5S with a Twist – Implementation in Preschool (Kent State CDC)

[tweetmeme source=”leanisgood” service=”ow.ly” only_single=false]Many years ago my wife began her career as a lead teacher in a preschool classroom on the campus of Kent State University. A few weeks before school was to begin she was shown her room. I received a phone call and through her tears I realized she needed help in cleaning up and getting ready to start her own classroom. I figured I will take a few days off and we will knock this out. As usual I was wrong. The room was great. A relatively new building, air conditioned lots of windows, an office, a separate observation room with one way glass and the room had microphones so people can observe and listen but not intrude in the classroom. This is a research school so many people come and go, parents, college students, and others doing research. As we walked through, I began to see what my wife was seeing lots and lots of toys, games, materials, furniture, more stuff than you would ever need! That’s good right? Then we noticed this room was different than all of the rest we had been through as we were looking for ideas on what to do. It had an odd shape. It was a large square, much less storage, no natural work areas. It was going to be a challenge to implement what my wife terms as “marketplaces”, areas that capture a child’s interest and imagination.

The only thing I could come up with was to try what I was just getting into at work. We had started our TPM program and had been doing some cellular manufacturing. I started into my lecture of 5S and work flow and all the things it could bring to the classroom and how great this was going to be and I am rattling off the Japanese methods until I looked at my wife…she kindly smiled and asked how it applies to her and her classroom? So we set out to 5S her classroom.


We started with the usual sorting process with piles of things that preschoolers use. I did not tag as I would have at work, just the two of us did not seem to be needed. I did find it was fun doing this with my wife. She was a natural at these processes. We soon found many broken items, items that made no sense and things that at this point she did not know what to do with. As each item was held up for viewing I would ask “What value is this to the Child?” That phrase resonated for days as we went through this process. Soon a more manageable group of appropriate materials were left.


Looking at the room there was a need to set up marketplaces that would pull the children in and set the order for those areas. This became like doing work piece flow but for children. We looked at how they flow through the room, what would keep their flow at a reasonable pace and what would grab them to these special spots. In order to not be influenced by what the room had been we removed all of the furniture. With everything making a mess in the hallway we had a clean slate to work with. We would set furniture and would walk through as we would expect the children would. This process repeated many times over until we thought we had it. I had been reflecting on the day I had at work while were doing this. One of the issues we had in a work cell could have been prevented if we had listened to the operator and walked in his shoes for the process we were implementing. Well it hit me I am 5’6”, not a giant but not 3’ tall either. We had made this room really great for adults but what about the people who the room is for? How did it work for them? Not very well as I did the same flow through the room on my knees. We eventually got it but my knees still hurt to this day.


My wife and I discussed that the room needs to be able to be cleaned and in some systematic way. We went back to make some things easier, shadow boards, photos of toys in the proper location. Children needed to be responsible for cleaning as well as the adults. It had to be visual and in a routine. One important point my wife made was the room needed to be clean, beautiful, and inviting. It had to reflect who lives there. The upper wall near the ceiling has poster boards with the children’s photos and a self portrait. That is what you and the children see when entering the room. The items they are picking up have touches that show they belong to them. The traditional wooden building blocks have the children photos on them as well as the natural areas they visit daily. It had to be about ownership, this was their room.


When I began to talk about standardized work she cautioned me again. Over the years she has implemented procedures for the children that would rival any plants. The work bench for example uses a shadow board for tools. The children are certified in tool use and cleanup of the area is included. They also have to make a plan of their project and stick to that plan. The same goes for a large multi-person easel for painting. A plan and drawing of what they will paint and color choices are done before the projects start.


Sustaining the discipline is no different than in any other facility. It is hard. What I find fascinating is the children and the adults both have shadow boards for tools, the adults is used for kitchen tools. Any guess as to who maintains their shadow board the best? Well it is the children of course. My wife maintains that ownership is the key for the children’s choice to maintain these areas as well as they do. I should also mention that this room fights with all the battles a manufacturing facility does with turnover and “training issues” for adults as well as the children. Her room has various college student positions from routine staff to student teachers. These students change from every semester to as quickly as every day. The clearer and more visual procedures are the easier it is for these students to operate in this room.

One last thought and that is of continuous improvement. Each semester break and every summer my wife revisits these steps. The changes are smaller and smaller each time but the room continues to change and improve. Each corner grabs a child’s attention, documentation of the children’s work and research in on every wall. The room when you walk into it tells the story of who lives there, what they have been doing, what they are doing, and what they are going to do. When my wife reads this she may be surprised at the jargon that describes what she does in her room, as I tried to leave the work talk at work. She may also be surprised that she does it better that I ever could and she does it in a kind and loving way which I could use a little more of in my work environment. Sometime I will tell you about her morning meetings but that is a whole other story!

“Everybody needs a fire inside

Everybody needs a dream to ride

Everybody with a growing soul

Everybody needs a stone to roll”

Little Road and a Stone to Roll – John Stewart


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2 Responses

  1. […] 5S with a twist – Implementation in Preschool dal blog Lean is Good di Kim Galizio: Implementazione delle 5S in asilo (traduzione automatica) […]

  2. […] out Mr. Galizio’s charming article here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Preschool Receives Toy […]

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