From The Bathroom To The Bus: How Do We Capitalize On Non-Traditional Learning Spaces?

I remember earlier this year when Stew, a teacher in our Board, made this comment to me: “Aviva, I feel as though you can find the learning in just about anything.” I’d like to hope that I can. I think that it’s our Kindergarten Program Document, which really has me exploring how expectations align with everyday practices. My teaching partner, Paula, and I are big proponents of connecting expectations to child-directed play. We believe that direct instruction can, and does, happen in the midst of free play, and that literacy and math can be explored in so many authentic ways. As we enter the last week of school before the summer holidays, I decided to write this post highlighting some unconventional learning spaces. My hope is that these same areas might provide learning opportunities throughout the summer months.

The Bathroom – Kids in kindergarten are obsessed with bodily functions. Nothing is more amusing than peeing and pooping, and toilet talk is like the great naughty moment that sucks everyone in but also results in hours of tattletaling. Since children are so taken by the bathroom, why not capitalize on the problems in there with some literacy connections? Our bathroom door this year is covered in signs:

  • reminding children to only use toilet paper,

  • telling children that the bathroom is only for one child at a time,
  • reminding children not to add foreign objects to the toilet,

  • and indicating when the bathroom is occupied versus free. 

Then there are all of the notes to the caretaker when we’re out of toilet paper, there’s paper towel in the toilet (despite the signs), the toilet paper dispenser is broken, and the toilet is overflowing.

While there might not be a Mr. Angelo at your house, bathroom literacy can still occur. Why not have children write notes for more items needed, keep a shopping list of bathroom supplies, and/or make friendly reminder signs for the bathroom door? Just make sure that your child does not stop to read the signs when there’s a real bathroom emergency!

Outside – We love our outdoor time, and start our day outside in the forest regardless of the weather. There is no limit to the reading, writing, oral language, and math opportunities that can happen outside. Below are just some examples of how literacy and math are woven into our outdoor time.

There are probably more examples above than anyone will listen to or read in totality, but I think this shows how even free play outside provides so many learning opportunities. With some beautiful summer weather (hopefully), get outside and watch and listen to the conversations that happen there. Maybe even invite some of your child’s friends along. Where are the connections to literacy? To math? To science? How can you introduce some new vocabulary, provide a writing opportunity, or encourage reading to find out more? 

In The Car – We didn’t go in a car with the kids, but we recently went on our year-end field trip, and had a wonderful ride in a school bus. I was really taken by the social interactions, math learning, and reading opportunities that took place on this drive.

These conversations made me think about the car games that I used to play with my parents as a child. I shared this website link with parents, but this article just highlights some examples. As you go on some summer drives in the coming months, don’t forget that learning can stem from watching your child, talking to them, and looking out the window together!

Most people know that I’m not a fan of blackline masters and activity books, so my hope is that this blog post might provide a different option for learning in July and August. I don’t want the summer to be full of homework, and there’s something to be said for the deep learning that can come from free play. Just look at this example of ours from the other day.

What do you think? What other suggestions might you add to this blog post? As summer vacation approaches, I think there’s value in giving more authentic options for summer learning.


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