Friday, November 21, 2008

Breathing Room

We started Namaste Montessori School in our home in 2004 and in the summer of 2007 moved the school out of our home into our new space. The building we purchased and renovated was basically a pole barn (metal walls and ceilings, poured concrete floors, etc) that had been used for commercial and manufacturing purposes. I'll weave the story of our school's journey into this blog as I continue to post and label it under classroom design.

Our students helped to design our new classroom space and were involved in many of the decisions we made including color, floor coverings, and playground design. One of the top items on their classroom wish list was a "Breathing Room". This is a quiet place in the classroom where one person may go to find a little space, meditate, and reflect. Some Montessori classrooms call this area a peace corner.

Our Breathing Room is actually a simple loft framed from 2x4s and plywood. The top and sides of the loft are four feet by eight feet. The railing is made from left over spindles from one of my Dad's construction jobs. We have doors and a dry erase board on the shorter end of the structure. We use the underneath part of the loft as a closet space for storing our rest mats, blankets, and sheets.

The top of the loft is carpeted. I painted the side of the loft with a mural. For those of you that love math, the mural proportions are based on the golden rectangle and the leaves represent the occurrence of the Fibonacci sequence in nature.

I believe lofts in classrooms provide children an opportunity to view the classroom from a different perspective. Although the loft area is still quite open and visable from all areas of the classroom the height creates a different experience of space and a sense of separation from the main classroom. Located in the corner, the walls and low ceiling create a sense of calmness and security. The textured red wall, green carpet, and yellow ceiling/walls create feeling of comforting earthy warmth in the space.

In the loft area we have activities that encourage reflection. On one low table we have a pile of stones (found outside on our grounds) and a set of laughing Buddhas (purchased at a Chinese import/dollar store). Children may build and arrange these items carefully exploring balance, beauty, and nature.On the wall we have a finger labyrinth designed by some of the children.

TIP: We made this labyrinth from a simple pine table top purchased at a home improvement store. After sketching the design we used a router to carve out the path. Next we finishing the project with some leftover paint and mounted it to the wall.

We also have a zen painting board. This is a board of coated rice paper mounted on black mat board. When children brush water over the paper a deep black stroke appears. The water slowly evaporates, and the stroke diappears.
In the area we also have a small bowl with two crystals on satin ribbon. Children may hold the crystals to remind them to bring love and balance into thier bodies.
Next to the crystals we have a framed print of our weekly affirmation. This week's affirmation is gratitude and we practive by saying "I bring gratitude into my heart". Our affirmations are based on a wonderful program called Angel Bear Yoga. I'll post more on this later but I also have a link on the side bar (Of Interest/Favorite Books) if you want to explore further.


Annicles said...

I just found your blog. It's gorgeous, I love it and I want my school to have the puppet making on our shelves. One question. Is dried corn a normal thing to find ind the USA? I can't find it here at all (UK!)

Anyway, I'll be back

Namaste Montessori School said...

Dried corn is pretty common here in the US. The Native Americans dried the corn as a way to store it through the winter. Today farms dry, store, and grind corn for animal feed. Since we live in a rural area we are surrounded by corn. A similar activity would be using tweezers to pull sunflower seeds from a large flower head. It is a seasonal activity since large sunflowers are not always available but it is always very popular. We'll be growing our own sunflowers next year.

Gigi said...

Beautiful loft!

Making of a Montessori Mum said...

What a gorgeous space! Well done. Id love to breath in there!

Amber said...

This is a wonderful space & has given me great food for thought about how we could incorporate a similar space in our home. Thanks for sharing! I'm looking forward to seeing more :)

Lori said...

Your peace area made me breathe just looking at it. Beautiful!!