If your child attends preschool or day care, then you might agree that the most important thing about this place is actually not the physical place, but the people. Your child can attend the Taj Mahal of child care centers, but if they do not feel loved and valued and truly known by a consistent, gentle and wise educator – then the rest doesn’t really matter. While Georgetown Hill has a people-centered approach to early childhood education, we recognize the central role that the physical environment can hold.
The physical space is a crucial piece of the quality child care picture. A purposefully-designed classroom is perhaps second only to the human being who is setting up each day! At Georgetown Hill, we have transformed our classroom environments over the last two years.
While we always have had plenty of developmentally appropriate “stuff,” organized centers, and a print-rich environment to support early literacy, we have been reflecting on how our physical environment represents our priorities when it comes to teaching young children.
Moreover, we have been learning about new research in brain development, the rise in sensory issues, and how we can maximize each unique child’s learning and engagement. Our take-aways from this reflection is that the space matters; children are highly impacted by their classroom space, and, if designed thoughtfully enough, the environment can truly be, as the Italian educators of Reggio Emilia describe – the third teacher (the parent and the classroom teacher are the first and second!).
Our new-and-improved classrooms boast a neutral color palette and natural materials and textures.
Did you know that reds, yellows and oranges are known to overstimulate young brains and create nervousness and feelings of unsettledness?
We have learned this through experience! In contrast, neutral colors and soft blues and greens create feelings of calm and safeness. It is only from this peaceful mental state that we can listen, learn and develop healthy relationships. There is a fine line between decoration and distraction!
Second, our curriculum encourages children to celebrate and take care of each other and the natural world, so our teachers bring colors and elements of the outside in, whenever possible.
Finally, we have refined our thinking about the phrase “print-rich-environment.” For us, this means that we value early literacy in everything we do. Our “print-rich environment” is not walls splattered with alphabet posters and site words and print with no meaning to our children. For us, an environment that values literacy development is filled with quality books in every center (you might find architecture books in our block play area or cookbooks in our kitchen area), experiences with all different forms of fiction and non-fiction, fine motor development to encourage writing for purpose, lots of singing to teach rhyme and rhythm – and much, much more.