Environments matter.

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This beginning time of the year in our country, sees literally thousands of Educators across Australia scrambling to “get ready for the new year”.  And one of the things about the new year, is that it seems to always want us to make new beginnings.  I often wonder about this notion.  Why is it that time seems to just cut off, and then start again?  I mean, it’s really just a change of calendar dates…… isn’t it?

There does seem to be a huge focus on environments.  And I guess a new year is a great excuse to reflect, rethink, declutter and make changes.  What I do think gets missed in the process is the deeper thinking around why we are doing all this.  And who we are doing it for.  There is some argument that it is the “child’s space” and so the space should only be reflective of the child’s needs.  My issue with that thinking, is that there are adults who also live in these spaces….. spend a great portion of their lives here in fact.  Should that not entitle them to some consideration in design also?

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.”
~Earl Nightingale (American Entertainer)

I recently heard the statement that we should wait until we observe the children in the space, before we make any changes.  Wait?  I know in our environment, we already have a good knowledge of the children that will be in the rooms, and we’ve done some thinking and reflecting on what they will need, and what changes we might make to best accommodate them. And there have been some changes.

It’s nice for children to begin their transitions to new rooms that have already considered them, rather than waiting until they officially become part of the room to give that any air time.  Imagine if we waited to make changes for a child who uses a walking frame – to ensure that there is clear access around the room and to all areas for him. That’s an extreme case obviously – but that doesn’t mean that this same type of consideration is not valuable for all children.

We’ve also done a lot of reflecting on spaces, to consider what we can improve as a general function. We’ve done some of that end of year assessing.  We’ve done some visioning.  We’ve put our spaces under a microscope.  Examined them.  Through different lenses.  Seeing the room as though you are a parent.  A child.  An educator.  Heck – even an assessor.  What are the things those people see?  And ensure if you are looking from the lens of a child, that you are at the level that their eyes see the space from.  On your knees.  Sitting.  Even lying on the floor in the case of babies.

Reflection on how and why environments are changed, is definitely something that should be engaged in. And doing this with a knowledge of the children who will be in the space is imperative. That doesn’t mean having to wait until they are actually there though.  There is a lot we can do to spaces before the children bring their moving vans in.  We can use what we know about children in general, and how space can be utilised.  Ensuring that we are providing intimate spaces for children to be.  Alone and in small groups.  By using low and open vision furniture to make divisions.  By avoiding the temptation of creating a ring of little pods around the outside of the room.  By creating clear paths for children to make their way around.  By creating a sense of order about the space.  By considering what the room will need to cater for in terms of routines – children eating, sleeping, resting.  By making our space a living space – one that oozes our values, beliefs and philosophy.

img_1539Children are deserving of beautiful and carefully planned environments.  Environments shape behaviour.  They influence opportunities for learning.  They help us, or they hinder us.  They support relationships.  When your environment calls to children, from the moment they set foot in the space……. when warm and welcoming is the feeling that erupts from deep inside…… when you walk into a space and let out a long breath…. a sigh…… those things are the things that matter.

As you move through the beginning part of the year – of course this is when observations of children interacting in the space will allow you to make the space truly reflective of the people within in it.  But remember – as educators – we matter too.  This is our space too.  These are our lives together.  And together, we create harmony.  Enjoy creating new spaces for the new year.  Do it thoughtfully.  Do it with knowledge.  Make it matter.

Children are filled with an innate sense of wonder about the world around them.  Create spaces that will feed their hunger to discover and learn, to build on knowledge.  Create spaces to dream and fill children with awe and fascination, that will spark imagination.  Create spaces that will nurture hearts and souls, and support loving relationships.  What you create matters.  It matters a lot.

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“You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”
~Walt Disney