The Preschool room at YWCA Spryfield has 24 children and 3 teachers, and it is busy! One of the teachers, Yuna, worked with me in that very classroom six years ago and it was wonderful to team up with her again! During our conversations with the other two teachers, Elaine and Andrea, I learned that we have a lot of shared values and our teaching approaches are aligned. It made me feel confident that the re-designed room will only improve and evolve.
Last Saturday I worked with this terrific teaching team to help them transform their preschool room. Most importantly, when I came in for a visit in two days, I saw children engaging with their new environment in meaningful and respectful ways and heard positive feedback from the children, the teachers, and the director — the best validation of our efforts!
The room changed dramatically, and I was very grateful that the teachers were open to my suggestions and worked very hard (for 10 hours straight!) to make it happen. Well, see for yourself.
We will begin… at the beginning and walk around the room. The entrance was mostly a transition area between the door and the teachers’ counter with some features of a temporary storage of random things.
After, it became a cozy greeting and reading area with a couch, a coffee table, books, and stuffed animals.
The back of the bookshelf is a separate play station with small animals and tree cookies.
We added a new area for loose parts, science, natural items, and sensory exploration.
It has a new shelf with loose parts and natural items that is “for teachers’ hands only”. I suggested giving children a tour of the new room to explain the expectations for different areas. I think it worked because all loose parts trays remained on the shelf while children played at the sensory table.
This area has mostly dark wood, and the table with layers of paint brings some character to it. And it is set up for a sensory exploration on Monday!
We completely re-designed the block area that originally was stretched over the three large shelves.
It also had lots of large plastic toys that we later moved to the playground.
Now the area contains all the staples for the block areas — five types of blocks, planks, cars, larger trucks, trains, people, animals, dinosaurs, and some loose parts. It has light wood colours to visually distinguish it from the loose parts/sensory play area.
The “old” dramatic play area was somewhat underwhelming…
After we collected all pieces that belong to that area, I felt happy to see that they go so well together! They are in the sophisticated white-grey-silver family and these colours create a calm yet interesting canvas for the few items that the teachers offered as an invitation to play. We added a “quiet spot” close to the art area, with soft rags, babies, and a small shelf for accessories.
The teachers told me that they have “a lot of artists” in this room, so we created an art studio that matches their artistic ambitions!
The large corner shelf contains markers, pencils, and paper that are always available to use at the large art table. The cupboard space underneath holds extra art supplies. A simple wooden frame is used to showcase children’s current masterpieces.
Opposing the chalkboard wall, there are two shelves to dry and to store artwork, conveniently hidden from sight but right next to the young creators. The top of the shelf has various materials for collages, and it acts as a display for colourful visual accents.
To accommodate a large number of children with different interests and skill levels, we created a few small, quiet stations for sensory exploration, puzzles, and Lego. The sensory bin that is always available is sitting on top of the table that has storage for more bins and extra supplies. It replaced a wobbly sensory table that — in its better days — supported many children leaning on it to the detriment of its stability.
The new sensory table was popular but the small puzzle shelf didn’t generate enough interest (oh, well, happens). We briefly talked about it and decided to offer puzzles as individual activities on two other tables in the middle of the room.
The new Lego table is right next to the entrance — an easy way to engage with a favourite activity after saying good-bye to families! The table has a mirror that for some reason decided to act like a carnival mirror, despite being mounted on the flat backing of the shelf. It added some interesting effects to the environment and we decided to leave it this way.
There was no separate storage area in this room, so we created it from the three large shelves and a curtain! Ta-da!
There were also some small but important touches, for example, bringing the water bottles to the entrance, adding the shelves in the washroom, putting up a curtain over the door, moving a bulletin board out in the hallway, and fastening shelves to the walls. All these steps required thinking, planing, measuring, and lots of drilling and changing drill bits. I was very happy to work with such a fearless and handy bunch!
During my visit to the new room, there was a steady hum of voices, some laughter, some noise — a proper soundtrack to the well-working classroom.
I hope this room keeps working well for the children and the teachers, changing and evolving together with them.