The Early Childhood classrooms at Ranney School are distinctive, featuring intentional spaces grounded in Reggio Emilia, a developmental theory leveraging exploration and creation. In this model, the room becomes another teacher. The classroom starts in September with a blank canvas and evolves through the year as children take on responsibility and demonstrate new knowledge. As a result, each classroom becomes a unique reflection of a particular class of students. Class spaces are in a constant state of growth and change; change that can be impacted by students’ own contributions. The Early Childhood classrooms have interactive, hands-on centers that change throughout the year and really help the youngest students use experiential learning to grow.
A great example of this educational philosophy is currently taking place in the Pre-K classes. Over the last few weeks, Mrs. Sheridan and Ms. Kiel noticed that many of the children in their Pre-K classes were expressing an interest in the solar system through observing their play and in lunchtime conversation - ranging from constellations like Orion and the Big Dipper, to the star Vega, and the Hubble Space Telescope! “We were so impressed with the knowledge and curiosity of our students that we knew needed to bring outer space to our classroom,” said Ms. Kiel.
After reading a book about the solar system on Monday, one of the children said, "I wish we could make our classroom into space!" The teachers asked if anyone else liked that idea, and all hands went up. They asked questions about how they could do it, and what they would need. Here are some of the students’ ideas:
- a lot of black paper to cover the entire classroom and ceiling
- print or make hanging planets for the ceiling
- lots of stars, comets, asteroids and meteors
- a rocket ship
- the moon
- moon rocks
- space tools
- little tiny astronauts
The process of turning what was previously the science center has begun to transition into space center! Ms. Kiel explained, “Our walls are now blacked out and today we made the sun. We flipped a table upside down to use as a giant circle tracer. Everyone had a chance to help out with tracing, cutting, stapling and stuffing our sun. Someone suggested we cover the window to make it darker, so some children worked on cutting long strips of black paper to make a curtain. The children worked so hard and were so proud of what they created with teamwork!”
After everyone left, the teachers strung lights on the ceiling to make some stars and the next day they spent making planets as a class to hang from the ceiling.
“I happened to stop into the Pre-K the other day and the idea of creating Outer Space came up from one of the children as I watched their morning meeting,” said Head of Lower School Dr. Andrea Danial. “The teachers embraced the idea and encouraged their thoughts guiding them from painting the entire room black to creating a space corner. When I stopped by a couple of days later, they were well on their way to creating the various parts of space to include in the now black corner of the room designated as ‘Space.’ Every day when I stop by they have added something new and the vocabulary they use when they tell me with great enthusiasm about the additions to the project is amazing! Words like asteroid, constellations, Hubble telescope, and of course, the names of the planets. They know so many facts about space already, and they are collaborating to share and learn more. That is the beauty of the Reggio Emilia classroom, it grows organically and remains authentic to honor the passions of children.”