"Areas"

I have been trying to step back from my preconceptions about how the classroom environment needs to look or act.  This is important because of our multiage aspect; but I'm realizing that it is something I should always do.  Where did I get my ideas about the setup of the classroom?  What can happen there and what can't happen there?  What it is supposed to offer?

Through observing and student teaching in college, I absorbed unspoken messages about the classroom.  No matter where I was, the typical preschool classroom always had a home area, painting easels, a block area, a bookshelf, a sensory table, and perhaps a table for art and messy things.  So my first classroom had all of these things.  And sometimes the home area became something else, like a post office or a doctor's office.

I don't think there is anything negative about this classroom setup. I think it does work for children.  My classroom right now has all everything described, save the dramatic play area being more open-ended.  But I'm really wondering if these areas are so necessary.  The children have been showing me different ideas over the past two weeks.

For example, two of the girls enjoy dramatic play, but apparently not the setting.  So they take a large basket, pack it up with everything they want from the dramatic play area, and take it all over the the piano, whch they like to it under and play "sisters".

The construction in the room is constant, and the block area is very popular.  There is not quite enough space for children to really do what they want; things are always getting bumped and buildings cannot be as big as some want because of the floor space.  I'm also interested in how their block constructions can be extended with paper and pens, fabric, tape, and more.

There is not as much drawing and writing happening, and there is a table in the room dedicated to that all of the time.  Last year's group was all about writing, and this year is a bit different.  Those materials do not seem to get used as much.

I know the importance of structure in the room and in the day.  But these rules about the classroom aren't set in stone, are they?  It's easy to fall into a habit - every teacher knows that.  But I think things could be a bit more interesting if we broke that habit.  I haven't really branched out as much as I would like to when it comes to creating an inviting environment for the children, and perhaps that's because I've been so focused on ME and the environment and what I am going to do.  Just as I try to follow children's interests and support their explorations, I think I need to look to them and figure out what they need from the environment. 

That is a big part of my journey this year.  How can the environment support our work and play?