Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Hostos Library Banner

EDU 111 - Teaching Math & Science to Young Children - Textbook

Chapter 7: Centers & Environment

7.1: Early Childhood Environments

7.1: Early Childhood Environments: Designing Effective Classrooms

What can teachers do to make the classroom environment more conducive to children’s learning and development?


7.1.1: Early Childhood Environments

"Early Childhood Environments" in Early Childhood Environments: Designing Effective Classrooms by The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.


Safe, responsive, and nurturing environments are an important part of supporting the learning and development of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Such environments also help to prevent challenging behaviors and serve as a core component of interventions for infants and young children with identified disabilities. According to the Division for Early Childhood Recommended Practices (DEC-RP):

Environmental practices refer to aspects of the space, materials, equipment, routines, and activities that practitioners and families can intentionally alter to support each child’s learning across developmental domains.

Unfortunately, many practitioners are unsure how to create environments that support their children’s learning across different age groups (e.g., infants, toddlers, preschoolers) and developmental domains (e.g., social, communication, cognitive, motor). Well-designed classroom environments:

  • Support responsive caregiving
  • Foster independence and feelings of competence in young children
  • Encourage staff efficiency
  • Promote children’s engagement
  • Decrease challenging behavior
  • Facilitate appropriate social interactions among children
  • Provide structure and predictability

 

Follow the link to continue reading:


7.1.2: Physical Environment

"Physical Environments" in Early Childhood Environments: Designing Effective Classrooms by The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
 

The term physical environment refers to the overall design and layout of a given classroom and its learning centers. Teachers should design the environment by organizing its spaces, furnishings, and materials to maximize the learning opportunities and the engagement of every child. To effectively do so, teachers can apply a concept known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which stresses that the environment and its materials in it should be accessible to everyone. Creating this accessibility might involve providing books at different reading levels, placing materials within easy reach on a shelf, or creating ample space so that a child who uses a wheelchair can maneuver around the classroom.

  • Arrangement of furnishings and floor coverings
  • Selection and placement of materials
  • Design and display of visual materials
  • Lighting and sound

 

Follow the link to continue reading:


7.1.3: Social Environment

"Social Environments" in Early Childhood Environments: Designing Effective Classrooms by The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.


The term social environment refers to the way that a classroom environment influences or supports the interactions that occur among young children, teachers, and family members. A well-designed social environment helps foster positive peer relationships, creates positive interactions between adults and children, and provides opportunities for adults to support children to achieve their social goals. To create a classroom environment that supports positive social interactions, teachers need to plan activities that take the following aspects into consideration:

  • Group size and composition
  • Teacher- versus child-initiated activites
  • Materials and activities that promote interaction

 

Follow the link to continue reading:


7.1.4: Temporal Environment
 

"Temporal Environment" in Early Childhood Environments: Designing Effective Classrooms by The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

temporal environment refers to the timing, sequence, and length of routines and activities that take place throughout the school day. It includes the schedule of activities such as arrival, play time, meal time, rest time, both small- and large-group activities, and the many transitions that hold them all together. Predictable schedules and routines create a sense of security, help young children to learn about their world, help them to adjust to new situations, and prevent challenging behaviors. Daily routines also help young children to say good-bye to parents and to feel safe and secure within a nurturing network of caregivers. For example, establishing the routine of reading a book together every day in the same cozy corner of the room can help a child to prepare for the difficult separation from her parent.

teachers should think about each of the following:

  • Vary activity levels
  • Plan effective transitions
  • Teach routines and schedules 

 

Follow the link to continue reading:


7.1.5: Putting it All Together

"Putting it All Together" in Early Childhood Environments: Designing Effective Classrooms by The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.


