Serving just over 30,000 children from Kindergarten through Grade 12, the Coquitlam School District is the 3rd largest in British Columbia, Canada. Sitting on the outskirts of Metro Vancouver, the school district operates some 45 elementary schools within the Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam/Port Moody Tri-Cities area. In accordance with recent Provincial mandate the District began in 2010 to shift each and every one of its 56 Kindergarten programs to full-day schedules to help meet the education needs of its approximately 1900 local 5-year olds. During this shift to a classroom day twice as long as it had been previously, administrators and teachers alike began to re-imagine the potential of a day re-infused with adequate time and space for play.
Fuelled by a Provincial shift in values that put the needs of the learning child before curriculum agendas and quantitative outcomes, Coquitlam Kindergarten teachers had found themselves often working hard to strip away the restrictions of traditional classroom design that led to restrictions of childhood creativity.
“I have always been a teacher who has held strong to the pedagogy of natural play,” says Maureen Dockendorf, Assistant Superintendent of the Coquitlam School District and former kindergarten teacher. “Kids are inherently creative problem solvers; it’s what we do in our learning environments as adults that can interfere with that. When the opportunity arose to outfit so many new Kindergarten spaces it was incredibly important to me that the classroom materials be natural, environmentally responsible, and locally made in British Columbia.” Maureen Dockendorf, Assistant Superintendent Coquitlam School District
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