Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Cloud Room

Across the hall from our new main classroom, which I showed you yesterday, there is a much larger space that we're calling "The Cloud Room," named for the whimsically painted wall at the back of the stage at the far end of the room.

That's right: a stage, with working curtains no less, a backstage area and the ability to enter or exit from stage right or left. Not only that, but there's a small window in the wings through which performers can be handed props and whatnot during performances. It's true, actually, that we had a "stage" in the old place as well, and we loved it, although it wasn't a proper stage like this, but rather a narrow raised platform that had originally been the ambo (I think that's the work I'm looking for) of a small chapel.

Not only that, but The Cloud Room has an actual dance floor that was installed a decade or so ago by a youth theater group that once used the space for rehearsals. And to top it off, along one wall are hung mirrors, making it a more than functional preschool performing arts space.

The Cloud Room is ours during school hours, but we share it with others during the rest of the week. I know this is common practice in many preschools, but it's a first for me and I internally bridled about it in the beginning, wondering just how we could, with our big, bold way of spreading out, make that work, but after a few months of getting used to the idea, I've come to actually think I prefer that it's shared. It forces a kind of mental tidiness on me that I've not been compelled to in the past, one that will guarantee that we start each day in here with a kind of blank slate, or at least one physically wiped clean for the next day.

We started last week by putting some costumes in there, along with stick ponies, and a collection of our leftover moving boxes. My idea, my expectation, my adult agenda is that the room, being so perfectly set up for creative play, being so open and expansive, even endless when you consider all those mirrors, is that it will boost our storytelling, dramatic, musical, dance and other creative play into the stratosphere. In anticipation of this, we're calling the parent-teacher who works in there each day, "The Drama Parent."

It's an indoor space where I want us to feel free to be loud, to use our whole bodies, to fully engage, to be able to run and not worry so much about bumping into the other people. Sasha and Sena donned costumes and spent an hour playing a story that involved sitting on clouds, finding treasure, and going to the office, barely sticking their noses into what I'm stubbornly thinking of as the "main classroom," but suspect will soon be known simply as "The Yellow Room" as more and more of what we do shifts into this truly wonderful place. Sylvia and Violet lead a team of younger children on pony rides around and around the room. Jody, Finn and Grey could not get enough of opening and closing the stage curtains. Rex could hardly move from place to place without watching himself in those mirrors from the corners of his eyes. Kiran built a train from the boxes. And this was just our first two days, just our 3-5's class, our slow start, our initial foray as a community into our new home. I can't wait to see what we do as we get comfortable.

What an amazing opportunity "The Cloud Room" is for us. I'm going to keep trotting out those boxes until we've used them up. I can see we'll be wanting a few more costumes in there -- Sena asked for more hats, which we can accommodate, believe me. And along with the hats, I'll probably break out our big book copy of Caps For Sale, with its monkies saying "Tsz, tsz, tsz."

Sylvia's mom Toby has suggested we occasionally set up a "writer's workshop" in there, in which the kids tell stories to be performed (or not) on stage. For the first time in the history of our school (or at least during my tenure) we have a space conducive to using recorded music (our former space had significant acoustical challenges). For the same reason, I'm highly motivated to greatly enhance our collection of musical instruments. Think of the dancing we can do together with those mirrors in which to watch ourselves. And I can't even begin to image how The Cloud Room will shape our annual Pre-K play.

I'm excited about the possibilities The Cloud Room opens to us. But here's the problem: with our terrific, tidy new classroom, our incredible outdoor classroom, the pending new teaching garden (perhaps even with a green house) we are hoping to create on the west side of the building, and The Cloud Room, we really don't have enough hours in our day. 

Can you tell I'm more than a little excited about the new school?

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Deborah said...

That is a super cool space! I love the cloud room stage - this leads to some terrific opportunities for using imagination.

Aunt Annie said...

Okay, Tom... I am SOOOOOOO JEALOUS of that space! 8-D What a brilliant area for dramatic play, dance, science (add some freestanding mirrors and you can have infinite reflections)... OOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!

Scott said...

As I saw the picture of the space, my first thought was about the Pre-K Play. I can hardly wait to see what this space yields.