Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our Room: Recreating an Environment that Supports Learning Through Exploration

This year as I was putting my room together, I tried to think of how I can create areas that will provoke kids to explore and investigate further.  I know that rather than take away their play like we are being pressured to do, they need more play.  What is play other than exploring?  For this to be beneficial, I need to set out and make available areas and materials that are attractive and interesting for them to explore!  Here are a few areas of my room that I am hoping will catch their interests and imaginations!

This is our Home Living Area.  It may start out looking like this, but I am hoping that the kids will take it into different directions as the year goes on such as pizza parlor, bakery, post office, etc! I can't wait to see what goes on here.  I know there will be many literacy and math opportunities as well as social skills that will be incorporated in ways they are used in real life situations. True, authentic learning!

The art pieces in the home living area were created by my kids last year.  I love using things created by previous classes!

Next is the Engineering Area.  This is where they will create structures using materials provided. For now only blocks are available. 

After they prove to me that they can take care of the blocks and use them appropriately, I will add more items such as loose parts, Legos, K'nex, ramps, small animals, cars, real tools, scrap wood, etc (though not all at the same time!).  I also plan on adding pictures of structures such as bridges and buildings for inspiration! The clip boards are for them to create plans or record what they made.

This next area (for now) is for building using natural materials such as natural tree blocks, geodes, rocks, tree cookies, pebbles, etc.  At some point these may join with the engineering area but for now I will have them explore these materials separate.

Clip boards and pencils will be added to this area as well to create plans or record what they made.

This is our art studio.

On top of the shelves by the window, there is clay with natural materials to create sculptures and work those fine motor muscles. 

Below is a small area to explore sea shells and sea life.  I will add some books to it also.  If a lot of interest is shown, I will move it to a larger area such as the science table.

This is our writing area. Paper, booklets and writing/drawing utensils can all be found here.

This next picture shows our area to store materials the kids can use for learning literacy and math skills during our Thinking and Learning time. There is a mixture of natural elements, recycled items such as old buttons, and materials provided by the school. The books above will be labeled as numbers/ counting, shapes, and measurement.

This is our listening station. I am in the process of looking for a plant to put behind the small easel and sheers to go around this station to make it more homey and a quiet space.

Our science shelves in the photo below will change as the year goes on, depending on their interests or things that we find that may interest them! At the moment, I have items to provoke them into exploring the five senses! Books about the five senses and clip boards to record what they notice are on the shelf below. 

This next photo is our Science Table.  This will also change throughout the year and will integrate art, literacy and math very heavily.
 At the moment I have the beginnings of a color provocation set out. More color experiences will be added if they prove they can respect the limited amount of materials presented.

Here are some more pictures of my room.  I am still trying to create a more Reggio environment. I get frustrated by the brightly colored chairs and tile!  What I wouldn't do for a wood floor!  Besides the art and projects displayed created by past students, the room is a blank slate ready for the kids to create and display their own.  I can't wait to see what they decide to explore this year!

This last picture is my reading area. It is one space in my room I am not happy with! I know I need something on the door, preferably made by the kids, but I am not sure how to make this space cozy yet still be able to get into my storage room!  I would love any suggestions to help this area out!

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my room! I know it will change as the year goes on.  Hopefully this environment inspires the kids and encourages them to explore and investigate!


  1. Gorgeous as ever, Darla - off to pin... Rachel (",)

    1. Thank you so much Rachel! It is good to be back! :)

  2. Darla, I have an idea. I bought these flat corkboard squares at Lowes and put them on the door. I can then use the door as a bulletin board and hang student work and stuff! You could also get a piece of plexi glass cut at Lowes to fit the door and industrial velcro it to the door after you paint it with chalkboard paint or you could get bathroom wallboard cut at Lowes the size of the door and make a large whiteboard for whatever you want to write on it. :) All just suggestions. The industrial roll of velcro runs about $20, but it does not pull off paint from the walls or ruin the stain on the doors. I put everything in my classroom back up in a matter of an hour because I use it.

  3. What a wonderful tour, thank you so much for sharing both these inviting images, and also the thought behind your choices. Your room looks like a welcoming, exciting place to explore.

    I read with interest your plan to introduce the materials. I do similar additions of loose parts over the year, waiting to see how the larger, easier-to-sort materials are used and tidied, before adding the multitude of little pieces which may be used in multiple areas. By the end of the year I have jars and bowls everywhere within reach of creative students.

    I love the family space, waiting for your families. What a poignant image.

    I have a thought about your reading nook, because I am likewise setting up the classroom and changing areas I found underused last year. We have a three-class pod with no intervening wall, but a small nook between my class and middle one where two cabinets define a small space. This year I proposed we share our light/shadow exploration tools and materials there (shared light table among whole team, also overhead) and reading nook beside this. We're hanging strands of tree lights, perhaps a small lamp or two, and hanging frames with fabric and ribbon in them (shadow play). I can see lights and multi-use frames in our reading area, along with some cushions or an area rug. This would allow access to the storage but be cozy for students while in use.

    Thank you for ongoing inspiration. I will share this post widely as many in my PLN are likewise going through the process of examining their environment and will no doubt appreciate your thoughtful use of space.

  4. I just love your room. It is so refreshing in relation to every other blog out there filled with teacher made printables. Personally, I like a balance of kid stuff and adult stuff. I just think lately with sites like teachers pay teachers and Pinterest, the classroom is becoming a paradise for cuteness and coordination which learning is not either of. Learning should not be cute or clean or coordinated! Anyway, thanks for your posts.
    Ps I think your reading area needs to be bigger and have a place the kids can sit down and read the book they chose. Maybe you can flip the whole bookshelf around? I don't know.

  5. Hello Darla
    A friend just passed on your blog to me and I can't wait to read through it!
    I've been to Reggio Emilia three times. After my first visit I began looping up with my kindergarten class to first grade. This enabled us to continue, build on and reflect on past inquiries.
    I am now retired but I do early childhood consulting work. I'll be sure to share your blog with the teacher I work with.
    I have a blog, (not nearly as beautiful as yours) called Investigating Choice Time: Inquiry, Exploration, and Play
    I hope that we can have some communication together.
    Best wishes,

    1. Oh my goodness! It is my dream to go to Reggio Emilia! You are so lucky!! How lovely to be able to loop with your classes! Our building is Pre-K-K only so there is no opportunity to loop with them to 1st grade for me! Thank you for sharing my blog! I have so much fun writing it. I look forward to checking out yours also and would love to have some communication together!
      Darla Myers