Reflections on Quality is an invitation to reflect by Anna Nguyen-Sgro, Quality Specialist, Children’s Services, Halton Region
Have you ever heard the saying “the environment is the third teacher”? This idea was theorized by Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, who believed that children learn from adults, other children, and the environment. Research suggests that the environmental design of children’s indoor and outdoor spaces has a powerful influence on learning, relationships, behaviour and health.
Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, How Does Learning Happen? calls for educators to “provide environments and experiences for children to explore ideas, investigate their theories and interact with others in play” (page 11). The College of Early Childhood Educators also recognizes the importance of the environment and emphasizes the role of the educator to “design and modify indoor and outdoor learning environments to support children’s self-regulation, independence, reasonable risk-taking, meaningful exploration and positive Interactions” (Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, Standard III).
How do you set up a high quality environment for children? How do you organize the space? What materials are needed? What does best practice tell us?
To support your quality journey and your design of the learning environment, there are a number of tools available that can be valuable resources. For example, the Environmental Rating Scales provide a number of items that will help you to consider how you might organize the space and what materials you might offer in your infant-toddler, preschool, home child care or school age classroom. The use of the Inclusion Quality Scale can be helpful as you consider how your program is able to meet all children’s needs and encourage active participation in the program. The ROSIE (Rating Observation Scale for Inspiring Environments) is a tool for educators who want to enhance the aesthetic beauty of the classroom. Finally, while How Does Learning Happen? is not a how-to guide of how to set up your learning environment, the document challenges educators to reflect on the environment and consider how the design of your space aligns with your view of the child and how it fosters belonging, well-being, engagement and expression.
There are a number of resources available at The Halton Resource Connection’s Resource Library that you and your team could explore together to consider the design of the indoor and outdoor learning environment.
- Designs for Living and Learning (Margie Carter and Deb Curtis)
- Inspiring Spaces for Young Children (Jessica DeViney, Sandra Duncan, Sara Harris, Mary Ann Rody, Lois Rosenberry)
- Natural Playscapes (Rusty Keeler)
- Seasons of Play (Rusty Keeler)
- Rethinking the Classroom Landscape (Sandra Duncan, Jody Martin, Rebecca Kreth)
For further support with these tools or in the design of your physical space, contact your Quality First Consultant or Centralized Intake who can connect you to Program Support Services Team.
Invitation to Reflect
- What does your environment say about your “view of the child”?
- What tools and resources can you utilize to support your planning and set up of the environment?
- Consider your space from the perspective of a child. What do the children see from their height?
- How does your space ensure that all children, with diverse interests, abilities, needs and learning styles feel a sense of belonging, well-being, engagement and expression?
- How does your space make visible the children’s thinking and learning?
“Creating an environment that welcomes families into the space, inviting their perspectives and providing opportunities for families to participate in meaningful ways (that they are most comfortable with) on an ongoing basis, supports their sense of belonging” (How Does Learning Happen?, page 19). How does your space invite parents and caregivers to engage in the program?
In what ways does your environment reflect the natural environment and local community?
Anna Nguyen-Sgro, RECE, MA
Quality Specialist, Child Care System
Halton Region, Children’s Services