Over winter break, Miss Maryam and I spent a full day agonizing over how to set up the little classroom once the floors were refinished. A pile of furniture in the corner isn’t a very inspiring start (although the shiney new floors were nice).
Going online, I was dismayed at the lack of inside-environmental photos of classrooms. Lots of Montessori (not a good fit for the type of work we are doing) and lots of waldorf (a great fit, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything for toddlers – just preschool and kindergarten). And as my computer crashed this past fall, I lost all my photos from the various schools I have toured in the past 4 years. What is a teacher supposed to do for inspiration?
Well, we went over our observations. Seeds of interest in the overhead projector, but we need a wall space to work with light. Lots of interest in the rocks in the sensory room, but the teachers often struggle to keep the room open. The lunch space was just dead space other than at lunch time. As the last older-toddler is moving up this month, it is a class of 12 young toddlers, so we need a lot of gross-motor room.
Here’s what we came up with:
Here is our light exploration area. There is a large white wall that we can project light onto (and eventually, we can hang a light screen here to, so children can explore either side of a shadow). We added some saris to make it cozy. Hanging fabric from the ceiling is always tricky, but we have some ceiling hooks from Ikea that go straight into the studs and can hold a large amount of weight, so any amount of tugging on these scarves should be safe!
The gross motor play area didn’t change much (yet) but we made a larger space for it. The square and triangle boxes were built by a parent last year; the “soft” treehouse is an Ikea bunkbed slightly modified; and the swing comes from Ikea as well. My favourite is the soft play space under the terarium. The children have spent so much time hiding in there; it should be exciting having it be the first thing in eye’s view when they walk into the room!
I like the idea of expanding this area – maybe have “bridges” with board and tires, or combing more soft play – more pillows and blankets. We’ve had success bringing in a lot of boxes, and that might be a good option for this area as well. What is important to me is that gross motor development continues to be challenged inside and outside. I’ll need to think about how to bring in climbing equipment…anyone know of any good ideas?
Finally, our sensory area. This used to be in the water room – which we turned into the lunch room. Not sure if this will work – but it seems having a separate room for sensory play is great for clean up, but not great for the children spontaneously beginning play…perhaps out of sight, out of mind?
The sensory play right now is focusing on rocks – little ones (that will be pooped out if swallowed) and big ones (that will not fit into mouth and throats even if they try). While water play is still going strong, the cold weather combined with the need to continually change wet clothing has turned teachers off of water for now – it will remerge in a warmer month soon…in the meantime, we have done flour and cornstarch with some interest, but not the type of excitement water brought. We will try various things in the upcoming month…and track it’s success. I think the children are interested in the physical sensation of the materials, but then why not the flour? Maybe it’s the sound of things as they pour and fall, and the flour / cornstarch was too quiet?