As Queensland parents and children prepare for the return to school next week, Brisbane primary school teacher Kirby Egan has been busy adding the final magical touches to her classroom.
What awaits her 23 Year 2 students from St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School at Corinda is reminiscent of a scene from a childhood fairytale.
Over the past three weeks, Mrs Egan, with the help of her supportive and creative mother, has lovingly and painstakingly transformed her room into an “enchanted forest”.
A painted arched tree branch made from tube pipes and replica plants serves as the doorway into the room. Inside greenery adorns almost every wall.
A majestic canopied tree constructed from cardboard, crushed brown paper and replica plants, rises into the ceiling in one corner, while in another, a tiny machine releases a dream-like mist to create a forest atmosphere.
Sprinkled throughout the room are delightful little surprises including, fairy jars, tiny elves, gnomes and unicorns.
In the Reading Room, a tiny doorway reveals the home of the desk inspection fairy, who emerges at night to leave little notes of praise for students to find in the morning.
Each student also receives a charming welcome pack with items and messages of inspiration for the year.
(If you are a parent or family member of a St Aidan’s student going into Mrs Egan’s class this year, please try to keep the classroom a secret so that it remains a surprise for her!)
Mrs Egan says she can’t wait to see the reaction of her students when they walk into their new classroom on the first day of school on Wednesday 30 January.
“I get goosebumps thinking about it,” she laughs. “It’s the best moment.”
“Creating a welcoming and inspiring learning space just starts the year off on such a positive note. It sparks their curiosity and wonder for what the year will hold.”
Creating themed classrooms is part of Mrs Egan’s teaching DNA. She has been creating visually inspiring rooms since she took up her first primary teaching post at Townsville Grammar School nine years ago.
She started off decorating her classrooms by colour, but quickly moved on to more elaborate themes inspired by creative ideas from online sites such as Pinterest. Over the years Mrs Egan’s students have been challenged to solve mysteries as detectives. They have also travelled the globe, complete with replica passports, from the comfort of their school desks.
However, the humble independent school teacher and mother is uncomfortable being singled out for attention.
Mrs Egan says many of her colleagues also go to great lengths to make their new students feel welcome and inspired.
“One of my primary colleagues is doing a tribal-themed room this year, while another has turned her classroom into a tropical paradise. We all love doing it because we know that when our students feel safe, feel valued, feel inspired and are having fun, they’re going to achieve more during the year.”
Establish positive routines early
While recognising all families are different, Mrs Egan offers a few simple suggestions to help parents and their children settle into the new school year:
- Reassure your child that being nervous is okay because it means they care about the thing that’s giving them butterflies.
- Ensure your child has a positive bedtime routine and gets adequate sleep each night.
- Prepare bags and uniforms the night before school to avoid the mad morning rush.
- Provide a nutritious breakfast that will power them through until their first morning break.
- Talk with your child about their expectations and goals for the year across all areas of school life: academic, sporting, cultural and community service.
- Map out, with your child, their term timetable and extra-curricular commitments so they know what time they have free for homework after school and for fun and relaxation on the weekend.