Our Quiet Cardboard Nooks: Finding Solitude and the Evolution of the Creative Process

Some years in kindergarten, you have groups of students that are not just about co-creating a dramatic play space, but using it. This year, the interest, passion, and depth of learning is actually less in using the space and more in the making of it.

In our classroom, we have a really small area off in the corner, behind our block/building space, that’s bordered by a tall shelf and a LEGO wall. If you read books or blog posts about classroom design, everything about this area shouldn’t work.

  • It’s too small.
  • It’s less fully visible than the other spaces in the classroom.
  • And it’s behind a really small building space that probably also shouldn’t work, but does. 

Capitalizing on the fact that our children love to be creative and express themselves artistically, we lined the walls of this space with cardboard and made an obliteration room for some Mother’s Day video messages.

When Mother’s Day was over, we tried to continue with our video recordings in this space, but the interest faded with the holiday. This was around the time that our chrysalises arrived in the mail. With a growing interest in butterflies, we decided to put out some new cardboard and co-create a butterfly conservatory with the students. They lined the walls with images and facts about butterflies, and even some fake flowers. Every day, small groups of children were drawn in here to create. As time went on, it was less about making the butterflies, and more about having an enclosed, quiet space in which to make.

Recently then, we wondered about changing the space again. What could we create next? One of our students was at the Raptors Game when they won their way into the finals. This increased the interest in basketball. Every day, groups of students were creating basketball stadiums and forming their own basketball games, often with the Raptors in mind. We know that our students are passionate about basketball, and the number of parents that arrive in Raptors shirts and pins each day, shows that they are passionate as well. What if we made a Raptors stadium? 

Sometimes you start a new project and you don’t know how things will go. The success of this Raptors Project continues to surprise and excite us. Watching the evolution of thinking and work in this space has us adding slowly to this area every single day. Thanks to the kids that are inspiring and helping create these changes!

This project became so much more than we expected.

  • We love how it’s linking the play outdoors and indoors.
  • We love how it’s inspiring some of our boys to explore spaces that they did not explore before.
  • We love the authentic links to reading and writing: the newspaper articles are also getting children thinking critically about text and talking more about text. 
  • We love how so many children can find an entry point here.

It continues to intrigue us that so much calm, quiet, focused learning can happen in such a small space … even when lots of children are here togetherI was thinking about this today when I read this tweet by John Spencer.

Maybe quiet is the key. The enclosed area with the taller walls and the small space at least gives the illusion of quiet if not quiet itself. In a classroom with 30 kindergarten children and no full wall between us and the class next door, noise is always a reality. Sometimes lots of noise. If quiet can’t always be the reality, then the illusion of this silence is second best. We think that kids like this space and maybe the trust that also comes with it: for nothing says, “we believe that you are competent and capable,” more than giving a group of four-, five-, and six-year-olds ownership over a classroom area and the knowledge that they can handle this responsibility. They really can! 

Our Father’s Day space continues to evolve, but what will happen when it’s over? In a class of making, there needs to be something else to try: one more project and one more use for the smallest space ever. How do you create these little spaces in your home or classroom? What’s the value in doing so? Moving to a much larger classroom next year, I’m still hoping to work with my teaching partner to find some quiet corners. What about you?


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