Take your situations… and turn them into learning

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We are renovating the outdoor space in our Early Explorers area. Because of a number of practical issues, the work is being done while we are at school.

This is obviously quite a disturbance, and also has an impact on the space that is available to the students for outside play.

This could be very annoying and could be a cause of stress to teachers… and therefore to students too.

However, all situations that come up around us can easily be opportunities to learn – if we allow them to be. We can choose to be unhappy about such things – like bad weather, powercuts, big events, things not working, disturbances, distractions, unforeseen circumstances etc… or we can choose to make them part of the learning. Very often, these opportunities lead to much powerful learning than we could ever have planned for!

This week, our Early Explorers teachers “lifted the curtain” on the construction work that is going on in their playground. Not only were the students fascinated by it, they were also invited to help out! So, suddenly you have a group of four-year-olds rendering a real building, using real tools and real materials. The man supervising the construction was so excited about this that he is going to continue to look for simple, safe ways that the students can be a part of the construction work.”They are the next generation of adults” he said, clearly imagining a whole group of young architects or builders in the next twenty years!

Naturally, the experience has provoked all sorts of play, art and questions in the Early Explorers classrooms… and teachers are planning many ways to take them further.

So, next time there’s a thunderstorm… open the windows and see how your students react. Next time something breaks your routine or disrupts your usual plans… run with it. See what effect it has on the learning… a different type of learning than the one you had in mind! As you become more comfortable with this, perhaps… in the future… you might start actively seeking these opportunities.

Oh… and p.s… this doesn’t only apply to early years teachers.


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  1. Jenna

    This is a great article Sam and it’s true. Whats real to the children is what is right in front of them. This construction has been a big change for us and sometimes a change is as good as a holiday. We have had to think of alternatives and explore new spaces to allow children to have the opportunity to move and burn of energy which is absolutely essential to children’s development.

    • sherrattsam

      “what’s real to children is whats right in front of them” – I love this sentence… and it provokes me to write a posting that is going through my head at the moment about how patronizing we are when we say things like “in the real world” and “when you get out into the real world”.

  2. caseybucheler

    The building site has been one of the best provocations! The students observational drawings, their questions and the absolute delight on the faces when lifting the curtain has truly connected us to this project…I wonder what will happen next…I can’t sleep at night because I’m so excited and my thoughts are bubbling…

    • sherrattsam

      … and that will transmit to the students. We need to be just as excited about the learning as our students. If we’re not, they probably aren’t either!

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  4. Hilaa Mukaddam (@HilaaMukaddam)

    Excellent idea giving them a real life experience! We all learn through our experiences and reflection on those.

    We just started a unit along the lines of change and adaptation in Pre-K. We will mostly work around weather but today we did change the classroom layout and it was amazing listening to their comments. It was wonderful to see them helping each other to find things around the room.

    • sherrattsam

      Cool provocation idea – so you changed things around when they had gone home and then observed their reactions when they came in the next day? Were they happy with the changes?

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