Just Let Me Play
Less is more: Rethinking the Learning Environment from a kindergarten teacher and Waldorf inspired Mama's perspective ...
Entering a new classroom allows the educators to reflect upon the shared space and how the materials and furniture are reflective of the needs and interests of the learners. Classrooms are truly a blank canvas which are co-created with the learners. The entire environment is a 2 year long project for kindergarten teams and students.
This year, I entered a classroom which was ready for a transformation. The room was large, with beautiful windows and open space. This time, I turned to thinking about what I needed to remove and eliminate in order to reduce the clutter and create a more inviting and authentic kindergarten learning environment.
I cleared the walls, awaiting student artwork and documentation, there were collaborative initiatives for kindness rewards, neutral colours were brought into the spaces, and we left traces of ( shall I even say it...) worksheets! Instead, student portfolios were the main object of interest upon entry and a new space for students to keep their favourite work.
I ensured the shelves were clutter free and provided a carefully selected variety of open ended materials such as blocks, small world play, trains, and up cycled materials. I even created a loose parts space where learners are welcome to add to and use when needed in their work and play. This space ( I hope) will continue to grow as families become more involved in our loose parts project.
Now, about all those tables! We need floor space and we needed reduce the numbers of tables. Floor space proves open areas for creation and does not limit a child's work (bin systems are out/ inquiry explorations and innovation are in). Therefore, those large U reading tables (not needed in my opinion). Most of our group work us done on the floor interacting within their play. This allowed for our room to join the tables we did leave behind and create a large long studio project table which houses our collaborative projects and mural work.
After visiting some amazing early years centres, I noticed that it was not about the expensive wooden materials, but the shift in thinking about the classroom as a studio space, limiting table top play/work. My favourite programs of all had little in the classroom, this engaged the learners in deeper play and fostered more focus and a sense of calm. There were a couple shelves with open ended materials, a cardboard box project with student documentation taped on the insides and cardboard cylinders for building. The majority of the time was spent outdoors in the forest, looking for those magical fairies or animal tracks...
Although not perfect, the space continues to become ours, a space for play, innovation, creation. It gets messy. Students have access to materials at their level, and yes... painting and the sand table are always available. We get very messy!
Now that the room was taking shape, it was time to reflect this space into our planning intentions and flow of the day plan. Stay tuned for my next post about planning with intention the Reggio Emilia way!