This is another course offered by Dominion Learning Institute of Canada. It is my intention that taking this course will help you to learn about the Reggio Emilia Approach as it relates to the environment. The environment is the context in which learning takes place. The environment was described by Loris Malaguzzi as “the third teacher” and is valued for its power to organize, promote relationships, and educate. It mirrors the ideas, values, attitudes, and cultures of those who use the space. Malaguzzi (1993) spoke of the three teachers of children – adults, other children, and their physical environment. Therefore, the environment is the third teacher. By seeing the environment as a teacher, you recognize that your surroundings take on a life of their own that contribute to children’s learning and development (Strong-Wilson & Ellis, 2007).
The Inspiring Environments course will introduce you to thinking about environments as learning spaces that respond to children’s abilities. Through observing and documenting children’s learning, teachers are then able to create new opportunities for the children (Gandini, 2011). The environment is the physical space but it is also the aesthetics of the space. It is about the movement and flow throughout the space as well as the emotional climate within the space. Here are some questions to ask yourself about the environment – does it the environment do the following:
- Offer a sense of belonging and well-being?
- Engage the learner?
- Amplify the voices of those in the environment?
- Promote interactions and collaboration?
- Feel comfortable?
- Promote questions?
- Encourage engagement and creativity?
- Promote space for quiet reflection?
- Allow for flexibility?
- Value time?
The Reggio Approach values time and how it is given and how it is used. Continuity is valued as children and teachers spend three years together in the centre. The children stay with the same teachers allowing for strong relationships to be formed. Daily life is valued as children get the time to be, do, meet, play, and think and to reflect. Children also get the time to talk, listen, rest and eat. Children spend time on long-term projects so that they can express themselves in multiple languages when representing their learning. Projects can last from a few days to three months (Thornton & Brunton, 2014). The Ontario Ministry of Education (2014) speaks to the spaces where children thrive, emphasizing schedules allows time for long periods of uninterrupted play. It also recognizes that learning environments can be inside and outside.
Children thrive in indoor and outdoor spaces that invite them to investigate, imagine, think, create, solve problems, and make meaning from their experiences – especially when the spaces contain interesting and complex open-ended materials that children can use in many ways. In addition, when the schedule allows for long periods of uninterrupted play, with few transitions, children are calmer and more engaged. When the environment supports children’s growing autonomy and independence, challenging behaviours are reduced and educators can focus more fully on observing, interacting, and extending children’s learning and development in meaningful ways (How Does Learning Happen? 2014)