Over the summer I walked the quiet halls of Hamlin, learning my route to and from my office and exploring the twists and turns of Stanwood Hall. The maze to McKinne was accompanied by the various NPR programs that Gabby Cobar, our HUB faculty member and resident muralist, listened to as she created the mural outside of our 1st and 2nd grade classrooms. Gabby was commissioned to beautify the once bare wall that was the lackluster view of 4 of our classrooms on the 2nd floor. The goal was to create a visually inspiring and aesthetically pleasing mural. The Creed would be seen throughout and our girls would see an image of themselves reflected in their environment. In the spring, Gabby presented designs to our students and the girls voted on what they thought would best represent the Hamlin experience. In Ms. Cobar’s own words she says,
“In Our Nature is what the mural is titled. It is a place that is quiet and safe, where imagination, curiosity, and courage flourish. I believe that represents what happens in Hamlin and the kind of girls that fill the school. I wanted something where the girls could imagine themselves in. I wanted to create something rather surreal, beautiful and a little strange without having it be a distraction to the students during class.”
Just as much thought goes on outdoors as it does inside. As many of you have noticed, our classroom canvases or “walls” are yet another space where you can see the Hamlin Creed in action. The hard work of each student is displayed as a means of example, process, engagement, and presence. It’s our students who truly fill the space, not just with their physical being but with their thoughts and actions as evidenced through their art, writing, and thinking. The thoughtful process of how the classroom will become a canvas starts before our girls step through the doors. Our teachers think about the space as one would think about his or her own home. There is a design process with the student in mind. From furniture placement to the labeling of materials, educators think about who our girls are as learners and what kind of environment will best suit the group.
Is this color over stimulating? Is this space comfortable enough to read a book in? What’s the traffic flow like from one space to another? Should we leave that wall blank? How do we show an active learning process?
All of these questions run through the mind of each teacher as the environment is carefully planned for that very first day and beyond. By now, you will see that our children have started to fill the room. Every girls’ words and thoughts hold added value as classroom discussions, mathematical problem solving, and emerging writing pieces are displayed just as carefully as the finest artwork in a gallery. When describing the function of the walls in her classroom, Ms. Phillips references Reggio Emilia pedagogical thinking as she states, “The walls are the third teacher in the room.”
As you weave in and out from classroom to hallway, you will see that Ms. Seifert hangs a world map on its head to spark conversation around flexible thinking and perspective, the second grade explores identity through fractional parts, a first grader shares her favorite reading moment, Kindergarteners explore emotion, and a science student shares her hope to find the end of the rainbow. Our walls are a vehicle to imagine that these physical boundaries don’t actually exist. Our learning is limitless!
In my opinion…
Less is more–at least in the beginning! The blank wall is an invitation for engagement, a chance to create and be a part of the environment. Our walls should be a place where the day-to-day learning is transparent and a focal point of reference and reflection for our students and teachers. It’s an opportunity to allow our students’ imagination to run wild! Whether it be McKinne lounge or each homeroom, pay close attention to the constant transformation; it speaks volumes. You will indeed see the continuous learning of our students on the walls!
The opinions of others… The following link is an article written by Patricia Tarr, a professor at the University of Calgary published by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).