Teaching the Young…Learning Places for Children

Nov 13th, 2018 | Category: Columns, Teaching Young Children
By Michele Gnan & Bogusia Ryndak-Mazur

It is always good to reflect on  what will impact children’s learning the most and bring about maximum benefits for all involved: the children and teachers alike. One of the major factors affecting learning is the classroom environment, in which children construct their knowledge in the social context of their peers and teachers.

When thinking about the classroom space, what comes to mind first is its physical aspect. Whether inspired by Reggio or Montessori, intentionally set-up environment is at the heart of developmentally appropriate practice (Copple & Bredekamp, 1997).  The teacher’s philosophy and beliefs about how children learn will be reflected in how the classroom environment is organized. If the teacher values children’s autonomy and believes they learn best through active engagement with materials, the environment he or she prepares will be open-ended and well-organized. The environment should allow for free exploration to engage each child’s interests. Loris Malaguzzi stated that the environment has a “potential for sparking all kinds of social, affective, and cognitive learning. All of this contributes to a sense of well-being and security in children” (as cited in Edwards & Gandini, 2018, p. 339).

The classroom environment is more than just physical space and materials. It encompasses the feelings, emotions, and dispositions of everyone that enters it. A positive emotional environment is created as a result of the caring relationships fostered by the teachers. Relationships are at the heart of early learning and when there is an emotional connection and respect for one another, teachers and students both develop a sense of community and belonging.

If we focus our energy on creating intentional environments where children can experiment with materials and construct their own understanding of the world, we will reinforce our belief in children as caring individuals. Children do come ready to learn, but the question is -are teachers prepared to guide and support children’s natural curiosities to explore the world through the classroom environment? LEJ


Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (1997). Developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood programs serving children birth to age eight. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Edwards, C. P., & Gandini, L. (2018). The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. In Handbook of international perspectives on early childhood education (365-378). Abingdon Oxford, UK: Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.