As children, the classroom is where we make some of our earliest memories, and teachers are some of our first heroes and role models. That's why it's so important to us to help teachers whenever we get the opportunity, even if it's in a small way, like making their classrooms just a little bit happier (i.e. more pattern!).
Recently, we were thrilled to team up with educator Kristin Klarkowski of Whittier International Elementary School in Minneapolis to help brighten her classroom and bring smiles to her students' little faces with the power of pattern. Keep scrolling to read Kristin's story, see which patterns she choose for her classroom, and why pattern, color, and shape are so important for young minds.
Hygge & West: Tell us a little bit about your background and why you wanted to become a teacher.
Kristin Klarkowski: I have been teaching for 21 years. My licenses are in Parent Education and Early Childhood. I started out teaching Parent Education, but missed interacting with young children. After getting my Early Childhood license and M.A., I began working in the classroom with preschool age children. Currently I am working for an intervention program designed to give inner-city young learners a boost prior to entering kindergarten. Many of my students are learning English and are the bravest, most adorable little people. I wanted to become a teacher years ago because I loved working with young children.
H&W: What's the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
KK: The most rewarding part of my job having the opportunity to build close relationships with my students and watching how much they change throughout the school year. My students are like little sponges! It is so fun to watch them grow and learn. The most challenging part of my job is seeing children who struggle with trauma. I have been seeing more and more of my students who have experienced some sort of trauma in their short, little lives and it makes me feel helpless and so very sad.
H&W: You used several of our patterns in your classroom this year: Otomi (Red), Cities Toile (Parchment), Daydream (Sunshine), and Dog Park (Gray). What drew you to each of these patterns and colorways, how did you use them in your space, and how have the kids reacted to them?
KK: I recently traveled to Norway and Sweden and found that the Otomi pattern reminded me of some patterns I saw throughout that trip. The bold red adds such a great vibe when I see it in my classroom.
Cities Toile is perfect for my classroom because I work at an IB world school. We talk about being part of a large world and the Cities Toile shows my students drawings of beautiful structures around the world.
Daydream is just exactly what it's named; a great opportunity to look at it and simply dream. I love the color of the blue clouds and the contrasting yellow birds. My students comment on it as they wait in line to wash their hands each morning when they arrive.
I love Dog Park in Gray; it lines our shelves and is near our art table. The color is neutral and students love to comment on the different types of dogs. I have a Boston Terrier and they often refer to the drawing in the wallpaper as my dog, Hank.
H&W: What role do pattern and color play in childhood imagination and learning? Why are they such important teaching tools?
KK: Great question! Color and shape are ways young children observe and categorize what they see. These very recognizable characteristics encourage children to define and organize the diverse world around them. Understanding color and shape is a tool to learning many skills in all areas, from math and science, to language and reading, and of course, creative arts.
H&W: Hygge is a Danish concept of coziness and comfort found in life's small pleasures and simple joys. What brings hygge to your world, especially during the autumn when you're heading back to school?
KK: I work in the same space each day and spend more time in my classroom than in my own home; the addition of your wallpaper has given me a fresh and comforting space. Usually teachers are limited to what we can do to create a wonderful environment. I also have live plants throughout the classroom to add some hygge. Lastly, in autumn I think the smell of brewing tea brings a wonderful sense of hygge, along with a good book and soft blanket.