Preschoolers and Learning Environment
02:22 | 22/11/2013

 Gymboree Preschool

 

Preschoolers strive to make sense of the world by trying to organize the visual images and concrete objects in their environment into meaningful systems.  They want to determine how the space works and what activities can happen in their learning environment-the classroom that is carefully designed to create the “best” place possible for them…. Young children respond differently, based on the design of the environment in which they play and learn. An effectively designed classroom has the potential for positively influencing all areas of children's development: physical, social /emotional, and cognitive. Learning is nurtured in an environment that values and plans appropriate opportunities.  Most importantly, quality environment can provide a setting that “feels” like a good place to be.

 

 The Caring Environment is a Critical Component

 

Specific design techniques, when combined with a caring teacher and parents, can help the environment become a wonderful place for nurturing the development of young children. Children who live in this classroom will have many opportunities for expanding their knowledge by actively participating in a world that is appropriate for their level of development. It will include spaces for social play as well as spaces for individual. Opportunities are provided for a child to work and areas are available where small groups can collaborate on a project or goal.


An Environment that Matches Preschoolers


The first step in creating an appropriate environment for preschoolers is to examine how they learn and develop. Each stage of development has unique characteristics that influence how a child will experience his or her environment. Preschoolers are active learners who continue to examine materials while beginning to use objects in more complex combinations. They are developing symbolic representation as they take on roles and participate in socio-dramatic play. Their language explodes during this period as they try to find "labels" for the objects and people in their world. Language gives young children the power to question and find answers.


Learning centers are effective ways to organize and support these developing abilities. The center areas clearly communicate to preschoolers what activity occurs in this area and the available materials that will stimulate their play. Traditional centers as well as unique centers encourage language interactions, socio-dramatic play, and the construction of experiences based on their level of understanding. By adding literacy materials including books, paper and writing tools, this construction will include "reading and writing" opportunities.


Integrated Environment


Young children make many connections when they participate in meaningful activities. Integrated activities that connect several types of learning are particularly effective for preschoolers. These experiences provide stimulation for several portions of the brain and make additional connections that extend learning. Some of the experiences that are particularly powerful for integrated learning and building connections are learning centers, thematic episodes, and projects. To support integrated learning, materials must be readily accessible to the play areas and stored so that they can be selected and included in the play. To encourage the continuation of projects, there must be places to carefully store objects while the work is in progress. Preschoolers become increasingly competent in making choices, creating a plan, and following through with a project or experience. If children's ideas are valued and their interest followed they will work on projects for long periods of time. This process is supported in an environment where children are able to revisit and reflect on their plans, while using their knowledge in ways that are meaningful for them.


Influence of Environment on Children's Behaviours


The environment in which young children play and learn tells them how to act and respond. A large open space in the center of the classroom clearly invites young children to run across the area. If few materials are available to use, children will create interesting happenings, including conflict. If the procedures for using learning centers are not predictable and easily understood, the children will wander in and out of the areas with little involvement in play. The arrangement and materials in the environment will determine the areas where children focus their work. It will also influence the number of conflicts that occur or the way the group works together.


In conclusion, the environment can support the development of behaviors that are valued in our society, such as cooperation and persistence, and an aesthetically pleasing space can develop a child's appreciation for the beautiful world around them.

 

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Source: Earlychildhood NEWS-The Professional Resource for Teachers and Parents

 

 

 

 

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