Sandra Duncan: Classroom Containers as Invitations

This year at the NAEYC Annual Conference I had the delight of meeting Sandra Duncan. It was exciting because I love her book Inspiring Spaces for Young Children.

Sandra is such an inspiration!  I asked her to inspire us at my 2017 Winter Conference.

She said she wanted to share an amazing perspective shift in her session. Here’s a sneak preview!

Ready?!   You may think we use containers in our classrooms to hold things, to tote things . . . you know. . . contain all of those loose parts.

But Sandra challenges that notion. She asserts that is not the true purpose of containers.


Hum.  So what is the purpose of classroom containers?


Sandra asserts the purpose of a container is to attract children to its contents!

Do you hear what I hear?   I am so hearing “the third teacher” being put to work.


Think about it.

What if you looked at each container in your classroom and asked yourself:

“Is this container an invitation to explore?  create?  construct?”

“What does this container invite?”


In the Winter Conference, Sandra will share her 4-step framework to containers that are invitations.  She brings this perspective alive with oodles of amazing photos that demonstrate how a container can call children to it’s contents.  This is not only a practical application of the third teacher – it is transformational!

Join us at the 2017 Winter Conference!

And in the meantime. . .

Take this action step!   Survey your classroom containers.  Which ones invite?  Which ones are just holders and totes?

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  1. Sue Penix says:

    I love Sandra Duncan’s approaches to the environment and learning. Sandra’s perspectives on the environment as an invitation for children are totally age and developmentally appropriate. She brings an energy to thinking about how we as early educators should view the environment as the third teacher. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Sandra over the last couple of years and collaborated with her while she conducted research for an article she wrote.

    • Sally says:

      So well put! She does bring a special energy to thinking about our environments. What joy it must have been to have collaborated with her! She was instantly warm and welcoming when I approached her about the conference. I was beyond impressed!

  2. Bety says:

    This is wonderful! You might also like this post by Sandra with even more ideas:
    Have fun and keep learning!

    • Sally says:

      Love it! Thank you so much for sharing!!

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