When I found out that I would be teaching Kindergarten, my heart leapt. I would finally have a physical space to translate the knowledge and passion I held for early childhood, especially those images inspired by Reggio Emilia schools. I had recently worked with Natural Pod on a preschool (re)visioning that deepened my connection to their educational vision and products. I promptly called Jade Vovers to inquire into any grant possibilities. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful. At first I was disheartened; but experiencing the synergy of the preschool children, teachers, and (transformed) classroom aesthetic compelled me to find creative solutions. I began to edit the classroom walls, storage, and furnishings; I sourced donations from IKEA, found materials on Craig’s List and thrift stores; gathered scrap materials from hardware suppliers; and asked for educational discounts using a modest classroom budget. Gratefully, Principal Cathie Ratz and other supporters, enabled me to select a Natural Pod package that would complement these efforts and realize my vision. I imagined a dynamic learning environment that respects the culture of childhood and promotes a powerful image of the Kindergarten learner. In a nutshell, I wanted to create a transdisciplinary studio where children’s experiences, understandings, and imagination would come to life in a community of meaning making. Here, alongside my teaching partner Alisha Burke, we would build reservoirs of creativity, scientific inquiry, artistry, and multiliteracies. We needed a materials-rich, flexible, aesthetically pleasing space.
“To succeed you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.” -Tony Dorsett
The start of the school year held great promise as our Natural Pod tables, benches, play stands large and small, and curved shelving assembled and combined with a large IKEA donation, new carpets, and well-loved classroom standbys to create our tinker lab. It was beautiful, but more importantly it inspired and amplified artistic expression. The children engaged comfortably and passionately with the space and projects emerged such as the Kings’ and Queens’ table: my favourite Natural Pod purchase. The two large interlocking tables and benches were my “must haves” and are, therefore, the guests of honour in this reflection.
“If we believed that knowing requires a personal relationship between the knower and the known…our students would be invited to learn by interacting with the world, not be viewing it from afar. The classroom would be regarded as an integral, interactive part of reality, not a place apart. The distinction between “out there” and “in here” would disappear; students would discover that we are in the world and the world is in us; that truth is not a statement about reality but a living relationship
between ourselves and the world.” -Parker Palmer
I was determined to construct a space where we could all comfortably sit around in a circle formation reflective of a large family gathering around a harvest table. I felt this was crucial in establishing a strong sense of community- a place to create, reflect, and share in the building of ideas. To my delight, the children recognized this intention through the observation that “this is like a Kings’ and Queens’ table… we are the Kings and Queens of Kindergarten!” What does a King and Queens table look like, sound like and feel like? Soon fresh flowers were donated and arranged, collaged candle holders were illuminated, and crowns were decorated and adorned. More importantly, discussions of how we wanted to be in the space were articulated. What does it mean to be a leader? How might we know when to follow? What materials might support our thinking?