Creating a K-classroom
"Our job as we design children's environments is to create a nest for children as they navigate the demands of growing up, and to make them believe that they can fly in the world, which they will inherit." -Jim Greenman
The K-Way classroom design is an original concept. The K-Way focuses on creating a classroom that is in its essence a blank canvas upon which the children can create their own, ever-changing, masterpieces. We avoid labels and division. A K-classroom is full of intention; a great deal of thought has been put into creating a classroom that doesn’t restrict children’s imagination, creativity or opportunities for learning. Whereas many modern preschool classrooms are divided into centers or designated learning areas, the K-classroom consists of an IN area, an OUT area and the HUB.
Constants and Variables
Most teachers today are used to a classroom environment that is divided into centers in which the classroom materials are stored. Teachers may change these materials to keep the children interested and/or to reflect the current theme; however, when conducting observations of classrooms, both within our own facility and others, we found that, although there are minor manipulations by the teacher(s), most of the classrooms remained unchanged throughout the course of the school year.
In order to quantify the manipulation within a learning environment we created a constant/variable assessment.
A constant is a part of the classroom environment that remains relatively the same throughout the course of a school year. In our classroom example, the constants largely consist of furniture. Other constants may include wall fixtures or decals (such as the tree decals in our classroom example), carpets/rugs, windows, lights (stand alone lamps or light fixtures), etc.
A variable is a part of the classroom environment that changes often throughout the course of a school year. In our classroom example, the variables are mostly materials and objects. Other variables may include room décor, some lighting sources, sounds (music, ocean sounds, etc.), smells (diffusers/potpourri/scented materials), room dividers, etc.
For an example of a constant/variable assessment
In the K-classroom structure ‘constants’ are set-up to create an inviting IN and OUT space for children to manipulate. The IN/OUT areas will remain consistent throughout the year, meaning that they will not change or will change only slightly (rearranging of furniture, additional items to reflect a theme).The IN space should reflect indoor environments that children experience regularly. The IN space is intended to be open-ended, thus the area should be designed to reflect ambiguous environments, rather than specific ones. For example, the IN area of a classroom may consist of a sitting area with a rug and couch, a kitchen area with a table and chairs, and a market area with shelves and a cash register. These examples allow the children to manipulate the IN environment according to their play. The children may decide that the market area is a mall one day and a grocery store the next. They may use the sitting area as doctor's office, living room, or movie theater. The possibilities are endless.
Likewise, the OUT area is intended to reflect outside environments the children experience regularly. Depending on the location of the school, an OUT area may be designed to look like a mountain, a beach, a desert, or a forest. How the children manipulate this environment is up to them.
Schools are encouraged to design their classroom to reflect the environment around them. Schools exist around the world in various, often vastly different, environments. One classroom design will not fit every school. The Kaiser Method encourages schools to build their classrooms as mirrors, reflecting their surrounding environment as seen by the children. We ask teachers to think thoughtfully about the world children experience outside of school. Children learn through mimicking behaviors and interacting with their environment. Designing a classroom that reflects children’s environments gives children opportunities to test theories, explore social interactions, and mimic behaviors in a safe, constructive setting, which they can then apply to their lives outside of school.
To read more about how we designed the first ever K-classroom
The HUB is an integral part of the K-classroom design. If a K-classroom is designed to represent a child’s developing brain, the HUB is the central nervous system. It is a storage facility within the learning environment, accessible to all children, and stocked with a variety of materials and resources for the children to manipulate throughout the classroom. Materials in the HUB are considered variables and will change to reflect the theme/focus and the interests, abilities and needs of the children. The materials in the HUB are fluid; they can take on any role the children apply. Recycled, organic, up-cycled, and ambiguous materials are recommended.
The K-Way design aims to increase the children’s manipulation of variables within the learning environment. When you step into a K-classroom you can see the collective intelligence of the children at work. The classrooms remain in flux, constantly being manipulated by the children; the environment is a reflection of their brains engaged in active learning through play.
Dominoes from the HUB are used to build "houses in the forest".
Child returns variable to the HUB once he finishes with it.