Inspire Education's blog
Early Childhood Environments
As reported in a previous blog regarding the Reggio Emilia approach, one of the most important aspects of the Early Childhood education process is the environment in which the children operate. This was reported as the child’s ‘third teacher.’ This is not only regarded as part of the Reggio Emilia’s approach, but should be an integral part of the whole learning process in every Early Childhood centre.
As stated by Anita Rui Olds, “Children are miracles.
We make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude, a space that is worthy of a miracle! Action follows thought. We can choose to change. We can choose to design spaces for miracles not minimums.”
In designing our classroom environment we thoughtfully considered the kind of space we would like to spend our days in and the environments that we believe our students would enjoy being a part of . We agree with the principles of Reggio Emilia Approach to learning in placing a strong value on the aesthetics in our classroom, as well as the importance of recognizing the environment as an important part of respecting the children and their learning. Our aim is to create an inspiring atmosphere where children, families and teachers feel welcomed and valued.
Our environment is seen as a significant element of education and a reflection of our own values. Our focus shows that we value interaction, aesthetics, discovery, organization and communication.
This space is designed to … respect and value children’s work through displays and document and celebrate children’s learning.
The children need to feel that they are a valued and integral part of the learning space. There are stars and work displayed at the entrance to the classrooms which are a sharing of individual strengths and interests representing group connection and belonging.
The space is designed to… provide differing areas that invite children to work in small groups, nurturing cooperation and peer mentoring. Flexible groupings and seating also facilitate small group investigations.
The space is designed to… provide children with places that encourage stillness and quiet reflection. In this area there are pillows, soft furnishings to create connections and a sense of belonging.
The space is designed to … allow for common areas available to all children in our double learning area. These areas provide stimulating materials to engage learners, encourage exploration and nurture investigation. This includes areas for dramatic play, shared group tables, areas for thinking and quiet work and shared gathering areas.
This space is designed to… provide the materials that are necessary to facilitate choice, problem solving and discoveries in the process of learning.
This space is designed to … create interest, hold beauty, inspire and engage our senses.
We considered collections of items or treasures that have beautiful colours, interesting shapes and textures; baskets, glass jars, marbles, bottles, vases, shells, art work, scented sticks and plants.
“We believe our classroom environment conveys a compelling message about children and teachers engaged together in the pleasure of learning.”
Jo Darbyshire (current president of Early Childhood Australia) recently travelled to Reggio Emilia in Italy and reported as to what makes Reggio indoor design, environments and work spaces so good for your children.
Design and respect of INDOOR environments – there were many levels and platforms in all rooms – i.e the block area was a raised platform of around 30cm so construction can be cleaned around easily, but what this does is also draw attention to and focus children on the area. Open roof space was turned into lofts, creating extra areas for children. Many of the rooms didn’t look like ours, there were the raised block areas, but then there were tables (no chairs) for working on near shelving of resources, and occasional book area (just a mat and pillows), limited dress ups, mats and dramatic play equip. They reminded me of workrooms. But that is also because of the resources and materials in there. They also had separate sleep rooms and dining areas for all children, so in essence, these workrooms can be designed just for learning. There were lots of baskets and shelving of different metals (nuts, bolts, various odds and ends which I don’t even know what they are called!) but they were all quality materials, designed to get children thinking and wondering about. There were also large art tables, with shelving of art supplies available.
No teacher desks in rooms!!!
Any available space is also thought about in terms of ‘how to use to engage children’. So hallways are used, alcoves are used, kitchens and cooks are used (a tasting atelier!) etc. etc.
Ateliers (studio spaces) – amazing!!! So well resourced, presented and designed.
I saw a 4 year old girl sit for over an hour in the middle of the table whilst her peers made clay sculptures of her. She sat cross legged, and just chatted with her friends, but held her position for all of this time.
Mini Ateliers were also placed in hallways where there might have once been a large storeroom but doors are removed and shelving/table placed there. The children can move out from their room into this hallway space and back.
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