Environment as the Third Teacher

Did you see that early childhood environments made the New York Times (blogs)? The article sites research suggesting that commercially-purchased, busy bulletin boards and wall coverings are a waste of money for teachers. I think most of us know this, but it’s so hard to prioritize de-cluttering (visually, at least) our environments when so many resources are purchased by school districts or other people in our school systems with whom we may not be in regular contact. Here is another great article from NAEYC on setting up your environment, if you’re interested.

I’d love to share some end-of-the-year photos of our space, which I have tried to calm even since the beginning of the year set up, if you’d like to see. Can you see a difference? We at least replaced that huge, busy carpet with a plush navy one.

block center via provocations & play

We’ve been exploring ramps in our blocks center, and a DC high school’s carpentry program built us that amazing building platform.

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Ramp building in action.

hardware store via provocations & play

We went to the amazing hardware store down the street and created a hardware store, complete with tools, paint mixing and a key-making machine.

woodworking via provocations & play

Our hardware store visit sparked an interest in woodworking, something I’ve always wanted to try with my kids. We have a woodworking table in our science center. Those are kid-safe, low-temp glue guns, and I also bought a hand drill via Montessori Services. First we made “bird houses” for our community gardens, and then we started to design our own roller coasters after a few children visited Six Flags. Both Teacher Tom and NAEYC have some great articles about woodworking with young children, if you’re interested.

hair salon via provocations & play IMG_2228

Our dramatic play center, on the other side of blocks, is currently a hair salon, which has been a blast. It’s a favorite every year, but the kids didn’t even bring it up until last week (next week is our last week of school for the year). I’m glad they did :)

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Of course our art area has easels, a table to create with clay and a corner to explore light and shadow with an overhead projector and light table.

calm down space via provocations & play

Finally, our calm down center, or safe space, for children who need a break, want to be alone, or for some story telling :)

storytelling via provocations & play

 

 

 

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goodnight, gorilla (and pandas)

what we know about pandas | via provocations and play

Our zoo project has come to a close. I had such an amazing time learning with the children, and it has renewed my belief in early childhood and especially how amazing project work can be. Last week, we wrote and illustrated a book about everything we know about pandas. So many children contributed ideas, knowledge and illustrations to the book at their own levels. It was really exciting to see the 5-year-olds typing out words and labeling their pictures and the 3-year-olds thinking about how to draw a panda representationally.

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I loved presenting the “published” project on Wednesday! In the picture above, Isaac learned that pandas are from China. He remembered that when we looked at the map, China had lots of mountains (and, of course, bamboo).

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I think that we are all going to miss watching the panda cam from our panda dens, although we did take one apart this afternoon to re-use for our next project ;)

panda cam dramatizations | via provocations and play

off roading

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I read this article recently about emergent curricula, and my mind instantly went to my group of kids who race every day to our train tracks. Don’t get me wrong; they make some incredibly intricate tracks with bridges and ramps, and some days even draw the town around the tracks, but I wanted to help them bridge out into another center. Luckily, there was a suggestion I took right from the post:

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We used Discount School Supply’s insanely bright flourescent Biocolors (love), and talked a lot about the different tracks. The sensory experience of just rolling the car back and forth, back and forth, watching the paint tracks emerge also seemed to be incredibly soothing. Since my art and block areas are on opposite sides of the room, I’m happy to report each of my train lovers tried another new activity after painting. And we have this huge, bright, happy print!

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Teacher friends, how do you reflect your kids’ interests in your rooms?