Unit 4 DB: Classroom Design Think about how you feel when you are in a room that is well-designed and organized. This video discusses the impact of room ar

Unit 4 DB: Classroom Design Think about how you feel when you are in a room that is well-designed and organized. This video discusses the impact of room ar

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Unit 4 DB: Classroom Design Think about how you feel when you are in a room that is well-designed and organized. This video discusses the impact of room arrangements on preschool children. Notice the differences in the way the children play before and after the room makeover and the strategies used to make the environment more appropriate for learning.In your initial response, answer the following questions:

As a teacher, in what ways will the organization of your classroom affect your behavior and attitude? Do you think these same factors will affect the children in your classroom? Why or why not?
Describe two examples from the video that demonstrate how changes to the room arrangement affected the children’s play.

In response to your peers, share additional examples of how the physical environment of a classroom can impact safety, improve function, or encourage creativity. http://www.ct.gov/oec/lib/oec/earlycare/elds/ctelds.pdf (2014). Connecticut Office of Early Childhood.

Children’s art should be acknowledged in school and at home. This site provides suggestions for painting with young children.

· Kemple, K. M., & Nissenberg, S. A. (2000).

· https://postu.idm.oclc.org/login?auth=prodbb&url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=11305146&site=ehost-live&scope=site Early Childhood Education Journal, 28(1), 67-71.

Isik-Ercan, Z. (2017). Culturally appropriate positive guidance with young children. Young Children, 72

Unit 4: Chapter 6. Creative Environments

Learning Objectives

After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

· 6-1Describe an appropriate physical environment for creative activities for young children.

· 6-2List five safety factors to be considered in the early childhood environment.

· 6-3Discuss the main considerations involved in the arrangement of space and equipment in the early childhood classroom.

· 6-4Describe the condition and organization of materials in interest centers that encourage children’s creativity and developing skills.

· 6-5Discuss the decisions involved in setting up activity centers.

· 6-6List six factors that are important when selecting equipment to be used in creative activities for young children.

· 6-7Describe multicultural learning centers.

NAEYC Program Standards

· 1c

Using developmental knowledge to create healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging learning environments.

· 2a

Knowing about and understanding diverse family and community characteristics.

DAP Criteria

· 1E3

Teachers ensure that the environment is organized and the schedule follows an orderly routine that provides a stable structure within which development and learning can take place.

· 2E3

Teachers organize the daily and weekly schedule to provide children with extended blocks of time in which to engage in sustained play.

The setting in which a creative activity takes place is very important. Young children are very aware of negative moods and environment. A dark room or crowded space can have much more effect on them than a rainy day. The arrangement of space and the type of equipment provided have a dramatic impact on a child’s creative experiences. The impact is even greater on children with special needs.

General Guidelines for Appropriate Physical Environments

LO 1

The aesthetics of the early childhood environment were discussed earlier in Chapters 3 and 4. Here we will consider some basic guidelines for a physically appropriate early childhood environment. This is as important as the aesthetics of a room, because a positive physical environment is one of the keys to the success of the creative activities that take place within it. The following points are some things to consider when evaluating the physical space in early childhood programs.

· Proper heat, light, and ventilation are important. Remember that children live closer to the floor (see Photo 6-1) than do adults and that warm air rises and is replaced by cooler air. It may be helpful to install a thermostat or thermometer at their level so you can be aware of the temperatures they are experiencing. However, it must also be remembered that children of all ages are more active than adults and that they may not feel cool at temperatures that may be uncomfortable for you.

· Consider the source of natural light in the room. Children are likely to be more comfortable if they do not face directly into strong sunlight when they work. For children with visual difficulties or limited vision, make sure the room has plenty of light.

· Chairs should be light enough for the children to handle and move without too much noise. Because the chairs are used at tables for creative activities, the kind without arms should be used. For children in wheelchairs, provide small stools for the child’s feet when placing the child at a table.