After attending a training on effective early childhood environments, Ms. Smith and Mrs. Hahndorf discussed the changes they might make in their classrooms to address the challenges they were facing, as well as how they might be proactive to prevent future challenges. The teachers recalled the importance of considering the physical and social environments, as well as the children’s schedules and routines that make up the temporal environment. Ms. Smith applied what she had learned to the areas where she had the most concerns: circle time, center time, traffic jams, and individualization for her students with disabilities. Mrs. Hahndorf had issues in her room around transitions, schedules, and routines. With these issues in mind, they decided to make changes in their classroom environments, noting the components of the environment: physical (P), social (S), and temporal (T).

 

Follow the link to continue reading:


7.1.6: Wrap Up

"Wrap Up" in Early Childhood Environments: Designing Effective Classrooms by The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Teachers often have a difficult time knowing how to create classroom environments that support the learning and development of the children in their care. However, developing well-designed classrooms is important because these environments:

  • Help provide safety
  • Support responsive caregiving
  • Foster independence and feelings of competence in young children
  • Encourage staff efficiency
  • Decrease challenging behavior
  • Facilitate appropriate social interactions among children
  • Provide structure and predictability

When teachers think of the classroom environment, they tend to think primarily of its physical aspects. However, teachers should also pay attention to the social and temporal environments. It is the integration of all three (see the table below) that contribute to a well-designed classroom for young children.

 

Follow the link to continue reading:

7.2: Creating a Math Rich Classroom

7.2: Creating a Math Rich Classroom

"Creating a Math Rich Environment" by Jennifer Brokofsky is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.


Jennifer Brokofsky is a teacher and mother, and the author of the blog, Learning Out Loud. In this post Jennifer discusses the goal of creating a space in the classroom for mathematics, and what she would need in her classroom to create a math rich environment. 

 

Follow the link to continue reading:

7.3: Learning Centers

7.3: Learning Centers

"Learning Centers" in Differentiated Instruction: Maximizing the Learning of All Students by The IRIS Center Peabody College Vanderbilt University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.


A learning center is a defined area of the classroom organized around a topic, theme, or activity in which students learn, practice, or build on a concept or skill. Learning centers, most often used in elementary classrooms, are an effective way for teachers to offer a range of activities that can target students’ readiness levels, interests, or learning profiles. The center should contain the instructions and the materials that students will need to complete the activity. If the teacher is using the center to differentiate by readiness level, it is helpful to color-code the materials. Although students can work in small groups or pairs to complete a learning center activity, they often complete these activities independently.

 

Follow the link to continue reading:

7.4: The Importance of Free Play in Early Childhood and Primary School Education: Critical Analysis for Romania

7.4: The Importance of Free Play in Early Childhood and Primary School Education: Critical Analysis for Romania

"The Importance of Free Play in Early Childhood and Primary School Education: Critical Analysis for Romania" in Educational Research Applications by Horatiu Catalano is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.


Play is the most important activity for a child. Through play he develops social, emotional and cognitive skills. The value of play is recognised by researchers because of the intellectual achievement and emotional well-being. From all types of play, unfortunately, free play is the least used in the daily program in kindergartens and primary schools in most of the European countries. When the child is free to play, he develops all his personality traits during it. He learns how to communicate with peers, to act or react in different situations, to respect some rules, etc. All these reasons determined us to study the most important theoretical approaches and data about free play and to initiate a theoretical study concerning a critical analysis of using free play in early childhood and primary school education in Romania. The aims of the study were to define and to list some of the most important characteristics of free play, to highlight the advantages and limits of this type of play and to encourage practitioners to use it in their educational program in kindergartens and primary schools. Even if there are a lot of benefits of free play, and children enjoy it, this type of play has been replaced with structured activities, based on teaching. All these, due to the fact that in preschool, teachers have to prepare children for school requirements, providing academic skills.

