The classroom environment has an impact on
children as learners, and on their learning. The
Reggio Emilia approach to early education
considers the environment as ‘the third teacher’.
In her book, Authentic Childhood, Susan Fraser
states that the environment “informs and shapes
the kind of learning that will happen in the
room.”7 The choices we make about materials,
tools, books, furniture set-up, and location of
centres indicate our values as educators, and our
intentions for learning and experiencing.
Some points to consider:
• Arrange materials, and learning centres,
in an aesthetically pleasing way to engage
children’s interest and to evoke curiosity.
• Think about lighting when deciding where
to place centres. Should the science and
technology centre be placed by a low window
for outdoor observations? Or, should the
visual arts centre capture the natural light
from the window?
• Ensure that materials are in good working
condition for safety reasons, and to prevent
children from becoming frustrated.
• Include natural materials as much as
possible – items that are naturally part
of the child’s world. These items engage
children in using their senses.
• Think about what is on the walls. How is
the work of all children represented in the
classroom? Is the work of all children valued
Creating the learning environment begins before
the beginning of school.
Before school starts:
• Make a list of the centres that can
reasonably be supported in the classroom.
Is there enough furniture? Are there
enough materials? When moving into a
new room, some educators prefer to first
take everything out of the room so they
can arrange it without being influenced or
constrained by previous set-ups.
• Think about the location of the large group
meeting area. How much space is needed to
accommodate the number of children in the
group? Should it be at the back of the room
where there might be less distraction from
people coming to the door? Should you face
the door so that you can see people entering
or exiting the room?
• Consider what furniture will be needed for
the large group area - an easel for writing?
Storage? Bookshelf? Display space for wall
charts, etc.? Will this area also be used for
construction materials and games?
• Consider the children entering the
classroom. Have the children been in the
room before? Do they attend childcare or the
extended day program for part of the day?
Are they new to school? If children have
been to school before, or are in the childcare,
there can be more centres open, with more
materials, as they are already familiar with
them and the associated routines.
• Consider the kinds of centres that would
appeal to the children at the beginning of the
year. Sometimes, centres such as the ABC/
word-study centre are not popular at the
start of the year, and may be more effectively