This year, The Westchester Torah Academy Early Childhood Faculty has embarked on a year-long learning program, with the guidance of a mentor from Teaching Beyond The Square. Teachers have engaged in exploring how to design the classroom environment to be more comfortable and flexible, and how they can awaken a true sense of wonder in the school’s youngest students.
In the first training session, teachers found an assortment of loose materials, collected both from nature and from home. These materials were then arranged in containers by color, shape and type of material (metal, plastic, cardboard, cork, etc.). The teachers delightedly found themselves eager to “start playing,” and began arranging the found materials on a series of blank canvases. The creations were different and varied; teachers examined their colleagues’ work with a sense of awe and amazement. They had created intriguing works of art just waiting to be discussed and deciphered. Comments such as: “I can do this all day long.” “This is so much fun!” and, “This is such a fun way to teach math and science,” were continually heard throughout the session.
In this way, a seemingly simple, fun and engaging activity had the power to generate a lively discussion about how to engage young learners through play. This tactile exploration of familiar and found objects sparked a process of exploration and learning. Teachers felt inspired to return to their classrooms and offer similar exciting learning opportunities for their students.