Does environment matter? Yes, but bright shiny classrooms aren’t the whole story.

May 5th, 2014 | by SRC

We’ve all been impressed when we walk into a newly remodeled school that has bright paint and brand new materials – some of these spaces are envy-inducing to those who teach in under-resourced settings.  At School Readiness Consulting, we believe that all environments that serve young children have the opportunity to be high-quality.  After viewing this NPR video of an Oklahoma preschool, we identified five components of a high quality early childhood environment, including:

  1. Allowing children to guide the curriculum and direct their own learning.  In this example, this is accomplished through the use of the project approach.

  2. Letting nature provide the classroom.  Using materials such as tree trunks helps bring the outdoors in.  Engaging children in typically “indoor” activities when outside shows how the outdoors can be a classroom for everyone. 

  3. The use of open-ended materials which let children explore and imagine, and don’t have a fixed, finite task or prescribed outcome. 

  4. Authentic assessments that let children demonstrate their learning and that check for their understanding in the context of a typical day, and that provide information to guide instruction.

  5. Materials and activities that promote executive functioning and self-regulation skills.  The teacher’s approach to her classroom models responsibility and trust.  Her actions are clearly intentional, research-based and stem from high quality training.  Research shows that a teacher achieves these skills through ongoing professional development and engagement in professional learning communities.

What would you add to this list?  

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