Heading into the 2020-21 school year, the Preschool team developed an idea to bring "Tiny House Nation" to Far Hills. The teachers shared a read-aloud recording of the book The Big Orange Splot via email with all preschool students the week before school started. The Big Orange Splot, written by Daniel Pinkwater, is about a neat street where all the houses look the same. After one man's realization that having a unique home makes his neighborhood a better place, each house transforms to look and feel like its inhabitants. This message of uniqueness was brought to our preschool classrooms this year as we introduced our very own preschool village made up of unique tiny houses for each of our preschoolers.
On the first day of school, we read the book aloud again, hoping to inspire creativity for the next few weeks/months to come as the preschoolers begin their hard work to design their houses. The intention of the individual homes for the preschoolers was multilayered. We wanted to build additional excitement for our students to come to school every day or calm their nerves if they were new to Far Hills or anxious to start the year.
The houses served to keep the children socially-distanced in the classroom to align with COVID-19 safety protocols. Additionally, the houses functioned as a continually-evolving, student-led creative/independent project as each student transformed their home into something unique. As a result, students defined their artistic voices and created a safe space that was meaningful to them. Our preschool students made castles, a police station, a gingerbread house, and a mountain, to name a few.
The houses stayed until the winter holiday break when students could bring them home if they chose. The classrooms have since transformed back into a more normalized preschool room. This project allowed students to feel a sense of pride and ownership as their plain, neat houses became better-designed exemplifications of themselves.