When we think of calm spaces, a Kindergarten classroom doesn’t immediately come to mind. Well, maybe at storytime, but even that can get squirmy.
As a Kindergarten teacher at Lynnmour Elementary, Tessa Harrington has been wondering for a while if anything could be done to change that. Embarking on her graduate diploma, Harrington decided she’d pose the question: “Will adaptations to my classroom’s physical space help support a calm, safe and reflective learning environment?” and then find the answer first-hand.
Tessa’s project centred upon her own classroom. Her first discovery was how much support she had from colleagues. Lynnmour’s principal, Kelly La Roue, teacher leader Tristan Crowther, and learning services teacher leader Gretchen Tolfo all contributed their thoughts and ideas. Together, during the December break, the four spent three days clearing the clutter, changing the colour scheme, redecorating with natural materials, and softening the lighting. Parents donated new equipment and ornamental branches were collected from a rotting tree on the Lynnmour school property that needed to be cleared away. Several tree stumps were also salvaged and will be sanded by the students before they can be used as tables and stools in the class. Total cost of the classroom makeover? About $400.
The actual reveal took place the first day back to school in January. When students first stepped in the door, they were awed by the changes to their classroom. “The whole room makes my body feel nice,” said one. “Can you leave all of these lights off all the time?” asked another.
Since that day, Harrington has noticed a calmer atmosphere throughout the class, as well as remarkable effects on a few students who were, prior to the project, especially good at self-distracting–and distracting others. They now have better focus and enjoy working with natural materials as well as having more space and freedom to move.
Harrington is still a bit surprised by all the positive attention the project has received. Teachers toured her classroom as part of the January Curriculum Implementation day and senior administrators have recognized the project as a model for promoting self-regulated learning. But for Harrington what matters most is what it means to the students: “I can already see the calm in them,” she says. “It makes everything better.”