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Organizing Materials for a More Settled Classroom
September 14, 2022
Organized storage that offers children clear extended choices results in more complex play and creative expressions in art or construction play.
-Jim Greenman, Caring Spaces, Learning Places

“We all want our classrooms to be organized, but this is also about children’s access to prepared environments that are interesting, spark independence and agency, and are happy and joyful places to learn. This is a right for every child and teacher," write Lisa Porter Kuh and Iris Chin Ponte, in the article central to the newest Out of the Box training, "Organizing Materials for a More Settled Classroom." Chin Ponte and Porter Kuh make a strong link from this rights-based foundation for learning to the thoughtful organization and storage of materials.

The authors invite us to visualize "someplace you would seek out because you know you would be productive and focused. What are the qualities and characteristics of this place, real or imagined?...Children need and deserve the same conditions for their creative work and learning."

They add, "If children are to access the things they want to play with and be able to put them away, we need a strategy that supports clarity and independence."

Share in the comments what you and the children in your care need to create an inspiring and settled space for joy and learning!


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Comments (3)

Displaying All 3 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · September 14, 2022
Eugene, OR, United States

PS - I think there are so many different perspectives on order and mess, especially for any work in progress by children or adults. It's not just thinking about children 'versus' adults need but all of our different styles. When it comes to environments to support children, I like to consider the balance of predictability and flexibility around storage, set up and clean up. And not have iron-clad 'rules' that shut out the chance to learn new ways of doing and thinking. Again, thanks as always for engaging and keeping our minds active!

Kirsten Haugen · September 14, 2022
Eugene, OR, United States

Amen to your final mantra, Francis. And regarding all the rest, the whole idea of Exchange, as you know, is in the name - we exchange ideas to provoke thinking and reflection and love it when people like you respond. I don't think Iris and Lisa intend for people to use reflecting on adult needs as a map for children's environments, but rather to activate empathy about the space and organization. That said, along with adequate (better yet, appropriate) pay and professional development, I increasingly believe we need to design children's environments to support both the children AND the adults. Help me find your Order in the Mess article. I would love to read it, but I looked back through 28 articles you've written for Exchange over the past 3 and a half decades (THANK YOU!!), but I don't see that one.

Francis Wardle · September 14, 2022
University of Phoenix/ Red Rocks Community College
Denver, Colorado, United States

I am not sure I totally agree with this. First, different adults have very different requirements for a place to be productive (for example, I have to have the radio on, with classical music playing). Second, as I discussed some years ago in a piece called, "the order in mess", one of our duties is to help children organize their own environments to maximize the kinds of learning they want to achieve: it's not just our job to do so. And, finally, as I continue to stress, any "rights" of children must begin with the right to have a teacher who is well paid with adequate benefits and continual, free training.

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