By: Donna Snyder, Director of Early Childhood & Family Engagement
As we began the school year, it was evident that changes had been made over the summer. The walls through the Early Childhood Education Center (ECE) were all freshly painted; all the same color. The window blinds had all been replaced with all windows free of decorations creating a streamlined view. Classrooms had been cleaned, the items hanging from the ceilings were taken down and floors waxed. As we move further into the school year bulletin boards will be more intentional and learning more child emergent. This all reflects the ECE environment we are now embracing as we enhance our base curriculum, Creative Curriculum, developing our classroom environments where children learn through play. So what does the environment have to do with child emergent learning and children learning through play?
Many classrooms are decorated with an array of commercially produced borders, posters, and informational materials including charts and hangings, cartoons and signs, multiple bulletin board borders and mobiles that add to visual busyness and have become part of an accepted visual culture of ECE classrooms.
“A recent study has found that for young children, adopting a more subdued approach in the environment of learning is better for the children. The study, published May 2014 in Psychological Science, was one of the first to examine how decorations impact learning. It found that when kindergarten students were taught in a highly decorated classroom, they were more distracted and scored lower on test than when they were taught in a room with bare walls.”
And the Reggio Emilia approach to ECE learning stresses the “environment as the third teacher” (Gandini 1998, 177) defined by: “The environment is recognized for its potential to inspire children. An environment filled with natural light, order and beauty. Open spaces free from clutter, where every material is considered for its purpose, every corner is ever-evolving to encourage children to delve deeper and deeper into their interests. The space encourages collaboration, communication and exploration. The space respects children as capable by providing them with authentic materials & tools. The space is cared for by the children and the adults.”
We are also a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accredited ECE school. NAEYC states, “The environment should be attractive, colorful, and have children’s work and other pictures displayed at children’s eye level” (NAEYC 1998, 49).
Classroom environments are public statements about the educational values of the institution and the teacher. Arrangement of space – including desks, tables, material available, and what is displayed on the walls – conveys messages about the relationship between teaching and learning. The challenge for ECE is to think beyond decorating to consider how walls can be used effectively as part of an educational environment.
So as you walk down our hallways and into our classrooms, notice the differences. Ask your child about what he or she has created and is displayed. Ask about the process used for the development of his or her creation displayed.