It was delightful to observe the children come back to school on Monday, so many of them were so happy to be back with their friends that they came running through the door with beaming smiles. And as the children made their way to the classrooms they encountered, with huge delight and surprise, our trees which had been installed during the holiday.
Over this week we have observed how the children interact with this space and the new trees, what they are drawn to, what feelings it provokes. The children have balanced on the fallen log, hugged the trunks, marveled at the birds high in the branches and touched and stroked the wood.
We asked the children where these trees may have come from …..
“I think someone build them. Maybe they put those leaves on.”
“I think builders made them. I saw them when they came in every day. They screwed them to the flood and the ceiling.”
“Maybe they put a seed in and it growed.”
“Maybe they came from dragon land where the chipmunks are and riding dragons.”
“I think they came from a farm. When the person came out he saw they were growing and growing and then they grow. Maybe when they growed bigger enough to be in the school they chop them and deliver them to the school.”
There was an agreement that the trees appeared because it was a really special day and that we should keep them forever.
The children had many ideas about how we could use this space.
Common threads were for it to be transformed …
…into a magical fairy tale place, a place of imagination;
…into a maze of zip wires and connections between trees, a place of action and movement;
…into a flurry of rainbows, ribbons, twinkly lights and colours, a place of beauty with a sense of aesthetic.
As a result of our observations and discussions with the children the teachers met and discussed what our next steps were. We considered,
- How is our environment serving the children as the third teacher?
- Are children able to engage in the learning environment without an adult intermediary?
- Is it provocative (invite wonder, curiosity and investigation)?
- Does it stimulate children individually and in groups? How?
- Does the environment support or limit social interaction? How?
We believe that time spent discussing the possibilities offered to us by the environment is valuable.
Our environment reflects our values about early childhood education. It should be a space of possibilities and is of such great importance it is described as ‘the third teacher’. The environment involves the physical use of furniture, walls, objects, pedagogical documentation and also through the relational and emotional space that is built over time. The environment does include the materials, the equipment and enhancements that create it. We are also trying to create something that is less tangible, the way a room feels in its entirety, the way it looks and also the way it smells and sounds, the way the air moves through it, whether it is warm or cold, whether it invites us to linger or encourages us to pass quickly through. We try to construct a space in which children create their worlds and stories. Creating an environment involves scents, the movement of air and light and the arrangement of furniture.
We continually think about every aspect and every detail of the center spaces, ensuring that the environmental backdrop of all that we do exudes the message that the center is warm, welcoming and beautiful. The space responds to each group of children and teachers. The environment is set up with enough provocation to fuel the children’s worlds and minds.
Over the next few weeks the teachers and children together will be developing this space together.
I wonder what ideas you have for this space?
- Clair Wain, Director of Early Years