Millions of people fly every day. Millions of people spend a lot of time in airports all over the world. Most of the airports provide eating and shopping experiences, but not any learning experience. People use their phones, laptops, tablets, ebook readers, or books and magazines to get productive or to simply kill time. This time can sometimes be better used learning about new things, people, or places. For this to happen, the airports would need to be designed for such experiences.
On one of my trips from the US to India, I had a nine-hours long stopover at Singapore Changi airport, which, by the way, is the world’s best airport (or the second best). Even after taking a free two-hour city tour, I had plenty of time to navigate the huge terminal. Apart from the orchid and cactus gardens, there was a Koi pond in the terminal. Nishikogi, or Koi, is the most colourful and expensive of all freshwater fish. The pond and its surroundings were very beautiful and buzzing with the activities of children, though the pond attracted people of all ages. Underwater life, for most people, is a mystery, and attracts and engages everyone, and engagement is a crucial factor for effective learning.
I was surprised to find the pond in the middle of the airport terminal, and was amazed by the potential opportunity it provided for travelers to learn about the Koi fish and the flora surrounding the pond. Unfortunately, the information provided about the fish was too little. Though I’d still consider it an unexpected learning space and opportunity, there is a huge potential to make the space a great learning experience. People like me, who wait at the airport with nothing to do, can read or see more information about the Koi fish and it’s significance in the east Asian culture. This actually is the best example of an informal learning space I’ve ever come across.