Standing Interest Areas

Standing interest areas for small spaces is great for young and energetic people! 🙂

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I created a butterfly easel which has space for two small children to paint together or one alone. On the shelf there is space for one person to color. Many of my students have been “movers”, so standing and creating is something young people do naturally.  Sitting is not always the preferred position when children are in the midst of creating.  

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The branches are from a rhododendron that has seen better days.  I liked the fact that the branches have so many different twists, turns and textures so I added it as an inspiration for a drawing.  

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In these pictures I did not open the paint because I prefer to do that when I actually have little people using the materials.  I just wanted to set up these provocations so I could show how I use them in small spaces and how they can be aesthetically pleasing. I’ve discussed being messy before, but that is very true with paint! 🙂  So I like to make sure I’ve gone over the clean up routine with the children prior to engaging in a messy lesson.  Once children know what to do they quickly adapt.  Again, patience is really important because getting messy is part of the process and the process is far more important than the final product.  

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Part of the Reggio Inspired approach I use is to document what the children are doing with each provocation.  I like to take pictures and notes so I can understand what each child is thinking of and draw out more information from them during a meeting.  I also like to document the play patterns, interests individuals and the group seem to be displaying through the choices being made.  One thing to remember is that a “Play” based learning environment does not mean a free for all.  All of the interest areas in the classroom are designed for multiple layers of content areas such as, math, science and literacy (drawing, writing and reading).  With a class of children aged three to five their are many levels of learning happening at once and each area needs to draw out the skills that are appropriate for not only the ages of the children but the developmental levels of each.  

Social/ Emotional development is the primary focus of young children and is a life skill that young children will continue to develop into adulthood, yet the basics are really heavily dealt with in preschool. The goal in mind is to help children naturally develop the ability to speak for themselves, have opinions, learn how to understand their peers, gain empathy and be able to work in cooperative groups or individually in a productive way.   I have been fortunate enough through the years to see that young children often times are more experienced and successful with cooperative group projects than older school aged children who are not given a choice and simply placed in groups to work “cooperatively”.  At least in my experience preschool children have naturally formed those groups and have been successful.  I believe one key aspect to their success has been an internal interest and shared goal.  Without a shared goal and the willingness to work together those cooperative and productive groups would have had vastly different outcomes.  

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There are more skills and rules to learn when children are older and the goals and interests are often not theirs, which is true in life.  However, I wish children all through their school career had a bit more autonomy when it comes to cooperative project work.  I believe they loose that internal joy that is present when young as they grow older and choices are taken away from them and imposed by adults that have the attitude “I know better.”  Of course this in not always the case and their are many more reasons and  theories followed in schools as children grow older.

Small spaces can be used to the maximum benefit with the needs of the children always kept at the forefront of our minds as Teachers, Parents and Educators. 🙂

Heidi, Th Marigold School of Early Learning

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