Saturday, 24 August 2013

A VISIT TO - The Acorn School of Early Childhood Development/Wilderness Early Learning Center - BOULDER

Time flies by so fast - I can hardly believe that it is a month ago that I was in Boulder soaking up the hot sun and breathing in the dry air (and dealing with the altitude - it took me almost two days)...

I remember my visit to The Acorn School of Early Childhood Development with great affection, the warmth and enthusiasm of Debbie, my guide around the setting, and everyone I met there ensured that this was not just a setting that was thinking about how the environment can meet the needs of the children, but also how they themselves need to be warm, loving and enthusiastic... the living part of the setting - the heart and soul.

Sometimes when we see many of these beautiful settings it can be rather intimidating/overwhelming - how can we make out setting look THAT beautuful - and how does it look when it is being USED, does everything EVER look messy?
Sometimes I have to admit I have felt that visiting other families, especially when my twins were babies and a group of 10 mothers met at the clinic and became a group to support each other (the clinic arranges this) - I would go to their immaculately designed and kept homes and wondered how it could look so perfect when my home seemed to be in a permanant state of clean, lived-in chaos compared?
This is, I have to admit, a little bit how I think about about some of these beautifully designed preschools - of course its easier to make it look amazing when you don't have the children in the middle of it playing there... but still... where is the time?

What I saw at The Acorn School is that it was a setting that was PLAYED in, LOVED and that everything had its place but that there was also the room for the children to influence this too. It felt like a setting where the children and the adults created their setting TOGETHER, rather than a setting created FOR the children.

Oh and the enthusiasm and energy - have a mentioned that already? Well let me put it this way, whenever I think of this school I smile... I can't help it, a big smille spreads across my face... I mean I am sitting here right now with a big smile as I write this!

here come some photos...

I just LOVED this smart way of storing the matresses for rest time... it was used in all the rooms that used matresses for rest/nap time. It certainly allows the storage to be used BY the children rather than using cupboards which takes space that cannot be used by the children in their play.

I love love love pestle and mortars - the potential for imagination and experimentation is just enormous. I also like the tree stump table.

This play frame has been designed incorporating the children's ideas as well as observations of their play. The bucket with pulley system was added when the teachers noticed the children's needs to hoist things up to the upper deck... and they have also observed how the children have learned that standing just under the bucket is not the best place to wait for loads to come down... The use of natural materials adds to the aesthetics and also how the climbing frame fits in naturally in the playground.

a small bridge for the toddlers, this allows them to see out of the window, train their gross motor skills as well as having a little creep-in underneath and the place to experiment with a tube velcroed to the side. I think the fact that the steps are carpeted and the top is wood also adds the interest of various textures... imagine if EVERY step was covered in a different texture - as many small children climb with both feet and hands this could really add to the sensory experience... In the middle of the room was some carpeting that was made of small squares with different colous and textures - each square could be changed and replaced. The wall at the top of the steps/bridge is made of clear perspex - allowing the children to look out on their room from a new vantage point.

letting the third teacher talk... this group of children were having problems settling down to eat... always wanting to wander off to play... so for now the eating area is sectioned off, so that the room lets the children know that its time to sit and eat rather than the teachers having to repeat their words over and over again... much better when teachers can focus their energy on the children and the food rather than encouraging them to stay in their seats when the teachers KNOW they are hungry.

This is one of my favourites when there is a door that allows the children to decide whether they play inside or outside. Here the big window allows the teachers to be able to see inside and outside, as well as the children too - this allows them to feel connected to the group as a whole and for the outdoor teacher and indoor teacher to stay connected with each other too!

each outdoor area also had a gate which enabled the areas to open up to each other so that there is a choice of small group play and also for groups to play with each other. I also love how each area had access to outdoor water and how the wall serves as a great work surface for the adults should it be needed.

the toddlers also got their own platform. It was quite a big step up, so there is some real gross motor skills that are challenged  to get both up and down... and again the use of the fabrics outdoors to create swings and shade etc - the fabric was strong, all weather and also transparent enough to be able to see through - so it gives a hidey feeling but at the same time the abiltity to still feel connected with the group as a whole...

and then there were plenty of blocks to be used outdoors - of different types - and that the toddlers had access to big blocks too to test out their strength and design skills... how do things balance, how does it feel if I drop it, how far can I carry it, ? etc
This is just a selection of the photos I took at The Acorn School of Early Childhood Development which is a part of the learning experience behind Wilderness Early Learning Center. As you can see the setting has a beautiful connection between its teachers and its third teacher... that they seem to be continuously working on and learning more about too. I have enjoyed watching their outdoor area develop and I am looking forward to phase three of its development...

And a small film to share the happiness of Acorn School


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