Physical environments affect everyones behavior. The environment can be the third teacher (along with children and adults) because there are ways that the physical environment, both indoor and outdoor, can either enhance or interfere with childrens learning and independence. The way the environment is set up and maintained contributes to the overall atmosphere. In Royal Tots Academy, we take into account in setting up the environment so it invites children. Every morning, teachers set up invitation of play to enhance and extend childrens learning. Here are the things we are aware of when we set up the learning environment:
Important factors you want in a learning environment are health and safety. Children need to be able to explore, experiment, play, use their abilities, and develop new skills and knowledge without fear of hurting themselves or others. We want to pay attention to equipments that are safe, not having dangerous materials accessible, and spaces that are easy to supervise. If we set up a healthy and safe environment, we will not be preoccupied with the danger of the environment and can focus more on the interaction with the children. We can also ask childrens participation in maintaining a safe and tidy environment. This will also help build a shared responsibility and sense of belonging.
Learning environment needs to attract children and encourage them to be actively involved. Engaging environments are full of interesting things to see, touch, and explore. Adults can provide lots of open-ended materials, that invite a variety of uses, balances orderliness so that childrens play are constructive with the normal messiness of children exploring, are not overloaded with tables which takes a lot of learning space, and offer choices through making different types of learning invitations.
Children learn from interacting with other children as well as with teachers and parents. Environments that encourage collaboration invite conversation by including pictures or objects in the setting, suggest possibilities for collaboration through the way the materials and equipment are set up and offer choices for children to work together.
Respect for children as partners with teachers or parents in their learning. Environments that are respectful provide many opportunities for them to make their own decisions and to act independently. At Royal Tots Academy, we encourage children to make choices, including whether to be with others or to be on their own, help children feel secure and to do things for themselves and set up invitations that are flexible and changes as childrens learning progress.
Children need a balance between sameness and change, the familiar and the new. Having a comfortable homey space with the structured class setting can make them feel more welcome and comfortable. We also try to reflect the lives of children through materials, equipments, displays in the learning environment so that children can see something of themselves and their home.
Source: Putting Children First Magazine of the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC)