LEARNING ENVIRONMENT – INDOORS – What you see is what you get when you walk into your classroom. Or so you think.
The furniture is what the furniture is supposed to be – for that age group, according to the licensing standards, and what the owner can afford. The wall colors are the color they will be – for what the owner had in mind and wanted to convey. The floor plan is limited by size and shape and dimensions of the room.
But there are things you can change. It’s just like when you rent an apartment. You can make lots of changes to put your signature on it, but within the confines of your lease, your budget, and your security deposit.
What can you do to make the classroom a signature look for both you and the children?
First, think about your style, personality, and sense of imagination. You are a teacher who is trying to encourage wonder and curiosity in children. How do you do that?
Second, think about the ages of the children, their size and height, and their stage of life. A young infant’s stage of life is sleeping, eating, and getting changed. They do not have great focusing ability and they are mostly on their backs. How should the room look from their perspective? Whereas a four-year-old’s stage of life is constantly asking questions, looking at everything closely, trying to take things apart and figure out how they work, and moving in all directions.
Let us work from the top down.
- Ceilings – can you hang a mobile or children’s artwork or something that shows a theme (like leaves or a rainbow). Use that fertile imagination of yours and ask the children.
- Windows – ever thought about stained glass windows? What a wonderful art project for the children. Then just think of all the wonderful science involved about color. Now this is a hands-on way to teach the color names if that is your inclination.
- Walls – whatever the color, shape, condition, or angles you must work with, think about making the most of them. Do you have a corner or a pole or beam, turn it into a tree trunk? Do you have a low protrusion or bench type structure near the floor? Could that be a reading bench or potted garden spot? What about making it into a vehicle with cardboard and tape?
We all know by now that things you think children should see should be at their eye level. What is it you want them to see? The most important thing they can see is their own work. Think about if you were to put your picture or anything about you on a billboard on the expressway. Wow!!!!!!!!!!! That would be amazing and mind-blowing for your ego. The same thing happens for a child. Put their work on the walls so they can see it and be proud of it. I recommend you ask their permission first, which gives them recognition, esteem, and acknowledgment as well as control over their products.
- Floor – it can be more. Use painters’ tape to make shapes and names and designs on the floor. Not duct tape. Duct leaves a residue and is hard to peel off. But painters’ tape in colors can provide education as you walk. Don’t forget about making games on the floor: like Floating Islands and Hopscotch. Even if a child cannot play hopscotch yet, it has numbers and is fun to look at.
Just because this is the hand you were dealt or room, doesn’t mean it cannot be made better. Pick up your attitude. Perk up your perspective. Expand your mind.
Now that the room is more to your liking and more exciting, make sure it provides information. I know. You are asking what type of information? Things like graphs and charts you make for math and science. Popular words the child like to say (Chicka Chicka Boom?) Beautiful posters by artists as well as the children’s work. Documentation charts or posters of projects and works you have just completed. Questions of the Day with the answer in diagrams. The choices are as unlimited as the lessons you teach.
The caveat – Be conscientious of over-stimulation. Too much everywhere can be overwhelming and confusing. For children with sensory filtering issues, it might be too much. Also, talk about what is on the walls and why you put it there. Discuss it with the children so that it makes sense. What is the point of putting the word CHICKA-CHICKA-BOOM on the wall if the children do not know what the words say, and you have not read the book to them? Finally, rotate your room. Again, what is the point of leaving up the rainbow you put up in the spring when the class saw one outside the window and it is now winter and that rainbow is old, yellowed, faded, out-of-date, and of no consequence.
Keep your environment fresh and full of ideas and fun.