 

Follow the link to continue reading:

7.5: Outdoor Education in Italian Kindergartens: How Teachers Perceive Child Developmental Trajectories

7.5: Outdoor Education in Italian Kindergartens: How Teachers Perceive Child Developmental Trajectories

"Outdoor Education in Italian Kindergartens: How Teachers Perceive Child Developmental Trajectories" in Frontiers in Education Copyright © 2018 Agostini, Minelli, and Mandolesi is licensed under CC BY 4.0

The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


Excerpt: Outdoor Education: the Benefits for Child Development
 

In detail, the non-structured and constantly changing natural context represents the ideal environment for improving child health and development. Literature has indicated that promoting outdoor play can have a significant impact on children's physical activity (Harrington and Brussoni, 2015), which in turn improves blood pressure, cholesterol, and bone density (Lewicka and Farrell, 2007; Copeland et al., 2012), contributing to the reduction and prevention of child obesity (Raustorp et al., 2012). Children are more physically active when playing outdoors. Indeed, Kneeshaw-Price et al. (2013) reported that 6- to 11-year-old children were active 41% of time outdoors compared to 18% indoors. Also, physical activity in outdoor places may lead to additional positive effects compared to indoor physical activity (Thompson Coon et al., 2011; Pesce et al., 2016), such as a lower risk for developing chronic illnesses (Strong et al., 2005) and poor mental health (Mitchell, 2013).

In addition, it has been reported that children's movement and physical activity in nature may promote favorable health behaviors and attitudes about physical fitness (Bandura, 2004; Barnett et al., 2006), by producing higher levels of physical activity in adulthood (Calogiuri, 2016).

Outdoor activities also provide the possibility of experimentation and exploration (Weber, 2010; Mahdjoubi and Akplotsyi, 2012). Exploratory behaviors in nature strengthen the locomotor and immune systems and children are therefore less prone to illness, and consequently more balanced.

Exploratory activities may also contribute to the development of self-esteem and resilience (Ceciliani and Borsari, 2009) and may foster the development of imagination and sense of wonder, promoting creative knowledge (Cobb, 1977; Dahlgren and Szczepanski, 1998; Ewert et al., 2014). In line with these findings, McAnally et al. (2018) have evaluated the effects of a 15-week outdoor education program with no access to electronic media among 14-year-old boys, reporting an improvement in creative thinking and wellbeing.

In social-relational terms, outdoor activities promote social cohesion, reduce the tendency toward conflicts and stimulate the development of a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1994; Moore, 1996). In terms of cognitive development, OE stimulates intelligence and enhances mental focus, attention, reflection, and memory (Basile, 2000; Miklitz, 2001; Hartig et al., 2003; Szcezpanski, 2007).

In primary school contexts, OE has been recognized as useful in improving peer work, enhancing leadership development, improving problem-solving skills, and reducing antisocial and deviant behaviors (Fjørtoft, 2001; Pyle, 2002; Malone and Tranter, 2003).

Despite this body of research, the literature still lacks of specificity in the investigation of outdoor benefits, especially on psychological development and mental health. Definition and operationalization of psychological constructs are not easy and the mental health outcomes are often limited to self-confidence, self-esteem, or locus of control (Gustaffson et al., 2011). Few exceptions are present in literature; for example, Gustaffson et al. (2011) investigated different areas of child mental health and showed how an OE intervention, lasting 1 year, was beneficial for children aged 6–12 years, promoting, especially in boys, a decrease in different mental health problems. Furthermore, a previous study by two of the authors of this paper (Monti et al., 2017) showed positive effects of a 1-year OE intervention in nursery schools, for children aged 1–3 years: compared to children in more traditional nursery schools, following daily OE activities children showed greater improvements in cognitive, social and emotional development, motor skills, and body functions (e.g., breathing, digestion, sleeping). A study by Ulset et al. (2017) followed a cohort of 562 Norwegian children aged 3 to 7 years and measured different mental health dimensions, finding that inattention-hyperactivity symptoms tended to decrease and short-term memory (as measured by a digit span task) tended to improve as time spent outdoors in school increased.

 

Continue reading the full PDF: