Friday, 4 September 2015

A New Year and A New Environment of Wonder!

We were faced with a bit of a challenge this year when setting up our classroom environment. Being in a small space with a set-up that worked so well last year left us a bit puzzled as to how we would create a refreshing and enticing new space for our returning students as well as our new students. Below are a few photographs explaining our new exploration areas accompanied by our rationale.  

If you've been following our Instagram account, you may have seen that my husband and I decided to plant Russian Mammoth Sunflowers this summer. They grew amazingly tall and I am so happy I decided to capture the stages of growth for the students to see once we were all back at school. I plan to bring in a few of my sunflowers for them to explore and to sketch. I hope that sharing my experience of the sunflowers with them will give them a better sense of of my appreciation for nature and may even lead to a few wonders. 

Last year I feel we started with too many materials at the light table. Students need time to explore open ended materials and learn to respect them therefore we decided to place a few simple items out as a starting point.  

With a small space we do not have a dramatic area in our classroom in the traditional sense. With that said, we realized that a perfect solution was to add some colourful silk and sheer fabrics to the Construction Area. We also added a basket with a few wooden bowls and cooking utensils. We realized that dramatic play is happening in all areas of the classroom. It does not necessarily need to be contained in one place. We encourage students to move materials to other areas of the room if it enhances their play. 

The other side of our Construction Area contains large blocks and industrial cardboard packaging cylinders. This year we added peg people, grass, tree stumps, magnetic juice and jar lids, and clear plastic cylinders for building. I'm excited to see what the students create!

Another simple provocation we set up allows new and returning students to create at their own level of comfort using open ended materials such as shells, pebbles, and glass gems. I though about using kinetic sand for this provocation, but luckily we have the opportunity to use red sand from the beach in PEI! Thanks Kathryn (RECE) for lugging this back for us to experience! We really believe in sharing items that have a personal connection to us with the children. This allows us to tell stories and and demonstrate an appreciation for nature.

Activities using our names for exploring and reviewing letters, as well as for getting to know each other makes for great authentic learning experience. I hope the students enjoy this provocation. It's open ended so that some children learn the letters and number of letters in their name. Other children may want to explore the names of other students in their class and compare the number of letters in their name with their peers. Writing material is also placed as another medium of expressing or extending their thinking.

Last year we had two units that made up the Arts Studio. One shelf contained drawing materials and glue, and the other shelf contained materials in bins for students to create with. We noticed that not only were the shelves not visually pleasing to the eye, but students had a bit of difficulty accessing the items in the bins. This year, we decided to rearrange some furniture and place items in baskets which are more accessible and more enticing for the students to use. The materials on top of the shelf are also more visually appealing and accessible. Colours, materials, and aesthetics, enhances creativity.

Last year we started the year with empty glass paint containers. Once the students started asking to paint we got out primary paint colours as well as black and white paint and set up a provocation to explore colour mixing. The students enjoyed it and loved naming their new created colours. We hope to continue this exploration this year. 

Inspired by the amazing resource Natural Curiosity, this summer I sent out a letter (found below) to the student's families explaining our Nature Treasure activity. I am hoping that the students create our Discovery Area together by bringing in a nature artifact or as we are calling it Nature Treasure that they connect with. Hearing each others stories and observing each others treasure will support relationship and community building. I can't wait to see what treasures are brought! 

A few existing nature items to explore from myself, Kathryn, and past students. 

The sand table contains shells, stones from the beach, logs, tree cookies, and a few glass gems for creating in the white sand.

Last year the children became really interested in math games. So we decided to create a games cart to place at the math area for children to play when they wanted. We also placed items such as calculators, measuring tapes, a scale, rulers, and an estimation jar full of wooden beads for students to guess how many.

The math shelves contain various items to explore and investigate numeracy, patterning, sorting, adding, and subtracting. 

The Book Area is located in the corner of the room where less activities happen and allows for a bit less noise. We found that the children loved reading and laying down with the stuffed animals, therefore we placed a few more at this area. We also added a few plants for a home like atmosphere, and some star IKEA lights that I fell in love with! This space also acts as our calming place for self-regulation and rest.

The Writing Area consists of a shelf that used to be a wooden dry rack with the slots removed. Once again, with little space, a large shelf would not fit this space. This little unit worked well last year, therefore we decided to keep it as it held the perfect items for a writing area. 

These small spools are so handy. They are great to use for displaying the children's work during the year. Since it's a new start it also makes a handy book shelf as well as a great central place to house a few clipboards and crayons to make writing accessible in all areas of the room!

I'm excited to observe how the children will interact and form relationships with each other as well as with the materials and their environment! 


  1. So beautiful! I love how you utilized every inch of space without making it feel cluttered. Where did you get the small spools? I found large ones but they are too big.
    Vanessa Bianchi
    The Evolving Educator

  2. Looks incredible...Lizzie is very excited about starting the new year!

  3. Thanks for the kind words Vanessa! The small spools are from my teaching partner's husband. He works in the trade and is able to pick up a few small ones for us. He sands them before we place in the classroom. They are very handy!

  4. Thanks Gita! I'm so glad she is excited for school to start! We are as well!

  5. Your classroom looks wonderful! Lucky students!! :)

  6. Anamaria, how do your students select their explorations? How are they managed?

    1. Chiquites, this process changes throughout the year depending on the class and dynamic of the students. I start out each year allowing for open self choice but we quickly start to see that some areas cannot support a high number of students. Therefore we have many group meetings where we co-create some expectations for a few areas that makes sense to the students. E.g. The light area can only support around 3 students. Free choice but with co-created expectations for a few areas. Students who are working at e.g. sand who do not finish, have the opportunity to re-visit the area the following day to continue their work. This is another expectation that we all have agreed upon. Having the students take part in co-creating expectations, rules, routines, give them ownership of their learning, and supports their understanding for the need of certain parameters. I hope this answers your question.

  7. Love everything about your blog-so inspiring! Where did you get the wooden numbers and the brown cardboard tubes in your building area?

    1. Hi Katie, the wooden numbers are from Michael's craft store. They were purchased a few years ago. Some dollar stores may carry them as well. The brown cylinder tubes are from a family member who saves them for me. They are packaging from a place called Uline. The kids love using them to build!

  8. How do you get the grass for your shelf tops?