Learning Environments and Curriculum:

Examine the Environments

Breadcrumb trail:

Environments play a significant role in the learning process.

The early childhood experience involves planning for a variety of environments. The physical environment may be the first one that comes to mind. But the social, intellectual, and emotional environments are equally important and critical to children's overall well being. Remember that the environment — in all of its aspects — is our partner in providing high quality early childhood programs.

A teacher observes a child arranging plates.

The Italian educators of Reggio Emilia say "the environment is the third teacher." When you carefully plan your routines and schedules, as well as, the kinds and combinations of materials you offer, the learning environment can be a big part of your curriculum, and have a considerable effect on the social and emotional environments.

Try This!

Rather than drawing upon commercial, risk-adverse materials, consider materials that engage children's sense of adventure, support their desire to be powerful and invite them to do real work that contributes to the community. Consider open-ended materials and loose parts, things from the natural world, and real tools. List as many things as you can that fit these categories.

As you study the following photos, consider how these materials in the environment might help meet some of your curriculum goals and standards.

Use this template to record your observations, thoughts, and feelings.  Download the Template

Deepen Your Understanding

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

Deepen your understanding of the expectations for self-awareness in guiding children's behavior by reviewing the Topic: Materials and equipment in Performance Area 2 of the CA ECE Competencies. Scroll to page 73.

Can you find other places in this competency area that address these questions?

Download the California ECE Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

Extend Your Learning

Read "Scientific Inquiry Among the Preschool Set", by Sindya N. Bhanoo.