Environments for Learning

Beginning with Less

One of the biggest difference families notice when they begin their journey at Flinders is the “less” factor. Less resources, less colour, less displays, less stuff. At times, this can be surprising, challenging, or even shocking to those of us who are used to more. We live in a more culture, driven primarily by commercialism and economic imperative; earlier is better, more is better. Families ask us; what do my children do all day? They notice and comment on the lack of toys, or mention how spare the environments seem. All of this is intentional. Loris Malaguzzi once referred to the environment of the early childhood centre as an aquarium, reflecting the interests of the people who inhabit it. But the thing about authentic representation is that it is built on relationship. We can’t accurately reflect the lives and interests of the people who inhabit our spaces until we know about the people who inhabit our space. This takes time. It is hard, deep and vulnerable work, to begin to share our values with others. Working from a foundation of relationships requires educators to create a safe space for families and children, to listen carefully, to observe closely, and then to use this information to make informed decisions about what we provide in the physical and emotional environment. Research continually shows that learning in the early years is based on the quality of the relationships. When educators have strong, reciprocal relationships with children, they feel secure to explore and toRead more

More than just a pretty face: The value of trees

At Flinders University Childcare Centre we are very lucky to have so many trees, some of which may predate the existence of the centre. Not everyone I know gets to work with rosellas, lorikeets, kookaburras, magpies, koalas, cockatoos and butterflies to name some of the “friends” who make as much (or more) use of the trees as we do. But apart from bringing in colourful and interesting additions to our program trees also do so much more work than that to define and frame our outdoor environment. Outdoor environments are about affordances- about what potential for play and movement is allowed or even suggested by the space, layout and materials available to the children. Much research has shown that children and adults sometimes view affordances differently. One example is considering the baby’s world-view where a bump or unevenness in a path that an adult would not even really notice becomes an interesting challenge to explore. Natural environments are full of these sort of affordances, that no one has had to plan- slight inclines up or downward, lines that are not quite straight, leaves that change colour or die away depending on the time of year, stones that grow exciting mosses or lichens. Trees bring in many affordances for play. The placement of a tree may be a boundary “you can run up to the tree”, “the truck goes around the tree”, “the goals are between the tree and the fence”. They tree might dictate movement by providing an interruption forRead more

Why White?

Flinders has undergone a massive change over the past month…we have been painted! No longer do we enter lavender and lemon coloured houses! This has been a long time coming for the educators at Flinders and signals a significant change in thinking regarding children’s environments for learning. Flinders has been lavender and lemon for over ten years. These colours were chosen for their believed benefits to children; colours that fostered calm in people based on principles of colour therapy. However, over the last ten years, thinking in this area has shifted dramatically, as one would expect. Experts in early childhood environments now emphasise the importance of neutral colour schemes that compliment rather than compete with the inhabitants of the space. Because that’s the thing about early childhood environments; they are rarely seen empty. They are filled with children, educators, resources, sounds and light. They become quickly busy and full of documentation and art work. So if a space is brightly coloured when empty, it becomes overwhelmingly coloured when filled with people. This can increase levels of stress, anxiety and tension. On the other hand, when a space is  neutrally painted and furnished, the addition of children, educators, resources and documentation creates a balanced and interesting environment. The inhabitants of the space bring life and excitement to it; complimenting that environment rather than competing with it. This decreases the ‘busyness’ of the environment and creates space for children to be. The environment should be a blank canvas, only complete once theRead more