Learning through the game: CPES Imagination Lab – Reporter discovers Shelby County

By Emily Sparazino | HR writer

CHELSEA – Chelsea Park Elementary School teacher Sarah Cooley believes in the benefits of learning to play for children.

Therefore, Cooley, who teaches first grade, wanted to provide more students in CPES a certain space for activities that promote creativity, imagination and collaborative play.

“I’ve always been a big supporter of game learning and played a lot of games in my classroom every day,” Cooley said. “I wanted to do that for all of our K-2s.”

Last year, Cooley shared his idea of ​​creating a game-based learning space with his administrators, nervous, but hoping they would support it and they did too.

“I was really just encouraged by my administration,” he said. “Play is something that is difficult to maintain during our school day because we have teachers who are responsible for their performance. Our administrators understand how valuable play is in a child’s development.”

After getting permission to use the spare room that the school used for storage, Kuli made her own plans.

“I’ve always known that the universe has potential,” Cooley said. She immediately began exploring gaming houses and art and STEM activities so she could enter the space, which she called the Laboratory of Imagination.

The Imagination Lab consists of four main play areas: Believe (play and dressing area); Arts and Creativity; Lego wall and excessive building blocks; and STEM building selection baths (K’Nex, Magformers, Magnetiles and Rock Blocks).

The one-tier structure of the game from Imagine! Playhouses, a Cooley company in Georgia appeared on the internet.

Half of the structure has a cafe and game kitchen, where students pretend to prepare and serve food at the restaurant. The other half looks like a house.

“It took the longest time to put up this game structure,” Cooley said. “We’re excited about it.”

In the field of art and creativity, students can create things with paper, pencils, paints, scents and other accessories.

“They can use their imagination and create anything they want,” Cooley said. “It was the most popular station. The kids love it.”

The building area contains 16 types of materials with which students can build small and large objects.

Cooley said a Nick Grant from Chelsea has been awarded a CPES for the Imagination Laboratory, which has funded a large portion of the $ 20,000 project.

State Sen. Dan Roberts and Attorney Corley Ellis also funded the bill.

With the help of her husband, Cooley designed and assembled much of the space himself.

“The game house came in in January, but there were so many details that I wanted in the space as well,” he said. “I have a story wall that really inspires a sense of space.”

Kuli even hung small books and skeletal keys from the ceiling so they looked like floats.

“I felt like someone from HGTV,” he said with a laugh. “The children encouraged me. I could say that their excitement increased as we approached. It was a work of heart and love, and it was a joy to be together. ”

Kindergarten, first, and second graders come to the fantasy lab once a week.

When students communicate with each other in the lab, they practice communication skills, problem solving, and conflict resolution.

“It really makes kids talk and collaborate,” Cooley said. “They learn from each other through all this communication. It was great to see their work. ”

Cooley said there are plans for older students at CPES to work with volunteers at the Imagination lab to help with the game and help keep it clean and organized.

“We’re trying to figure out a way for them to participate because it’s part of their school and they’re also proud of the lab,” he said.

Cooley said creating the Imagination lab was one of the most exciting things he has done during his 14 years as a teacher.

“I hoped everyone loved it and they really loved it,” Cooley said. “We’re just happy to have it in our school. I know that after retirement, it will be here and the kids will still use it. It’s a wonderful feeling. “

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