large percentage of children are enrolled in primary school but are failing to attain even basic skills such as foundational literacy and numeracy. The Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) and the National Achievement Survey(NAS ) reiterate this, identifying foundational learning to be the most critical gap. 

Translating to mean a ‘shelter with a courtyard’, an Anganwadi Centre hosts services which offer pre-school education, nutrition and health education, immunization, health checks, supplementary nutrition, and referral services for children under 6 years and their mothers. They were started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services

Foundational Learning 

Design challenge 

Design a compact, modular unit which hosts an early educational and health care programme (pre-school) for children and their mothers

Asking questions 

Play pretend 

Our intent: Understanding children's (age 2-6 years) development process, in order to derive insights about a childs development that aids in foundational learning 

How do kids understand?  

Activity study 

Studying the various development stages an activity matrix was developed. Activities that can facilitate cognitive, socio emotional and physical developments. Deriving play to foster learning. Elaborate on this decision to understand why study activities to developed a series of choices that a child makes. 


Design interventions: Flooring pattern for wayfinding, Labyrinth, Change of materials and textures, Undulations, Earth berms 

Facilitates motor control and and bodily movement. 


Design interventions: Ladders in interiors for climbing to sleeping areas, on trees, fixed  rope climbers, jungle gym games

Spatial and directional awareness,  develops hand and foot coordination, and agility, proprioception - the ability to sense one’s own body’s position and movement in space, decision making 


Design interventions: Balancing on raised brick path / surfaces for control. 

Develop coordination; synchronizes right and left body sides

Design interventions: Tunnels as connectors for accessing spaces, reading corners, outdoor play - passing through circular rings 

Perception of changing heights and enclosed spaces 


Design interventions: Jumping in pits filled with different materials( water, sand, leaves)  

Understanding the concept of risk, Sensory stimulus, perception of depth


Design interventions: Balancing on raised brick/ surfaces for control. 

Stimulates the curiosity, imagination and creativity, empowers experimentation, develops fine motor control


Finger tracing 

Design interventions: Tracing panels - numbers alphabets, Patterns and murals 

Tracing patterns for memory simulation, fine motor control 

Visual perception 

Design interventions: Spaces with varied scales for motion perception and depth perception 

Cognitive Development during sensorimotor stage: depth, color, and motion perception

Recreational corners: 

Design interventions:

 Games, performances, skits

Symbolic function and fantasy, Pretending and enacting

Attention retention

Design interventions: Individually designated concentration and working areas  

Executive control 

Design interventions: Choice of activity, color game 

Decision making

Cultural experiences 

Design interventions: Gatherings for varied interaction opportunities 

Interpreting modular : The design brief demanded a modular approach in designing the Anganwadi school, where the modules can be used in multiple permutations and combinations irrespective of site conditions. Instead of designing modular spaces the design decision favored designing modular parts that make the space. 

After understanding the various stages of development in children, we prioritized the most important activities that should be involved in the school. These activities were then used to design the Play and learn panel and the storage & resting unit - the parts that make the space and engage children. The modules were designed in such a way that they can be arranged in multiple ways depending on the site conditions but the facilitate the most important learning activities in the school. 

Design approach 

The play and learn module is designed to engage the children in different activities as well as to aid them in basic learning activities like arithmetic operation, memory simulations, fine motor control as well as cognitive development. Emphasis was given on offering various choices to the kids in order to understand their interests and observe progress.