Teachers love to change the look of their classrooms. Redesigns inspire learning and help keep kids engaged in lessons. Yet, most teachers are trained to teach. Designing effective classroom layouts might sometimes fall outside their core competencies. What do you do when you are given a blank slate and feel overwhelmed by choices?
Start Early: Be Ready for Back-to-School
Back-to-school is just around the corner. Considering how to divide spaces to create the fun zones and learning nooks you need should begin sooner rather than later. Keep in mind, encouraging creativity and facilitating engagement are lofty but achievable goals. When teachers get their spaces right, kids develop skills and learn faster and more efficiently than anyone thought possible!
3 Key Components
Imagine there are three key components to promote when imagining how to slice and dice early childhood education spaces: Physical Environment, Social Environment, and Temporal Environment.
The Physical Environment takes into account the overall design and layout of a room. All aspects will be taken into consideration, such as the arrangement of furniture, placement of materials (like toys, books, art materials), design and display of visual materials (posters, bulletin boards, pictures), lighting, and sound.
Evaluate the Social Environment your classroom presents based on how you see interactions occurring between peers, teachers, and family members. Will the proposed spaces accommodate the appropriate group sizes you need for each activity? Will spaces be geared towards teacher-initiated or child-initiated activities? Do you have all the materials needed for the proposed spaces? How will everyone interact in these spaces?
The Temporal Environment takes into consideration the variety of activities children need to participate in, such as quiet time versus high-energy activities. Teachers need to be cognizant of the ratio of activities as well as how kids will flow from one activity to the next. The transitions need to flow seamlessly. This is one area where our PlayPanels® can help.
The PlayPanel Secret
Constructed from lightweight polystyrene pipes, PlayPanel frames easily snap together. Vinyl panels attach to the pipe framework in seconds. PlayPanels® are lightweight and easy to assemble, but that’s only part of their secret. The secret to their movability and usability really hinges upon (no pun intended) their flexible, universal hinges. Children’s Factory® calls these hinges Double Claw Clips. Double Claw Clips allow you to connect two panels together of any size, either vertically or horizontally, to create interesting spaces. These flexible hinges allow teachers and caregivers to quickly fold PlayPanels® for storage. They also make it easier to move multiple panels from place to place.
For example, if you have kids separated into two groups: one is reading in one quiet area and the other is working on art projects in another. These two areas might be split using PlayPanels. Then, when teachers want both groups to transition to a high-energy, group play activity, collapsing PlayPanels® to create more space will be easy.
Every Detail Matters
Maximizing engagement and encouraging social behavior can be the low-hanging fruit in some cases. There are many other factors to consider when it comes to designing the ultimate classroom.
Fostering independence and feelings of competence in young children
Decreasing challenging behavior through intelligent design
Providing structure and predictability
Encouraging staff efficiency
Supporting responsive caregiving
It’s all about the kids. 2 of these 5 ideas pertain to caregivers and teachers. When caregivers and teachers are equipped with the right environment and tools, everyone wins because they will be performing at the highest level possible. Children ultimately benefit, which means it really is all about the kids.
Kids thrive in colorful spaces. PlayPanels® are available in woodland and rainbow-rific colors to complement any space. In Can Classroom Design Affect Learning, Children’s Factory® explored the benefits to using color to stimulate creativity and capture the attention of children. We also discussed the concept of complexity. Complexity measures how visual elements combine to create either a coherent and structured environment, or one where randomness and chaos is the result. PlayPanels® add structured color to spaces without inserting too much complexity.
Cantilever Legs Make PlayPanels Free-Standing
PlayPanels® are available in 3 sizes, many colors, and sets. All PlayPanel sets include the appropriate number of Cantilever Legs, which are support feet designed to make the panels free-standing. We recommend one pair of Cantilever Legs for every 3-4 panels. Single PlayPanels® and Right Angle PlayPanels® do not include Cantilever Legs. Make sure to purchase Cantilever Legs separately.
We recommend starting with a set since they include everything needed to get started.
Permanent Wall Attachment
If you prefer to attach PlayPanels® to the wall for more permanency, then the Wall Attachment is the right accessory for you. PlayPanels® still easily snap in and out of the Wall Attachment’s Claw Clips. Therefore, you won’t be sacrificing how easy it is to fold and store panels by investing in this accessory.
VIP Access Points
The Gate Latch Attachment provides another accessory to customize your space. It mounts to the wall to provide an easy entry/exit point for caregivers and teachers. The Gate Latch keeps little tikes corralled but gives adults VIP access to any customized PlayPanel space.
Mobile Churches Love PlayPanels
Unexpectedly, many mobile churches of all denominations have expressed their love of PlayPanels®. Whenever you see a sizable church gathering at a large building, they most likely did not begin holding services there. Actually, most churches begin by meeting someplace other than a building they own.
New church plants often decide to meet on public sector properties, such as schools. Any non-profit organization can rent public spaces for a small fee, which is an affordable way for churches of every denomination to begin a new ministry. Others opt to rent convention centers or hotel banquet rooms in the beginning. No matter where these new church ministries meet, there is usually one universal need. They all need lightweight equipment that is easy to set up and then fold away for storage at the end of their service.
PlayPanels® fit this need perfectly and are making it possible for these growing church ministries to offer separate spaces for childcare and other small group classes.