Imagine if every time you needed to learn a lesson or skill, you were able to immerse yourself in that environment and live the experience as you learned it. Our newest Real Kid-Smart expert does just that for each of the children in her 2nd grade class. Take a peek inside her inspiring methods!
Name: Sian Thornton
School, City & State: Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Surrey, United Kingdom
Years Teaching: 4 Years
Grades: 2nd Grade/Year 2 (6-7 year olds)
In 2013, the school introduced the innovative concept of an Immersive Suite and a whole new style of learning.
WHAT IS AN IMMERSIVE SUITE, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
The Immersive Suite provides children with an opportunity to learn in a completely different way, in an exciting environment that plays with the standard classroom space.
Lessons start off by immersing the children in the environment that the teacher has set up using computer-driven imagery, visuals and audio to create an interactive, sensory learning experience.
Children are stimulated by the images, colours, sights and sounds of the world, offering a beautiful enhancement to cross-curricular learning.
They truly forget that they are in school and not, for example, on board a flight to South America.
HOW HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE ENHANCED THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
Children can now go to the moon with Neil Armstrong, travel back in time to a Victorian workhouse, explore the ocean with sea creatures - the possibilities are quite literally endless.
These dynamic lessons impact students’ work and enable significant progress. Children who are usually difficult to motivate come alive in the suite.
The Immersive Suite has also provided some fantastic lessons for children with Special Educational Needs, who benefit from its sensory nature. We invite children in from a local Special School each week and it is delightful to see their reactions to their environment.
WHAT HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE TAUGHT YOU ABOUT THE TEACHING EXPERIENCE, AND HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED YOUR METHODS TO THIS ALTERNATIVE SPACE?
Seeing the children respond so positively to a space that contrasts with the traditional, restrictive classroom environment has made me change my whole classroom!
Each topic we cover now has a dedicated area in the classroom where children can go to immerse themselves.
When we learn about the moon landing. I spend an evening with a colleague covering the whole area in aluminum foil, and it becomes a space station.
When we learn about The Great Fire of London the area is transformed into Pudding Lane Bakery. They pretend to run the bakery, and especially like the drama they can create when they pretend it has caught on fire!
Best of all the children are more interested in the topics and often come into school with extra research to share and display in the area.
THERE ARE THREE PARTS TO THE KID-SMART SPACES PHILOSOPHY:
- The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.
- Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success.
- Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.
WHICH RESONATES WITH YOU MOST, AND HOW DO YOU SHARE IT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE?
I believe that ‘every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life’ is a great philosophy to have.
As a teacher, you get to know students so well, and you are made aware of those whose home lives are far from beautiful. Creating a comforting, exciting, positive environment for these children is essential to ensure that they are able to spend a significant portion of their day in a happy place.
A positive learning environment makes a positive learner, and if you can foster that in a child with some tinfoil and a cardboard space rocket then you absolutely should!
WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST SPACIAL CHALLENGE, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME OR MITIGATE IT?
It’s finding the ways to fit in the ‘essentials’ as well as the extra, exciting things to my classroom – like the cardboard boxes that have been made in to a bakery oven or an Egyptian pyramid!
I’m learning to manage clutter better, but as long as I have a keen eye for creative learning then I think it’ll always be a work in progress.
WHAT'S THE NUMBER ONE LESSON OR TIP YOU'D LIKE TO PASS ALONG TO FELLOW EDUCATORS ABOUT CREATING A KID-SMART CLASSROOM?
Keep it budget friendly! I (and every other teacher I know) could spend a fortune of their own money on things for their classroom, and I definitely have over the years.
Working with a low budget can make it difficult to buy lots of new and exciting things for your learning environment, but there are ways around it. Thrift shops or eBay…there are so many ways to make your classroom environment more exciting without breaking the bank.
Decide to make it a part of your teaching style and you won’t ever go back to a ‘normal’ classroom again!