Considering Space for Christian Formation
Take a look at the big picture of your facilities and your education and formation ministries. Spend some time with an open mind and open heart. Plan for the future and what might be. It is important to do everything possible to make all available space conducive for learning for all users and ages.
Make a list of all the primary users groups of each space. Look at the space and ask:
- How many children (youth, adults) are there per class / meeting?
- What are their ages?
- What are their developmental needs for space?
- What accessibility needs do they have? (ramps, elevator, signs, bathroom, exits)
- Are there lots of tables and other furniture in the space that could be moved to allow for more room for movement?
- Are there lots of doors? Close some off if this will not be a threat to safety.
- Are there any big or bulky chairs or fixed seats? Move those out and move in smaller, movable chairs. Or move out all the chairs and use the floor, if appropriate for the group.
Planning the meeting space:
- Small children need small chairs that do not fold and small tables (coffee tables work!).
- Children also need rooms without fancy rugs so that glitter and paint can be used with abandon.
- Adding lights or using brighter bulbs makes a room more cheerful and cuts down on eyestrain. Clean windows help, too!
- Painting rooms white, ivory, or an eggshell make them brighter and friendlier. Bright colors can be over stimulating to young children.
- Rug scraps (ask your local carpet store for discontinued samples) and big pillows can be arranged to make a cozy-corner for children.
- Collect posters from organizations that focus on the needs of the world and old wall calendars that can be mounted on poster board and “framed” with a contrasting color of poster board.
- Children prefer large, indoor classrooms that allow social participation.
- Classrooms with older children, youth, and adults should avoid seating in rows. A circle of chairs or a grouping around a table encourages two-way communication.
- Floors of rooms used by children should be clean, unslippery, smooth, and free from cracks, splinters, sharp or protruding objects, and other safety hazards. Those in direct contact with the ground should have flooring impenetrable by water.
- All steam and water pipes and radiators should be protected by permanent screen guards, insulations, or any other suitable device which prevents a child from coming in contact with them.
- Room temperatures should be maintained at not less than 68 degrees Fahrenheit at zero Fahrenheit outside and not more than the outside temperature when the temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The basic classroom should have at least 72 sq. ft. of windows for natural light.
- Infants (to one year) – 20 sq. ft. per child with an adult/child ratio of 1 to 4 with at least 2 adults always present. Optimum group size: 8-12
- Toddlers (1-2 years) – 35 sq. ft. per child with an adult/child ratio of 1 to 4 with at least 2 adults always present. Optimum group size: 16
- Preschool (2, 3, 4 years) – 35 sq. ft. per child with an adult/child ratio of 1 to 6 with at least 2 adults always present. Optimum group size: 16
- Kindergarten (5 or 6 years) – 35 sq. ft. per child with an adult/child ratio of 1 to 8 with at least 2 adults always present. Optimum group size: 20
- Elementary (6-12 years) – 25-30 sq. ft. per child with an adult/child ration of 1-10 with at least 2 adults always present. Optimum groups size: 20
- Youth (13-18 years) – 20-30 sq. ft. per youth with an adult/youth ration of 1-10 with 2 adults always present. Optimum group size: 20
- Adults (19+ years) – 20-25 sq. ft. per person with group size and leadership varying according to methodology.
Interesting thoughts for consideration:
- Thirty-five square feet per child is a 5′ x 7′ space, a little over twice the dimensions of the average playpen.
- Minimum standards for prisons require more than 35 square feet per prisoner.
- The average child’s room at home is about 120 square feet; allowing 40 sq. ft. for furniture leaves a remaining floor space of 80 sq. ft. for play.
- The typical amount of office space allocated for moderate size offices and circulation is 100 sq. ft. per person.
* Adult/Child ratios and room size/sq. ft. per child are based on regulations from the California Department of Education, the Massachusetts Department of Education, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.