Learning environment is important. Teacher Tom often echoes the Reggio Emilio philosophy and calls it the "third teacher." As I've read Teach Like a Pirate and Teaching with Intention, I've been reminded of shaping the environment and making choices that are purposeful. I've always thought about the surroundings and the materials in it. But I want to continue to make specific choices intentionally. I want to think beyond what but arrange materials in ways that will intrigue and invite exploration.
But there's another aspect to this learning environment--the child. I've often said to think about things and look at things from the child's point of view. But my children are continuing to emphasize that their perspective is key to what I'm doing.
I have a new friend that is always looking at the environment. As I mentioned in a previous post, she saw a piece of paper on the ceiling and it bothered her. I had to stand on a chair and remove it (while kids were out of the room). When she came in after that, she immediately noticed it was gone. That paper had been there for months. I'd seen it and dismissed it. No other child had noticed it (or at least mentioned it). But she did. And it bothered her.
She noticed yesterday that a clothespin was also on the ceiling. She wanted me to move it. I told her I would after everyone was gone. So, I was standing on a chair, stretching to get it, yesterday before I left. (It's gone now.)
Look at the room, everything in the room, from the child's perspective. Sit on the floor or kneel at the eye level of kids in your space. What do you see? I can almost guarantee that you will see things, notice things, that you didn't from your own eye level. Sit or kneel at the door at the kids' level - what do you see first? What looks inviting? What looks confusing? Are you sending the message you want to send?
Sit at a table. Is it easy to reach the materials that are in the middle? Does something need to be shifted for more easy use? For more interaction? Is there space to move your arms and manipulate as you need to do? What are you seeing as you look up from the table?
Think about the space as a child does. Can you move through the space easily? Does lots of room make you want to run? To wrestle? In moving through the space, do you bump into tables? Others? is there too much stuff to look at, too cluttered? Does the space look like you (the child) own it or you (the teacher)?
As you evaluate the space, what are you communicating? Is that what you want to communicate?
Change your perspective, both physically and mentally. Put yourself in the shoes of your kids. What is the third teacher saying to you?