Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Indoor environments - a visit to Täppan

in the one year old room. Instead of a home area - a veranda - to open up play opportunities
Its always inspiring to be allowed to visit another preschool and to see what they get up to, how they have arranged their indoor environment and more importantly get to hear about why they have made their choices about the preschool design. This morning I visited a preschool called Täppan on Södermalm, and feel like I have had a battery recharge!! Its wonderful to listen to a pedagogue who is passionate about what they do, its uplifting, its contagious - you could see a room full of teachers with heads filling with ideas - I mean you could almost see all the ideas flying around the room ... after all what works at one place does not necessarily work at another - you have to dissect the ideas, the inspiration and then recreate it again to meet the needs of your own setting.

Each matchbox contains a doll and represents a week day.
The above idea about the weekdays for the youngest children is an easy thing to adapt - 7 matchboxes, 7 small dolls - each with a name inspired by a weekday - in English is could be Thomas Tuesday, Wendy Wednesday etc - at each morning meeting the children knock on the relevant matchbox and then up pops the doll to greet the children. At the start of the week there is one doll and by the end of the week there are five - a concrete way to see the week unfold.

each department has a little hut or tent for language - the children can go into them, a teacher sits outside and writes up everything the child says - even the one year olds - all their sounds and developing words and sentences.
The storytelling or talking tent/hut is apparently well used and the children LOVE to go in there and tell the teachers all sorts of things - or sometimes nothing at all. The words/sounds are placed on the wall the same day (especially with the one year olds where language develops at an incredible rate) so that parents can read them TOGETHER with their children when they are picked up. This is something appreciated by both children and parents - and also allows the teachers to follow the children's language development. Often the words are handwritten - as the objective is that the words are on the wall the same day they are uttered.

the box represents the yard - the dolls are made by the parents and there is one for each child. When a child is choosing an activity they place it in the right box.

this box represents the movement room. A concrete way to help toddlers make choices and remember the choices they have made.
The two boxes above allows the youngest children to be able to make choices about their day and their learning in a more concrete way. By placing their dolls in the yard box the child has decided to go out - if the child forgets their decision they can return to the box to be reminded. Children that were sick had their dolls placed in a bed - so that even though the children were not there they knew their friends were thinking about them - as they saw how dolls are placed in the sick bed. My own children had a doll system at their own preschool - and I know how they would wonder about whether their doll had been placed in the sick bed or the sick chair and wondered which of their friends would make the decision. All three of my children knew the owner of every single doll - and they still have their dolls even now.

wood has been added to the wall, not only sound absorbing but also allows for shelves etc to change easily to meet the needs of the group.
This method of using wood on the walls could be found in different ways throughout the preschool. Even though its very attractive this was not the main reason. Preschools need to adapt to the needs of the children - shelves, hooks etc need to be added and taken away - fixing drill holes in the wall is not as easy as fixing holes in wood. Below is another use of wood to absorb sound but also to help the children understand the dynamics of the room. BIG open rooms are like an invitation for running and loud play. By adding small wooden dividers, that still allow an open feel to the room, reduces the speed at which children can move around the room. Its a kind of sleeping policeman/speedbumps for a preschool. Simple, beautiful but effective.
a wooden room divider

another sort of divider next to the stables

each day 10 mice are hidden around the preschool 
Everyday the children in the two year old group go looking for the mouse babies - learning prepositions as they go - its under, on top, behind etc - then they count them - how many do they have - only eight have been found - how many more are left? Mathematics and movement and social collaboration - so much of the curriculum can be found in this daily activity.

the stables for the 2 year olds
Children's needs are different depending on age - the two year olds stable is different from that of the four and five year olds as you will see later on in this post.

one of the areas for the 2 year olds
EVERY room that you went into you could see the thought behind it - you could see the respect the teachers have for the children. You could also see how much parents have contributed with old furniture - even the neighbours contribute after they had been invited on a guided tour of the preschool. Sometimes simple measures can be very effective.

lunch table for the children who have set the tables

the dining room
The dining area was created so that the children do not have to tidy up their activities so that lunch can be served. The one year olds eat in their department at 11:00, the two year olds eat in the dining room at 11:00. At 12:00 the three-four year old group eat and at 13:00 the oldest group eat (they have a mid morning snack). The teachers at Täppan have found this system to work well - the older children have a longer morning - allowing for activities to take the time they need, to have longer excursions and also allows for last minute children inspired excursions/activities. The food is placed centrally on each table so that the children can help themselves and also have a social dialogue. The teachers found that the buffet style lunch was not to their liking, feeling that some children nervous about trying new food could not be enticed as easily to test it - when it is in the middle of the table they have found that children tend to put a little on their plate half way through lunch when they see friends enjoy their food. Also there is the social interaction of "can you pass me the potatoes please" that gets missed when children help themselves from a buffet. I am not promoting any specific way - I am merely saying that preschools need to make choices based on the needs of the children and the competency and interests of the adults around them and the setting premises ... each setting will be unique.

when the teachers write down what the children talk about in the storytelling tents/huts the words and phrases are always displayed
The above is an example of how the words and phrases the children said in the talking-tent or storytelling hut could look like. I did not get time to read what the children had said - but I assume they were talking about autumn or something similar judged by how the words are interwoven with leaves.

one of the art studios
There were several mini art studios/ateliers in the preschool - two of them were placed next to the toilets - or in the washroom area of the toilet. Part of me thinks this is a great way to utilise space, and have water close to hand - but part of me wonders about the aromas created in that area - and also how comfortable are children going to the toilet knowing there are children and teachers just outside working on a project. Again - you have to observe the children and take your lead from them.

another art studio - also used as the staff room - as the staff room  was turned into the dining room
The main atelier was a room in its own right - even though it acted as the staff room during part of the day. It certainly would not bother me to have my break in this room, but I can assume that this is not everybody's cup of tea!

3-4 year old room
One room with many opportunities for play. A boat, a shack and also a stage (not shown on the pictures) - this allows for children to participate in different role-play but to still have contact with all the play in the room - to be inspired by it - to deepen their own learning as their play evolves.

3-4 room - the boat was designed so that it could be more than a boat

a room under the stairs (like bend over low for me)
Now if Harry Potter had a room like this under the stairs he would have probably been happy to remain there. A cupboard under the stairs was transformed into a small café that just looked like it had been lifted from Junibacken ( ). OK not a room I could get into a hurry without banging my head - but wow - my inner child was screaming to let me play here!

inside the cupboard under the stairs

another storage cupboard converted to stables
Here you can see how the stable for the older children is more challenging - with a ladder and the need for the children to negotiate who can play there at any one time as there is a 2 child limit.

space themes - paintings of aliens and spaceships guarded by an astronaut

old fashioned school room
An old fashioned school room was created after visiting an exhibition at the Stockholm City Museum. The fact that the room is found in the oldest children's department is not without coincidence - these will be the children who will be starting school after the summer - here at preschool they get an opportunity to play school in a safe environment, testing out ideas and theories and helping the children formulate their worries and excitement so that teachers and parents can offer the children a smooth transition from preschool to school. The room also contained a shop - for role play, mathematics etc - also created in an old fashioned manner to continue the aesthetics of the preschool as a whole.
store mathematics

This was definitely an inspirational visit and the teachers at Täppan have really created something beautiful and the artwork and documentation on the walls showed that they took the children seriously - their learning, their abilities and their development. Many thanks for allowing us to visit...

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