Create a Well-Designed Environment for Learning
A well-designed environment is another teacher in the classroom. It helps children feel comfortable as they interact, explore and learn. It will help you stay organized and offer opportunities for observation and documentation.
Need help setting up your classroom? Read: How Do I Set Up My Room?
Here are three key elements to consider when setting up your space:
- Safety Awareness
- Representation of Children’s Culture
- Accessibility of Materials
A safe and nurturing environment is essential for a child to take the risks necessary to engage in learning. Check that your plugs are covered, look at the stability of your furniture and avoid sharp edges. Beyond the physical safety of your environment, consider the emotional climate of your space. How will you welcome each child every morning? What tone of voice do you use to help children navigate new challenges?
Representation of Children’s Culture
Take time to get to know each child’s family. Invite the family to share photos or special cultural artifacts to display on the walls to help increase a child’s sense of belonging. Additionally, look for ways to include books, posters or toys that reflect the child’s physical appearance or
special needs. Experience Early Learning materials intentionally reflect diverse children and their cultures.
Accessibility of Materials
A well-set-up classroom environment facilitates a variety of group sizes: small, large, one-on-one with a friend or teacher, and time to be alone in a cozy place. Use the materials provided in your Experience Early Learning kit to set up a circle time display in your large group area.
This area could be as simple as a rug in the middle of the room. It is a great place to sing songs, take on Community Challenges and have group discussions.
Small group time allows children to learn how to take turns or participate in a game. In each Teacher Guide, there is a math or literacy small group activity suggestion every day. Even with only one or two children in your program, small group time introduces new materials and models different ways to play.
Children also need time to investigate materials independently and in their own way. Table Top and STEAM Stations encourage children to explore familiar materials individually.
Think carefully about what you set out for children to explore in your environment. There should be enough materials, but not too many because you want to encourage negotiation and sharing.
Store materials down low so children can easily access them on their own. By using baskets and bins, you can help children know where to find desired objects and how to clean them up.
Is Your Environment Child Friendly?
As a final check of the child-friendliness of your environment, kneel down and look through a child’s eyes. Ask yourself –
- Is there a place for me to hang my coat?
- Where can I play?
- Can I reach the materials on my own?
- Where do I put my wet painting?
- Where can I talk and play with my friend?
- Is there somewhere I can go to just relax?
- How did my family and I contribute to this environment?
Be sure to create and label centers, add toys that teach, and label shelves.