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Designing the Environment to Build Connection to Place focuses on how two teachers in a Reggio Emilia-style childcare center take a room and completely transform it to fit their needs as teachers and the children’s needs as learners. Bobbi and Annette, the two teachers of the three and a half to five year old “senior room” of the center, are faced with the problem of a bland room that neither of them can see as a suitable learning space. The room had acoustic problems, terrible fluorescent lighting with limited natural light, and it was filled with clutter and broken toys. The teachers felt that the space caused the children to react and behave negatively in the classroom. They worked together, step by step, to completely redo the classroom to reflect the children, their interests, and the world around them. Bobbi and Annette structured the schedule, putting basic care items in inflexible and predictable time slots, but leaving activity times flexible and casual with lots of wiggle room.
They completely stripped, repainted, and rearranged the room. They observed the interests of the children and current events around them and used that to create a sort of personalization and creativity in the classroom.
A very important and notable change that Annette and Bobbi made in their classroom was to observe the children’s reactions to the environment following a hurricane that had a huge impact on their community. They took the children’s interest in the well-being of their natural environment, the trees and plants, and brought that into the classroom in a huge way for the children to build off of and learn from on a daily basis.
Their creative take on the children’s interests was intertwined in impressive ways into every center, especially through their elaborate and painstakingly constructed tree structures that can be found in various areas of their classroom. Annette and Bobbi’s focus on more organic and fluid shapes, verses the typical geometric shapes that we find in use in many childcare centers, gives a fresh and more naturally appealing look and feel to their classroom.
Every aspect of their room was in the best interest of the education and creativity of children. Another important thing that Annette and Bobbi did in their room was to leave certain areas and centers open for change; they noted that much of their wall space and many centers had the option of changing with the dynamic of the classroom, allowing the children to set the feel of the room with their interests and needs. Annette and Bobbi’s classroom is a fine example of a creatively nurturing and educational early childhood environment.
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