The Classroom Environment
In the schools of Reggio Emilia, the environment is thought to act as a “third teacher.” As such, it is highly organized and arranged in such a way that best suits the needs of children. The materials are intentionally placed to inspire and elicit learning. Children are encouraged to initiate and be in control of their learning, therefore, materials are easily accessible and managed by students. Materials are organized into clear bins at student level allowing them to self-select materials as needed and maintain the organization of the space. The space is aesthetically pleasing and comfortable, utilizing natural tones and allowing artifacts created by the children, documentation of learning and co-constructed resources to bring the colour to the space. The walls of the classroom reflect the learning that takes place within, evolving based on the ongoing interests of the students, inspiring them to reflect on and partake in learning that is authentic and engaging.
When creating our classroom environment, the room is arranged into several learning spaces, or Inquiry Centres. These Inquiry Centres provide students with a wide range of opportunities to explore, discover, practice and demonstrate knowledge and skills in all areas of learning. Materials are placed with intention at each Inquiry Centre; yet, the open-ended framework allows students to explore the materials freely. Within this structure, educators can clearly identify where each child is, and push them further and deeper in their thinking.
Children’s interests are valued within the classroom environment, thus, we invite them to choose which Inquiry Centre they would like to visit each day. Choice allows for more meaningful exploration and engagement in our youngest learners. In their Junior Kindergarten year we have observed that students are not as able to sustain their inquiries for long periods, and tend to change centres more frequently. As students progress through the two year program, they are encouraged to stay at one centre for a longer period of time, in order to go deeper in their learning, and to collaborate with peers and teachers. Tacking the centre choices of each individual student allows us to develop an understanding their interests, and note patterns in the centres to which they gravitate. With this insight, we are able to meet with students to promote learning in areas where they are most interested or comfortable, encourage new choices, and invite students to visit a variety of learning spaces and engage in different opportunities.
The Kindergarten environment is organized into several Inquiry Centres, however, we allow for flexibility and anticipate change. Responding to how our students interact with the space, centres may be physically moved from one area to another. Additionally, new centres may emerge throughout the year, for example, a fashion design centre is co-constructed with students to allow them to further explore an interest in designing clothing. As educators, we reflect on how student interests can be nurtured as we facilitate learning in a way that will encourage the development of skills and reflect a curricular focus. Inquiry Centres allow children to extend their learning in collaborative, creative and innovative ways.
For a a more in depth look at our Inquiry Centres please visit our previous post. Centre descriptions aim to illustrate the learning that takes place in each space. Materials are suggested, not limited, and change periodically throughout the year.