For Calhoun’s youngest learners, it’s not only the curriculum but the physical space in which they learn that supports their academic development. The organization of the classroom and all of the materials that fill it nurture students’ emerging skills in unique ways, allowing Little Calhouners to stretch their thinking, make new discoveries and apply their knowledge. That’s why, when setting up their spaces, teachers make intentional choices, identifying and creating learning opportunities in every corner.
Kindergarten teacher Heather Jupiter ‘92 sheds light on the makeup of her classroom and how it supports rich learning, community-building and engagement.
“The classroom tells a story – the story of who the kids are, what they're interested in, and the learning they’re experiencing.” - Heather Jupiter '92, Kindergarten teacher
Building Foundational Skills
A space for free exploration sets the stage for learning through play.
“The block area is a place where a lot of social and emotional growth happens. Problem-solving, collaborating, math and physics work all take place through the process of engaging with different-size blocks and figuring out how to make something. We think about what materials we can put here to make sure that the block area is fruitful and inspiring.”
Classroom materials give students opportunities to engage in math thinking throughout the day in organic ways.
“Our math area contains manipulatives that support mathematical exploration. For example, kids will build staircases with Cuisenaire rods, noticing along the way that the rods represent different values.”
“I try to think of materials for the dramatic play area that will invite the kids to explore. For example, something like the fabric net will naturally invite them to cordon off a certain space. Or maybe they’ll make a pattern while setting a table. A lot of natural sorting, arranging and observation happens here, which supports continued mathematical thinking.”
Nurturing Young Readers
The deliberate display of text and the labeling of objects in the classroom support emergent literacy skills.
“The labels that we have are very functional. Some labeling also includes images so that it is accessible to our emerging readers. These manipulatives [small wooden discs featuring sight words] are available as resources for any students who want to add words to their drawings or the books that they're writing.”
“We also make sure to have a library full of books that reflect a variety of different identities and experiences.”
Students learn how to be responsible for the space around them by being entrusted with classroom objects made of natural materials.
“It's important to entrust kids with real materials. By being given the opportunity to handle something like a teapot or a glass jar, they learn how to be respectful of materials.”
“Materials are organized in a functional way. Everything has it place and the kids are able to maintain the order of the space themselves, which further promotes independence.