Turn Your Classroom into Discovery Place!

Fill your Classroom Discovery Place with simple, colorful inviting items.

Fill your Classroom Discovery Place with simple, colorful inviting items.

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

Daily routines are mandatory for classroom management in any grade, but by the end of the school year or term, routines can become boring, sapping energy out of teachers and students alike!

Why not “break away” for part of a school day and turn students loose in your Classroom Discovery Place!

A Discovery Place doesn’t have to be fancy or require a lot of work to design and prepare for student use.

Follow these basic steps to set up a Discovery Place:

1) Select and clear part of a table or one bookshelf or a chair to hold items that students can “discover” for fun and learning.

2) Choose items to put in your Discovery Place. Use what you have at hand, including items in your classroom that have gotten little use this term and items “hanging around” at home. Discovery Place can help you model environmental stewardship! Re-use what you can, like broken bits of costume jewelry, instead of throwing them out. (See more suggested items below)

3) Write note cards with activities kids can do with items they find in Discovery Place.

4) Leave activity cards (see suggested activities below) and some blank cards (for kids to write their own activity plans) in a basket in Discovery Place.

5) Make a Discovery Place poster to designate the area.

6) Cover Discovery Place with a large piece of fabric and attach a Please Do Not Disturb sign to the fabric. This may catch kids’ attention; good! You’ll create interest in the new addition to your classroom before you even introduce it to the class.

When you’re ready, unveil your Classroom Discovery Place with a fanfare! Play music. Ask a student volunteer to help you remove the Please Do Not Disturb sign to reveal Discovery Place. Tell your class that you’ve added something new to the room to give it a fresh feeling as the end of the school term draws near.

Demonstrate the way you hope students will use Discovery Place with connections to your curriculum. For example…

…Science – Pick up a cardboard scrap that you’ve put in your Discovery Place. Tell the class that they can choose to re-use found objects, like the cardboard scraps as part of their environmental education.

Elaborate on this opportunity with your own narrative; here’s mine. I recently showed a class a big round piece of cardboard I found over a weekend at a home improvement store. It was on the ground near the pine straw truck and the store employee nodded his okay when I inquired about taking the big circle home. I told my class that I planned to turn the big cardboard circle into a giant clock to use for storytelling time.

Tuck story starter cards in an old felt bag in your Classroom Discovery Place.

Tuck story starter cards in an old felt bag in your Classroom Discovery Place.

…Writing – Pull a story starter card out of an old felt bag that you found in a closet. Hold the card up and suggest to the class that they can stop by Discovery Place to find good ideas for writing.

…Reading – Pick up an old book that you’ve put in your Discovery Place. Share the pleasure of tapping into one’s family history by bringing an old book to class – maybe one that you found hidden in an old box in the attic or a loved one’s home.

Engage students’ interest with your own personal narrative. For example, I have my grandmother’s book of poetry on a shelf next to my desk. It was a gift to her from my great-grandfather. My students’ eyes grow big when I tell them how old this book is. Then I challenge them to find the oldest book in their own home. I ask students to write down the title, author, publisher, year of publication, and if possible, borrow the book to bring to school. This book-based activity in Discovery Place is a great way to help third – fifth graders make a connection with history and social studies.

Tell students that Discovery Place belongs to the whole class! Invite them to bring items to add to what’s already there. Keep it simple. In a world full of distractions, it sometimes seems that children today (and adults) are too busy to pause and savor simple but special discoveries together. When we do, we can help children develop the ability to pay attention.

Suggested Items for Discovery Place to get started:

  • pieces of cardboard 
  • found natural objects like feathers, pebbles, rocks, etc.
  • scraps of fabric and ribbon
  • yarn
  • scissors, crayons, glue
  • scraps of construction paper
  • notebook paper
  • small used gift bags
  • odd game pieces
  • old magazines
  • old photos
  • old ice trays

Suggested Activity Cards for Discovery Place to get started:

1. Cut out a cardboard circle or square. Glue small pebbles to the shape to make pebble art. Punch a hole at the top to hang up the art.

Invite kids to pick out the smallest pebbles and stones they can find to glue to a cardboard shape to make pebble art.

Invite kids to pick out the smallest pebbles and stones they can find to glue to a cardboard shape to make pebble art.

2. Make cardboard animal sculptures. Draw an animal shape on a piece of cardboard. Cut out the legs as separate pieces from the body, head and tail of the animal. Fold the four end of the legs at their tops to make tabs. Tape the leg tabs to the body, two on one side, two on the other. Stand up the animal sculpture.

3. Make a montage that tells a story with old photos. Cut and glue photos to blank pieces of paper, leaving room for writing between the pictures. Write captions for the photos that create a story sequence – a challenge! (for grades 3 – 5)

4. Cut small squares from old magazines and separate the pieces by color, keeping them in ice tray compartments. Draw picture on a blank piece of construction paper. Fill in the sections of the picture by gluing paper squares in place, choosing colors to make the picture realistic or fantastic.

5. Cut out a paper sun, planets and moons in the Solar System using different colors of construction paper. Glue them to a large piece of paper showing their distance from the sun. Optional: Follow the same steps but make an imaginary solar system.

6. Cut pieces of yarn and glue them to a piece of construction paper to make a picture. For example, bend the yarn to form the shape of a person.

You may already have a learning center in your classroom similar to Discovery Place. If so, add any items and activities you like in this post to “jazz up” your center and spark new interest in it. I’d love to get a comment about your Discovery Place.

Challenge students to make their own Discovery Places at home, like natural science museum coordinator, Albert Ervin, did as a child. Vacation time or term break is a perfect time to discover this…

…The  joy of learning is to know that when we take time to stop, look and listen to the world around us, we can make new discoveries every day. Doing so trains the brain to be alert, pay attention, and be open to what’s new – all important skills for the 21st century!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Stop back Wednesday for a new Mid-Week Focus.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet




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Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Young students are getting noisy while you’re trying to teach.

Solution: Hold up "Listen Star," a toy magic wand that you’ve designated to be a cue for quiet. Tell the class, "When you see our friend, 'Listen Star' dance across the classroom sky, that’s your signal to HUSH for a moment."

Related Posts: Let "Listen Star" Work Magic for You