The learning environment should be safe, healthy and supportive to develop young children’s exploration and independence. The learning environment should encourage children’s initiative, active exploration of materials, and sustained meaningful engagement with other children, adults, and activities. When the physical structure and orgnaization of the learning environment meets quality standards, student engagement is increased and opportunities for learning are maximized.
The first element of an effective ECSE environment is the physical structure. Physical structure refers to the way the room is set up and organized. It is the layout of the classroom.
Remember, young children may focus on some of the details in the classroom or within an activity, but they may not be able to put them together to get meaning out of their environment. Visual cues help the child understand what is expected. Boundaries serve to break up the environment into segments and define where each area begins and ends. Strive to divide your classroom space into well-defined areas with adequate workspace for tasks and activities. Set up your classroom to allow free access to activities and materials. Children will learn where to be and what to do while in that area. This is accomplished by:
- Clearly organizing the physical layout of the environment with visually clear areas and boundaries
- Designating specific areas for major activities
- Minimizing visual and auditory distractions
- Free access to activities and materials
- Build centers from walls toward the center of the classroom.
How you organize your time is just as important as how you organize the space in your classroom! It is essential to provide a schedule that is structured yet flexible enough to meet children’s needs. Watch this video to learn about the six components of an effective schedule for preschool children:
- Free-choice time
- Outdoor time
- Large-group time
- Small-group time
Providing structure can alleviate or moderate the problems associated with young learners by:
- Helping them to understand expectations;
- Increasing their understanding of the environment, students are less likely to be agitated and anxious when comfortable in a structured environment;
- Helping them learn more easily with the use of visual cues directing them to focus on relevant information;
- Helping them achieve more independence and less reliance on others to maneuver through their environment; and,
- Teaching behaviors and then generalizing them with the use of visual systems which assists with behavior management.
Young children learn best when they are actively involved. Children under the age of seven years use their senses as they play, explore, experiment, and interact with people and objects to help them make sense of their experiences.