Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Windows on Willow

I don't know about you, but I often succumb to the "grass is always greener" thing.  And I really seem to suffer from an addiction to "new and different."  This is hard to explain, because I'm not a trend-setter, or a tech fiend or a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses type of person, but, as a teacher, I fall prey to all kinds of envy, as in, "Wow!  That is so cool.  Why didn't I think of that?"  A tour through my colleagues' classrooms reveals a whole world of new and different thinking.  We have three classrooms here at Dodge.  Each room has a different floor plan and layout, and because each room contains a different crew of teachers and students, they are full of wildly different stuff and activities.  I would argue that each room tells an interesting tale about the people who teach and learn within it's walls.  So, in an homage to all the glossy magazines in my mother's living room, I propose to take you on a virtual tour of our classrooms, through the eyes of an envious teacher.  First stop, Willow Room.

elegant entrance to the Willow Room
Frosty the Snow Owl
Rusty the Great Horned Owl
The Willow Room sits off, sort of by itself in the Northwest corner of Dodge Nature Preschool.  The classroom door opens on to our front desk, and, conveniently, the grown-up bathrooms.  Their windows overlook our lushest native plantings, and they get some lovely late afternoon light.  A whole slew of interesting people teach in the Willow Room each week:

Todd Watkins, Britney Stark, Kristenza Nelson & Natalia Seidel
Together, this team creates a vibe that I dare call, "Magical Realism."  If this room could sing, which it sometimes really does, we might hear Buffy Saint Marie, Bon Iver, Ella Jenkins and a little Phish.  Lots of items catch the light, or sparkle.  It smells good in there.  Sometimes like lavender.  Sometimes like Jasmine, or citrus.

evidence of artists
disco meet Diwali
fowl tete a tete

to chicken, with love
real, but really magical

robust flora
The ultra healthy plants look as though they might be planning a coup.  A miniature clutch of chickens tete a tete on a mirror.  But actual things--bugs, skins, shells, rocks, wood, dried flowers--temper these flights of fancy with an earthiness that tethers kids to reality.  This aesthetic is achieved with a lot of care and use.  Teachers share treasured items from home, and children seem to make use of every last square inch of the room.  Child handiwork is everywhere.  Take a look at these eclectic and vibrant environs:



kid art
kid observations

about kids
kids about kids

kids about owls

What's more MN than a crock pot?
Tiny surprises are tucked into corners and cubbies.  The Art Studio is brimming with child work and a wide variety of tempting materials.  There is an undeniable hominess at work here.  A crock pot waits to heat soup.  A teapot stands ready for tea.  Magic abounds.  Objects are juxtaposed or ingeniously displayed.  Mirrored garlands adorn the rafters.  A globe hovers over the block area.  A disco ball twirls above the easel.

Peaches the chicken sits shoulder to shoulder with the petrified insects in the Science Area.  Sunny the snake keeps an eye on the Art Studio.

the world is big, and small
still life, with volcano
Sunny the corn snake

Why should you care about what the Willow Room is like?  Well, aside from an insider's look at a working classroom, I think it is important to recognize an honor creative inspiration.  Each kid here at Dodge has a unique experience, mostly because they are all individuals of course, but also because they are spending time with adults who care deeply about what they do.  The Willow Room teachers are sharing a bit of their own lives and loves with the kids they teach.  Their room is an enchanting and inviting place, where kids can safely explore with terrific autonomy.