Saturday, August 27, 2016

Creating an Environment that Teaches: New Beginnings

I get very excited in August to create a beautiful, homey and inspiring new environment for me and my new kindergartners. Each year I look at my room as a blank slate and wonder, "How can I create an environment that inspire kids to explore, look closer, wonder and learn because they want to. How can I create an environment where they will want to take risks and try something new?" Then I get to work! The creative side of me loves this process! 

Literacy, Math, Science and Social Studies will naturally happen in every area of the room, but this year I have divided the room into specific areas. 

Here is the Art Studio area of our room. Creative Thinking is one of the 21st Century Skills that people need to be successful. This is one of many areas that fosters this along with Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Collaboration skills! We have easels for painting and other art media such as oil/chalk pastels, charcoal, markers, liquid water color, etc. 

These shelves store materials often used in our art studio. They are easily accessible to both students and me!  As of now they are off limits. I will slowly introduce them to each material and set them out for art provocations at one of our tables or the easel. If kids want to use materials like glitter, feathers, pom poms, and pipe cleaners they can bring me a plan to show me what they need the materials for to get permission to use them. 

Our rolling cart has tempura paint in ketchup/mustard bottles I found at Sam's club on the top. These squeeze the paint out more slowly than the bottles the paint comes in so they can squeeze out only what they need. This will foster independence in the art area. As of now they are off limits until I model and we practice how to squeeze out an appropriate amount. The second shelf has been changed to only have everything they need for watercolor painting including black Sharpie markers, water color pallets brushes and jars for water. 

An area for sculptres is also part of our art studio. Right now we have clay available. Other materials that may be used for sculptures may be wire, playdough, pipe cleaners, or recyclables. The shelves are for displaying their sculptures. Creating sculptures is also a great way to work those finger muscles to develop the fine motor skills needed for writing.

A loom is also available to create art. We will be working those fingers muscles as we weave items from nature and materials we find in our room to create something beautiful!

Extra easels that can be moved to a table top if needed for a provocation or observational drawings/paintings. 

Here is the science area of our room. Right now I have loose parts on one side but as kids bring things to our room from outside or home for us to explore and look closer at. This table will be dedicated to those interests. 

On the other side I have an invitation for kids to look closer and explore. Since I do not know their interests yet, I set out rocks and crystals since they usually love all things colorful and sparkly! If they show major interest and start wondering about this, then we will dig deeper and start an inquiry. If not, I will set out something else to see if it will grab their interest. 

Here is our Literacy Area. We have materials for reading, writing and exploring literacy concepts. 

In the library they will be able to explore stories and non fiction. Writing materials, paper and clip boards are available if they want to write about their favorite parts of stories, their own stories, or something they thought was interesting from an informational book! Later writing paper and blank booklets will be added. 

This table is for exploring literacy concepts. Right now it is set up to explore alphabet books, letters and the lines that create letters. After letters this could change to exploring names, or sight words, word families, etc.  This is taking the place of my old literacy trays.

Here is our building/engineering area. On this side of the shelves we have building blocks and loose parts.  Clipboards with paper for plans are available to incorporate writing or stories about their creations. Many, many math and science concepts are explored in this area!

Books about building and Archetecture are also here for inspiration.

Here are skills they use in our building area that I posted on he wall.

On the other side of our shelves is where our engineers like to hang out. Right now it only has Legos. As they get better at working together, getting along, problem solving, and handling disappointment as a friend has something they want or need, other materials will be added such as K'Nex, Magnetix, and marble runs. 

Books about engineering and creating are also here for inspiration. 

Here are some skills they learn in the Engineering Area that I posted on the wall.

Here is our Math Area.

These shelves hold our math manipulatives and some loose parts such as shells, buttons and glass beads. This was purposely put by our meeting area so kids could have plenty of floor space when exploring these materials. 

This table will have math provocations for kids to explore different math concepts. Right now it has materials to explore measurement.  

We also have a Dramatic Play Area. Right now it is a kitchen, but this is an area that encourages some pretty great projects! 21st Century Skills, along with writing, reading,many math skills are often used as we change this space into something else. It has been a bakery, space station, beauty shop, Docters office, animal hospital and a haunted house! I can't wait to see what hey turn this area into! 

Here are skills they learn and use in this area that I posted. 

Our last area of our room is our Craft/Engineering Area. This used to be a writing area but all they have ever wanted to do here were crafts and engineering style creations. If you can't beat them, join them, right? Here they will use writing to create plans to get approval to use certain materials like paper tubes, feathers, pipe cleaners, tooth picks, cotton, cotton swabs, boxes, construction paper and any other recyclables that come our way! The materials are all visable and easily accessible. 

Here is the room as a whole!

Tools are at each of the tables also. At some point, the different areas of our room will grow to include these tables for invitations to learn and explore!

Now that the room is finished, we will see how the students respond to it! That will be in the next post about how we begin our year. Stay tuned!