I started my career in education as a Prekindergarten teacher. Working in early elementary, fostering foundational skills that students will utilize throughout their educational career and later in life, has guided my instruction and continued learning. A few years ago a good friend of mine began her teaching career in the same setting. Sarah is now in her third year as a Prekindergarten teacher and she’s seemed like a pro from the start. This year a personal goal of hers was to change the dramatic play environment throughout the school year so that her students could “change their stories.” The early childhood dramatic play learning center… It’s not only a mouthful to say, it’s a wealth of opportunity to foster student storytelling, vocabulary development, and social-emotional skills.
This week Sarah transformed her dramatic play learning center into a space station and “mini-planetarium.” I’ve honestly heard about the transformation and the effect it’s had on her students throughout the week. Every student has taken a turn in the learning space and students are coming to school wearing t-shirts with spaceships and stars. The typical dramatic play furniture has been utilized in new ways. The fridge was turned on its side to serve as a bench, but students have also used it as an alien examination table. The dining table is covered in black butcher paper and paper stars are attached to the underside for students to imagine an illuminated sky. The stove is now a foil and Saran covered control station; the knobs are serving a new purpose.
The change in the dramatic play learning center has also influenced the materials found throughout the room. The science and discovery learning center now has a “moon rock” discovery station and Orbeez sensory experience. The library is filled with fiction and nonfiction books about objects in the sky and student-written work includes stories about birthday parties on the moon, life as an astronaut, and families taking a trip on a rocket.
What can we take away from this? Investing a little bit of time in planning and execution can lead to a lot of expected and unexpected learning opportunities.
Interested in learning more: Vygotskian perspectives on using dramatic play to enhance children’s development and balance creativity with structure in the early childhood classroom