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New Spaces Foster Play and Learning in the Early Years

New Spaces Foster Play and Learning in the Early Years

One of the most important parts of early childhood education is learning through play and experience. The ability to play and engage helps children develop essential skills in communication, motor skills, problem solving, and so much more. They are building and practicing a range of important social and emotional skills needed in life as they grow and mature.

Recently, the Early Years Program (EYP) at Silicon Valley International School (INTL) created new spaces for play and learning at the Willows Campus for preschool and pre-k. Through a combination of committee planning from teachers and summer fabrication from the hardworking maintenance staff, the ideas came to life for the young students of INTL creating new areas to learn, play, and thrive while at school. 

The new creations for the EYP include a Messy Art Space, two kitchen play areas, a space to build with blocks, and a zen garden. All the new spaces have their place in teaching young students important lessons as they learn through our inquiry-based framework that promotes discovery and creativity.

The Messy Art Space entrance sign with a rainbow border of handprints from all the teachers and staff members who made the space possibleThe new Messy Art Space was designed in response to a desire to encourage the arts outdoors and in a format that allows the children to freely express their creativity without the limits one may find indoors. The children stamp in paint, spray watercolors, splatter tempera, creating 360 degree pieces in the fresh air. This creative freedom in turn fosters independence and self-confidence. 

While conceptually created by the teachers, the new space would not have been possible without the unending support and work from the maintenance staff. The staff took an old storage area and in a matter of weeks turned it into a beautiful play space for the students to enjoy and flourish in, complete with custom plexiglass canvases, hooks to proudly showcase the art, and brand new flooring. 

Early Years students playing at their new mud kitchenIn addition to the art space, maintenance created new “kitchen” spaces for the students to play with outside. The large mud kitchen was even hand-built by our own Felipe Arballo, the Lead Facilities Associate on our Willows Campus. Mud kitchens are used to not only support sensory explorations but also immerse the students in a range of social play opportunities- playing restaurant, playing supermarket, setting up shops and more. These social play opportunities are important to our bilingual mission, building a strong oral language base and encouraging peer-to-peer interaction using everyday language.

Early Years students play at one of their two new mud kitchen sinks

The new construction and building area is a wonderful place for the students to get outside to play while learning about spatial awareness, science and math concepts, as well as building up their fine and gross motor skills. Having the large space outside gives our students the opportunity to build anything they can imagine, exploring and expressing themselves in any manner they want.

Building blocks are an essential part of play, teaching fine and gross motor skills, creativity, as well as spatial awareness

The zen fountain provides a space for Early Years students to reflect in a quiet spaceThe final new addition to the EYP space is a zen garden. The ability to sit quietly and enjoy the sounds of the fountain and the fresh air is important for the growth of the students. Quiet reflection time helps students make sense of the world and process all the information that is coming at them daily. The zen garden is the perfect place for our young students to take time for themselves which in turn helps to absorb and cement all the new things they have learned throughout the day.

In all, the new spaces for play and learning for our Early Years students are demonstrative of the power of the environment in an early years education and the importance of continually reflecting on spaces and supporting their evolution. The school is committed to this art of reflection and iteration and looks forward to continued opportunities for evolution and meaningful change.

Learn more about everything the Early Years Program has to offer at INTL by contacting admissions today!

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A bilingual International Baccalaureate education from Preschool to High School.
Chinese. French. German