One of my favorite things, as an educator, is visiting educational spaces. It's not about copying ideas, it's not about trying to force something in my own space that may only work somewhere else - its about seeing the passion that people have for making fantastic spaces for young children. And at Art Basics for Children, the aesthetic inspires adults and children alike to participate.
For example, the first room we visited on Saturday had a large platform. The materials were presented in an organized way, and the room had not only smiling, engaged children; it also had smiling, engaged adults. Not an iPhone checking adult in sight.
The room also contains a stage that must be used for something, and behind the stage there were prompts to promote thinking about performance and viewing.
Flip books, shadow play, different ways of being a performer and an audience member. A prompt I had never seen before.
The way that the books are displayed at ABC is interesting to me. I feel like the typical classroom often has a "book area" whereas libraries categorize and organize books by their genre or their subject matter or the intended audience. At ABC there are books all over - they are a major source of visual information for the visitors. And in many of the chairs sat adults, browsing the extensive book collection that is chosen and organized to promote the materials surrounding it.
The kitchen had a display of books about food and cooking for a variety of ages. There were also individually laminated A3 illustrations from rare books all over the space, some individually and some in collections, that related to the ideas in different areas. The bulletin board in the kitchen was a collection of photos and recipes.
Another interesting area was upstairs, on the same floor as the kitchen, and it was focused on letters and fonts. As a preschool teacher, I understand the importance of literacy development and its hard to find a medium between casual exposure and meaningful learning. Here the children explore hundreds of books on letters and shapes, some pop-up; they can explore different fonts; and the displays of Bembo's Zoo are definitely one way that letters, fonts, and visual expression merge.
ABC has public funding that makes all of this work. When I walk through a space like the one they have, I do think if it is possible to create a space like this without funding like that.
Inspiring spaces do not have to be schools, but simply places designed with the capabilities and interests of young children in mind. More photos soon!