Things have not been exactly the same lately. Some people call it “Spring Fever.” Along with the warmer weather, the sunshine, and the mud, comes a very different kind of play. The classroom just doesn’t seen quite as settled as it was before. Please don’t get me wrong. There is still a lot of wonderful happening, and every day, we highlight so much of the learning that happens inside and outside our room. Along with all of the great comes something else. My teaching partner, Paula, and I have both felt it.
- Sometimes it’s a little louder.
- Sometimes there seems to be more wandering.
- Sometimes we seem to be managing behaviour instead of facilitating learning.
Every day after school, and sometimes in the midst of play, we connect and reflect as a team. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about this different feeling. Why is it happening? What might interrupt it, and lend itself to a more settled feeling in the classroom?
On Wednesday night, we decided to make some changes to the classroom space. We wondered if moving a few items around, slowing down the LEGO play, and providing some new learning opportunities might help combat Spring Fever. We definitely noticed a few improvements on Thursday, and we started to see kids interact differently with the materials. The temperature was going down.
Many of our students find sensory play self-regulating, so on Thursday night, we considered an additional sensory option for Friday. Would this make a difference? While numerous students were drawn to this sensory space, and it was great to hear the conversations in this new area, something still didn’t feel quite right. It was a case of masking the fever without curing the cold.
We’re wondering if the key might be a couple of students. They don’t seem quite as focused as they have been in the past. Why? We wondered if part of the problem could be that children are not outside as long as they were before. After the holiday fire, we started our day inside, and while we’re slowly transitioning to the forest space, we often don’t get there until almost 9:45. We used to spend around 1 1/2 hours outside each day, and now we’re down to 50 minutes. We love the connections that we’re making with some kids inside, but we’re also seeing the possible drawbacks to having less time outside. Many of our students look for this outside time as a way to self-regulate. Many of the experiences outside also connect with the learning inside, and with less time in the forest, are our kids also not digging as deeply into certain topics that they would have before (e.g., around living things and the environment)? Maybe it’s time to reconsider our outdoor classroom space, and still connect with kids in the morning, but in an outdoor area.
By keeping the learning materials and experiences “new” in the classroom until our indoor play begins, will students interact with them differently? Will they be more apt to go to the spaces that they may not be going to now because they started the day there before we even went outside? As Paula pointed out to me, “They’re missing the conversation time later around these different areas. This is when they also connected with each other and asked, ‘What could we do here? What do you want to do? What can we do together?'”
After school on Friday, we also looked for the start of some different, small projects, which might allow for leadership opportunities for some kids and more settled play for others. We know that climbing is calming for many of our students, and they love to express themselves artistically. Would it be beneficial to combine the climbing with the artistic expression? This was our thinking behind the provocation below.
This whole process of improvement is about identifying problems, making small changes, reflecting, and changing again. I thought about this today when I read Cathy Baker‘s recent blog post. As I mentioned in my comment to her, sometimes even when we might think that we know the “why,” there’s still value in investigating the changes to make so that we could do better. For often one change is not enough. And often, there needs to be a link between our approaches, the research that we do, and our conversations with colleagues to really make the biggest, positive impact for kids.
What do you think? We’re still in the playing stage. We might be in this stage for a while, but as we continue to play, to modify plans, and to try again, we also notice the benefits for our kids. This makes the playing time well worth it. Now to just remember to give enough settling time to see the impact — if there is one — or to see if we need to explore a new medication option. (I can’t help but get wrapped up in the fever analogy. 🙂 ) While I may prefer mud to snow, right now, I’m eager to find some Winter Calm in the midst of Spring Fever. How about you? Have you found a way to cure Spring Fever? I’m always amazed at the impact that weather can have on learning. It’s now time to rise above the weather and find calm again.