Nature is an incredibly powerful aspect of classroom environment design. It provides an infinite supply of experiences. It also conveys a sense of calmness and a home-like quality to provide a conducive learning environment for children.
Therefore, we decided to make number posters from sticks and pebbles (in 2019). Note: This is a great activity that can be done while still maintaining social distancing between students!! Add to the activity by taking the class outside for a much-needed breather and break to collect the pebbles and sticks. You can then add in additional objectives prior to gluing them such as counting, sorting, placing in length or size order, patterning, etc.
This activity not only brought in some nature to the environment but it was also incorporated multiple learning targets:
- Numerals- how they are formed= straight and curved lines
- The vocabulary of horizontal, vertical and diagonal
- 10 Frame
- Measurement: measured with cubes to determine the length of the stick needed
- One-to-one correspondence
- Working together collaboratively
- Sharing and taking turns
THE BENEFITS OF OPEN-ENDED ART…
Children learn so many more skills than they would in the same amount of time completing a template art activity designed by the teacher that often holds no interest for the child.
Sometimes, we provide provocations to incorporate our learning objectives while still providing the students freedom to express their own creativity and personality.
A very reflective teacher chose a different way to create pumpkins this year. The students practiced cutting on a straight line on paint chips. They also then drew and cut their own pumpkin shapes instead of cutting on a teacher developed template. Students were learning fine motor cutting skills along with math skills of shapes and counting, critical thinking, problem-solving, and proportions.
EXPLORING THE COLORS OF AUTUMN:
This is also a great time to explore the beautiful colors of autumn.
Autumn is also a great time for classroom art projects in which students can choose to work on a project together- building collaborative skills along with creativity and fine motor.
More information on the benefits of open-ended art, see blog post: Honoring the Process
WOW! Teachers in the Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK are incredible. I recently had the opportunity to visit some of their classrooms. They so graciously allowed me to take pictures to share with you the intentionality of their classroom design.
The environment in which children spend their day at school needs to support developmentally appropriate practices that allow children to freely move, to explore with hands-on opportunities, to engage in dramatic play experiences, to build social/emotional skills, and to develop their symbolic thinking and cognitive flexibility among others.
Learning theories from constructivism to social learning
to experiential learning underscore the importance of
active and inquiry-based learning, knowledge construction
through interaction with the environment, social contexts
and meaningful experiences.
-“Most Influential Theories of Learning,” Unesco Education
Intentional Design for hands-on exploration while encouraging symbolic thinking, problem solving, and cognitive flexibility.
Intentionally Designed Art Centers that encourage the process of art instead of the product, and free exploration of creative ideas instead of template art.
Intentional Design of the Classroom Aesthetics so that the students can live and breathe in a beautiful space. Use of natural colors as we use in our homes for a calming effect.
Intentional Design of Student Contributions, the classroom belongs to the students. It should be a reflection of the students instead of the teachers passions or “cutesy/pinteresty” type themes.
Intentional Design to Include Dramatic Play. Students require dramatic play experiences to build executive functioning skills.
NUMBERS with NATURE
- Students into design of classroom and visuals on walls
- Classroom walls are a public statement about the educational values of the teacher.
- The challenge is to ponder how the walls can be used to enhance the educational objectives while including the students as a part of the learning.
- If the students are allowed to create or co-create the displays on the walls, they will refer to, look at and engage with them more often making them learning materials instead of visual noise.
- The walls should invite engagement, wonder and imagination; reflect the student’s learning, have an emotional or meaningful connection to the students and engage children in active interaction with the displays.
- Natural elements
- Classrooms should be filled with natural elements… not only are natural items great learning tools but they also enhance your space with beauty.
- Displays should be hung on a simple neutral or natural background with neutral border to decrease visual over-stimulation.
TEMPLATES FOR NUMBERS
The students measured the length of the stick needed using cubes.