Building a K-classroom: Based on the Dolphin's Class at Temple Beit HaYam Early Childhood Learning Center in Stuart, FL
How we designed and constructed the first K-classroom:
We are located in a small coastal town in south Florida. The climate is hot and humid. We have state parks with lush flora and many beaches. Being a small town, we recognized that our children spend most of their time outside of school either at the grocery store, at home, in restaurants, or at the beach/park. We decided this was the environment we would reflect in our classrooms.
In our OUT area we decided to build a forest and a beach. For the forest we laid out faux grass (Walmart), decorated the wall with tree decals (Amazon), made a three-dimensional tree out of butcher paper and construction paper, covered the ground in small, fake trees (after Christmas sale at Walmart), and filled a basket with natural wood and fake leaves.
For the beach we decorated the wall with fish scale wrapping paper (we had this leftover from a project we did earlier in the year), made a waterfall out of blue strings and ribbons, hung jellyfish from the ceiling (made from paper lanterns and streamers), covered the ground with sand colored carpet samples (donated), folded a blue, shaggy carpet to look like a wave (this carpet was already in the classroom), and placed real shells and dried starfish in the wave.
For our IN area we decided to build a kitchen (not specifically a home or restaurant kitchen, just a vague area for pretend cooking), a market/store, and a seating area. For the kitchen we set-up the kitchen set that was already in the classroom but removed all the fake food and dishes (those were moved to the HUB) and added a child-sized table and chairs (also, already in the room). For the market/store we set-up an existing shelving unit in an L-shape. On one side of the shelf we placed a cash register (Walmart) and on the other side we stocked the shelves with recycled food containers (donated by parents and staff). For the seating space we laid out a rug, set-up two child-sized, overstuffed chairs and one child-sized, overstuffed couch (these we took from the classrooms old reading center). We added a side table (a re-purposed shelving unit another classroom didn’t want anymore) and stuck a window decal on the wall (we chose to start with a winter scene, because it was winter when we designed the room, and decided to change the decal depending on the season). We bought our window decal on Amazon, but you could also paint a window, make a window out of construction paper or print a picture off the internet.
While designing this classroom for our small, coastal town we thought about a school we used to work for in Albuquerque, New Mexico. How would a K-classroom look there? Albuquerque is in the desert and surrounded by large mountains, so we thought we would likely build a desert scene and a mountain. We would add sand, cacti, and succulents. The children in Albuquerque spend a lot of time at the library, at home, or at the mall. We decided we would build a store with shelves, racks, and a cash register. We would stock the HUB with fabrics, clothing, empty shopping bags and shoe boxes, purses and wallets. Many of our children’s families cooked meals at home, often involving the children. We decided we would build a kitchen area with a dining table and chairs and plenty of room to prep and prepare “food”. We would want to stock the HUB with play-dough (a great way for children to make their own play food), rolling pins, pots, spatulas, and other cookware. Lastly, we would build a seating area with soft furniture, empty book shelves, and a soft rug. We would stock the HUB with plenty of books and magazines, old library cards and reusable book bags.
Every K-classroom will look different depending on the environment it reflects, but there are common themes found throughout the world. Cooking/eating food (kitchens, restaurants, etc.); buying and bartering (markets, malls, stores, etc.); outdoor environments (parks, forests, bodies of water, etc.); and social gatherings (homes, libraries, museums, etc.).