It has a been a very long and very busy week of classroom preparations, but it has been so worth it. On Monday we gained access to the building to start creating our physical environment and meet our teams! When we arrived the room was a beautiful blank slate. The perfectly clean floors and surfaces (HUGE thank you to the custodial staff!) gave us the opportunity to get started right away.
A First Look
I arrived that morning before my teaching partner did, so I took the time to take stock of the room. I recently attended a course offered by the Ontario Reggio Association as part of their Emergent Curriculum Certificate Course series. At this course, Andrea Bolton, an amazing educator who until recently worked in Peel too, spoke to us about the idea of spaces and places.
Andrea suggested that when you arrive in your new place you need to experience it at different levels. Sit in the middle of the room and look up, look down, look all around you. What do you notice? Where are the natural little nooks? What areas are the brightest? What areas are dark? So I did just this.
I noticed that the amazing huge windows on the far wall let in afternoon sun that lights up (and heats up) the far side of the room. I noticed that the former cubby area in the back of the room was the darkest area. I noticed that the ceilings were very high and that there was a lot of tempting space to place documentation and student work that would be out of the sight lines of children (I made note of this so that I could be careful to not display anything too high up). I noticed that we had a huge magnetic white board and a projector screen off in the corner next to the very bright window (I wondered if the white board might be better to use than the projector screen?)
|The Before: First look at the classroom|
When the amazing Mrs. C arrived we had a chat to get to know each other before we dove into the environment. We talked about our previous experiences in Kindergarten spaces, we talked about our approaches and our hopes for our partnership for this year.
We then switched gears and focused on our incoming children. What areas would they need? How could we create a space that would support the learning of routines and social skills in the first week? What materials would we need in order to create a calming, home-like feel in the space?
To start we focused on furniture and materials:
We moved furniture to tentatively set the learning areas (writing, fine motor, art, math and loose parts, dramatic play, construction, Community Meeting space, discovery, reading and a quiet area).
Next, we went through the materials to decide what would be available in these areas and to make some hard decisions about the type of materials that we had. We went through each cupboard and washed and arranged the materials.
Our next focus was deciding which materials we wanted to be available to the children at all times and how we could arrange these materials in the space to promote independence. We asked ourselves, what materials would we put away for the first few weeks so as not to overwhelm the space and the children?
We ended up rearranging the space twice before we decided on a layout that we felt would suit the needs of the children. We had two mantras for the move that informed our arrangement,
1. "A place for everything, and everything in it's place." (How can we teach clean up routines if there isn't a clear place for materials to go? How will the children know when an area is clean?
2. The room is a flowing, living space. Nothing is nailed down so we can always change it! (We will be spending the first few weeks observing and documenting the children. Which areas are they going to the most? Which areas are they not going to? Why? How are they using the materials? We will use this information to work with the children to rearrange and make changes as we go along).
The Reveal!So without any further ado, here is the big reveal of our room and activities for the beginning of September:
|The After: Ready for students to create and explore! The bulletin boards have been purposefully left empty so that student thinking can be displayed rather than teacher thinking.|
|The Tall Counter: This space is for our educator team so we can house our clipboards and organize forms and information.|
|Art Area: The easel, drying rack and sink in close proximity so children can be more independent when they are creating.|
|Construction: Visual prompts and book resources have been made accessible to students for inspiration. As students create and explore, pictures and drawings of their own structures will replace the pictures that we have put up.|
|Construction: The long low counter is perfect for children to use as an additional space for building. As the weeks progress, we will be adding baskets of additional materials, loose parts, clipboards and pencils.|
|Reading and Quiet Area: In this space we have added a carpet and some pillows (freshly washed!) to make a cozy reading experience. The books on the book shelf have been intentionally limited at this time to help with learning clean up routines. We will be encouraging students to use this space when they need a more quiet time to re-set and re-charge. In the first few weeks we will be focusing on deep belly breathing and learning yoga as a means to regulate ourselves (click HERE to read my blog post about Yoga in the Early Years). We will use the empty walls to display student made documentation about ways they can problem solve and regulate themselves.|
Further Reading and ReflectionThe ever inspiring Karyn Callaghan wrote a beautiful article "The Environment is a Teacher" (you can read it HERE) which has a list of questions to consider and reflect upon. She reminds us that "the word 'environment' usually refers to the physical environment, inside and outside. It will serve us well if we can expand this perception to include the context in general, including the relationships among the people and between them and the materials, the rules, the schedule."(Callaghan 2013, p. 1)
I encourage you to read her article and consider her reflective questions in the coming weeks as you continue to make changes and co-construct the environment with the children. This question in particular is important to revisit as the year progresses:
"Are children's words and work visible in the environment in a way that communicates respect and value for their meaning-making and communication?"(Callaghan 2013, p. 4)