When people hear or read the word ‘environment’’, the first thing that usually pop up in their minds is a place or other surrounding physical things.; either it is building, furniture, or others. Yet, in the context of Early Childhood Education, environment has more meaning. It is way beyond than only a physical things. Gordon and Browne state that there are three different kinds of ECE environment; those are “the physical environment (the equipment … and the facilities available), the temporal environment (timing...activities), and the interpersonal environment (number and nature of teachers … style of interactions among them)” (Gordon & Browne, 282). Together, those three types of environment play a significant role in children learning and education. The environment role is so significant so that it affect children in term of their behavior. Most likely when the behavior problem occur, the environment might have contribution upon it. As Koralek and friends briefly write that “when the environment is not working, problem behaviors are likely to become the norm rather than the exception” (Koralek , Colker, and Dodge, 99). This statement is also being supported by Fujiwa who declares that “thoughtful planning of room arrangement...can eliminate many discipline problems” (Fujawa, 16). Or in another sentence, the behavior problem or the discipline problem occur often when children are not in the right environment.Thus, if the problem keeps on occurring, children will not learn effectively and it will affect their learning result too. Moreover, children have unique way of learning and “they learn best when their physical needs are met and they feel psychologically safe and secure” (Stuber, 58). Those two explanations surely enough to ensure us that when it comes to children learning, environment does matter.
Knowing and understanding that environment plays strong impact in children learning, adults need to make sure that children have the appropriate environment they need when they come to their learning place. Whether it is a children learning center, a childcare, or other forms of children learning place, adults who are involved in those places have their big influence in creating a supporting learning place which can help children grow and develop for they can experience meaningful learning there.
In creating the supporting environment, there are some aspects that need to be consider; those are the setting, the schedule, the interaction, and the curriculum. Each place might have their own setting, schedule, interaction, and also curriculum since there is no place that will be exactly the same and each place have their own uniqueness and that’s what makes early childhood education is so dynamic.
Moreover, here are one environmental setting that I want to proposed to ensure the children learning and growth -socially, emotionally, and physically. First, it will be started by developing and creating the curriculum. Curriculum need to be designed and decided first because it will affect the other aspects of the environment. A Montessori school surely will have different physical setting and schedule than a Reggio Emilia center. In this proposal, the curriculum will using the Reggio Emilia approach where the acknowledgment of children work will be the focus and developing children self-esteem will be the goal of the program. Through the consistency of acknowledgement they got, children will develop their self-esteem. Furthermore, the center will also focus in the creativity part since creativity is one important thing that children need to have if they want to produce more work that can be acknowledged.
As the starting point, which is the curriculum, already being decided, the next thing that need to be created is the setting and the schedule. Setting, which is the part of the physical environment, needs to be designed and arranged carefully. Along with the decision that the goal of the program is acknowledgment, self-esteem, and creativity, the setting should be arranged in certain way that it can support and nurture children creativity and provide a lot of acknowledgement so that children self-esteem will nourish tremendously. One suggestion given by Fujawa to encourage children creativity is “provide a comfortable atmosphere where children can discover, experiment and explore” (Fujawa, 14). This comfortable atmosphere could be in form of a place where children can finds a lot of stuffs that they can explore. I would like to called it ‘the creativity zone’. The place should have “an endless supply of ‘stuff’ …. to use to create something new” (Fujawa, 14). It doesn’t need to be filled with expensive stuffs, but it have to be filled with a variety of stuffs that can be used by children to create something new. One important thing that adults should pay attention is that “the program material should be regularly updated to provide new challenges and to build on current ‘passions’”(Koralek, Colker, and Dodge, 108). The reason is because “children’s skills and interests are constantly changing” (Koralek, COlker, and Dodge, 108). Last but not least, one principle in encouraging creativity is “allow messes” (Fujawa, 14). If children are restricted and don’t be allowed to make messes, they will not do anything and it will affect their creativity. Off course, the messes should be directed so that it goes into creative works.
After children do their part in being creative and produce many creative works, then it come the next thing which is acknowledgment. There should be a place in the center where children works can be displayed and being acknowledged. Each rooms in the center should have at least one display board where children can put their creative works there. If it possible, a special room such as ‘exhibition zone’ will surely give much bigger acknowledgment for children. In this zone, children can choose their masterpiece from many creative works they have done and display it in that zone for a certain amount of time and parents will be invited to a special day of exhibition to see their children masterpiece.
Beside the creativity and the acknowledgement which already being accommodated through the ‘creativity zone’ and ‘exhibition zone’, the center needs to have a mini stage where children can develop their self-confidence more by performing their talent to others. It could be started by performing for their classmates only, then it will be continued by performing for their schoolmates, and finally for public. Gradually, children will develop their self-confidence without being forced to.
After the curriculum and the setting, the next step is designing the schedule. Schedule, which is a part of the temporal environment, should be appropriately accommodate children learning. In this proposal, the schedule chosen is the half-day schedule since the center is designed as a learning center and not a full-day childcare. Because children in this learning center are ranged between 3 to 5 years old, activities in the center will be started at 8 .30 am by a 15 minutes circle time. Then, each child can choose what kind of creative work do they want to do. Either it is drawing, painting, creating things from playdough or other activities, each child will spend approximately 30 minutes in the creativity zone. After that, they should be gather again in a second circle time where they will bring their creative work and tell story about it. The second circle time will take longer time than the first one, it will take 30 minutes. Last thing that children will do before they go home is wrapping up that day activities by sharing thing they have learned, things they like that day and they wish they can do it again another time. By this, children will be more confident as they will practice their public speaking skill by sharing stories about their creative work and their feeling on that day.
Finally, the last part that need to be addressed is the interpersonal environment, which is mostly focused on the interaction. The interaction itself has more than one dimension; child-child interaction, child-teacher interaction, teacher-teacher interaction, and not to forget the teacher-parent interaction. Child-child interaction will likely happen automatically along with their development. As for 3 to 5 years old children, they will go through the phase of parallel play, associative play, or cooperative play (Gordon and Browne, 135), the interaction between them will gradually develop too. When it comes to the interaction between child and teacher, the quality of interaction and relationship will influence children learning. Bilmes explains that “once [teacher] develop a mutually caring relationship with a young child, [they’ll] find [him/her] has a vested interest in living up to [their] expectations” (Bilmes, 33). Simply stated, if a child like or even more love his/her teacher, he/she will try his/her best to make his/her teacher proud. A great interaction and relationship among children and teachers will also give benefits to both sides since children will feel safe and comfortable and it will make them learn better. Teacher-teacher interaction and teacher-parent interaction are the interaction that happen between adults. Teachers in the center and parents should cooperate and filled up each other in term of creating and accommodating children activities and also monitoring them. While the teachers can accommodate children learning at the center, they need to interact with parents and have the relationship with them so they can communicate children learning and progress at the center so that parents can accommodate the learning at home so that children learning will happen continuously .
Last but not least, there is no guarantee that children will come out with the exact amount of creativity and self-confident. But there is a guarantee that if all those environment needs above being fulfilled, children will learning on their best condition and they will progress. The amount of creativity and self-confident children progress cannot be determined exactly but there is a certainty that it will develop.
Submitted for Skyline College ECE Principle class - Paper#4