"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Monday, February 13, 2012

How to Lure Them In

I had the distinct honor of being able to spend a week at Stanford University's Bing Nursery School during the summer of 2010. During that time I was able to learn about their philosophy, speak with the nursery school teachers, and view their amazing environment. 

One thing that really struck me was the care and thought that went into setting up the environment each day in such a way as to draw the children to it. They call these provocations. The way I describe the provocation set-up is providing enough materials to set a foundation for discovery, but open-ended enough not to dictate a specific result or product. After returning to my preschool I began setting up my own provocations to entice the children to check out the materials and get those creative juices flowing. These are some of the provocations I have set up in my classroom.

Note: These are ideas and suggested materials. Children are always able and encouraged to pull additional materials from the classroom into their creativity. 

The provocation is always aesthetically pleasing and often incorporates natural materials such as baskets, wooden materials, flowers, etc.

A variety of skin tone paper dolls were available with a variety
of pants, shirts, and dresses. Also available were glue, crayons, 
and a variety of hair color choices (pictured below).

Provocations for the Science Area encourage children
to come over, touch things, look closely, and just check
it out for themselves. This included a clock with a 
different bird call each hour, bird nest, magnifying glass,
owl puppet, guide books, and posters.

This part of the Science area included a sound machine with a
variety of bird calls, a print, bird houses, a variety of bird feathers,
bird images, and a tiny nest.

A variety of materials available in complimentary colors: 
colored yarn, pompom balls, colored popsicle sticks,
tape, glue, blue and orange paper.

Our Dramatic Play area was a restaurant:
plaid tablecloth with clear plastic cover, square wooden plates,
wooden/velcro pizza set, wooden bowls with red (tomato) and
green (lettuce) foam cubes, cups, and napkins.

This was the art setup during our first mini-day of school.
Each child was encouraged to create a masterpiece: 
small cardboard box/bases, ribbons, paint-chip samples, 
packing peanuts, mini tiles, tape, glue.

Art Area: Still Life Art
Sunflowers, art paper matted on brown and green papers,
paint colors in flowers: green, brown, and yellow and clear 
bowls of water for brush rinsing.

On this day I had different sunflowers that didn't have the brown centers. Art paper matted on brown paper, but this time only yellow and green paint. The kids quickly noticed that the flowers didn't have brown centers and that there were only two colors of paint. Keen observers!!

Try out provocations and see if you notice a difference in your little ones' interest level. 


  1. Well done Miss Barbara! I love all your photos and ideas. What did you use for the bird calls in the science area? Keep up the great work!

    1. I have a sound machine that has various settings: ocean, rainstorm, heartbeat, rain forest, etc. I had it set to rain forest, so I guess we had tropical bird calls.

  2. I love this. Something I need to set up in my classroom. Thank you for the wonderful pictures. This gives me many ideas!

  3. Thanks, Tonya. It really has changed the amount of interest and level of enthusiasm and curiosity with my kiddos. It does take a little more effort, but when you have it set up and step back, it gives you satisfaction, as well as drawing in the children. It's a win/win. I do often take pics of the provocations, as you can tell. That helps me when I'm feeling stuck for ideas to be able to give one a new twist or reminds me to try one we haven't done for awhile.

  4. These are all great ideas. I am a Pre-K teacher and I will be
    trying all these ideas in my classroom. Thanks so much for
    the wonderful help.

    1. You're more than welcome, Jayne. I love visiting new places and getting ideas from there, from friends, and from online and since I love it so much, I feel privileged to share them with others. Be sure to check out our Facebook page, as well. I have lots of photos of things we've done in our classroom on there, as well as photos of lots of programs I've been able to visit.

  5. Some great ideas. Thank you for sharing. I am curious about the first picture. I noticed the items were already cut out for the children. Did you have any students showing an interest in cutting out their own clothing?

    1. The clothes and bodies were pre-cut, as you noted. I did have some children who chose to cut out their own clothing items and some used what was offered and added their own twist to them. It was up to them how they wanted to dress and decorate their images. Thanks for the feedback!