One aspect of the atrium that often surprises visitors is the fact that everyone seems to know what to do! The children are very independent in the atrium. In this post and the next I'll be showing you some aspects of the environment that facilitate the children's independence. This first post looks at cleaning up.
In the atrium children know how to clean up after themselves and return materials to shelves ready for the next person. Beans are dropped and swept up, water is spilled and wiped away, polishing cloths are used, put in the laundry and replaced - all without the advice or help of an adult. This is possible because of the time we spend demonstrating these tasks for the children at the beginning of the year, and the skills the children need are often introduced and practiced in their practical life work.
Because we only see the children for a few hours each week, they sometimes need a reminder or adult help with clean up. But our goal is always to empower children to work independently and to be self directed (or Spirit directed!) as they move from activity to activity. The children themselves find it very satisfying! This arrangement also allows adults to spend their time presenting new materials to smaller groups of children and observing the children who are working.
Here are some areas of the Good Shepherd Atrium that allow the children to clean up independently:
We have no sink in our room. Instead on the left in the photo above is our water dispenser, where children and adults get the water they need for work. Water is disposed of in the bucket below. In the middle of the photo is a hand washing station for the children. On the right is a bowl for washing dishes used in atrium (such as the small bowls used in polishing, and the gluing brush and tray). There is also a towel for drying dishes hanging off to the right that I just missed in this picture!
A child-sized broom and sweeper that are used to clean up spills on the floor are kept along side the shelf above. There are practical life works designed to show the children how to use these tools and sweeping is a favorite!