· There should be some tables that accommodate from four to six children for group activities. Rectangular tables are better for art activities involving large sheets of paper. Some small tables designed to be used singly or in combinations are quite versatile. Tables with washable surfaces such as Formica are best.

· Shelves should be low and open and not too deep so that children have a chance to see, touch, and choose materials independently. Shelves that are sturdy but easy to move are more flexible in room arrangement and help create interest centers.

Photo 6-1

Provide sufficient floor space for young children to allow them to stretch out if they wish.

Casper Holroyd

Safety Factors

LO 2

Special consideration should be given to safety in the physical environment. Some important safety checks follow.

· Be sure that all low window areas are safe.

· Beware of and remove toxic, lead-based paints and poisonous plants, particularly berry-producing plants.

· All art materials must be certified nontoxic. Resist the urge to keep or use any unlabeled materials. More specific information on safe art materials is found in Chapter 12.

· With all materials, ask yourself: Will the item be likely to cause splinters, pierce the skin, or cause abrasions? Will the attractive glitter stick under fingernails? Are the fumes from a spray irritating? Will a -year-old child’s tongue-test transfer color from the object to the mouth?

· Avoid using scented felt-tip markers, which teach children bad habits about eating and sniffing art materials. A good rule of thumb: If the label on a marker reads “nontoxic” or does not read “permanent ink,” the ink is probably water based. Not only are water-based varieties safe to use, they are easier to remove from walls and clothes!

· Try out new materials yourself before creative activities to become aware of any potential safety problems. Most young children can learn to be careful workers when they understand hazards. A teacher, when discussing how to use scissors, might ask, “How can you hide the point in your fist so that you will not hurt yourself and others when you are putting them away?” Two-and three-year-old children will usually need to have adults set rules—for example, “Clay is for modeling, not for eating.” Children of age and older can cooperatively decide on rules and regulations for safe handling of tools, materials, and equipment. However, older children may still need verbal reminders or simple signs.

· For children with visual impairments, keep the arrangement of furniture stationary until the child is familiar with the room. Be sure to warn the child when changes are made in the arrangement of the room and/or equipment.

· Regularly check to see that fire exits, fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers are in working order and are placed appropriately in the classroom.

· Familiarize yourself and the children with fire exits and fire drills.

TeachSource Video

Preschool: Appropriate Learning Environment and Room Arrangement

Main Considerations in the Arrangement of Space and Equipment

LO 3

Teachers must consider many things when arranging space in an early childhood program, including the following factors.

Children’s Age and Developmental Levels

The age and developmental levels of the children using a room dictate how that room should be arranged. A group of – and -year-old children, for example, would do quite nicely in a simple, small, enclosed space. At this age, children may be overwhelmed by too large a space or too much equipment in it. Yet as their large-motor skills are developing rapidly, the space should be big enough for active, large-motor activities. Here is where balance is very important. Also, because coordination is not well developed yet in – and -year-olds, the space should be as uncluttered as possible.

In contrast, a -year-old child has better coordination because of a more centralized center of gravity and doesn’t fall as frequently as a – or -year-old child. More equipment in a room will not present a space or safety problem for the -year-old. However, the space needs to be large enough to allow children of this age to run, jump, climb, and pretend. In organizing space for young children, then, there should be enough open space for the children to move around safely and comfortably at their level of physical coordination and to work together cooperatively and freely. Adequate room also needs to be available and easily accessible for children in wheelchairs and with walkers. Approximately – per preschool child is recommended. Middle-and upper-level elementary students can and need to work in a much larger area than younger children. A larger working space allows for their larger physical size and provides room for various student groupings that naturally arise out of project work, which is an appropriate instructional method for this age group.


Another consideration in arranging for young children is the supervision of that space. Open play spaces should not be so large that it becomes difficult to supervise the children properly. A common technique is to divide the space up into interest centers or activity areas with limited numbers allowed at each center. (Interest or activity centers are discussed later in this chapter.) When breaking up the space in such a way as to facilitate supervision, using low, movable barriers, such as child-level bulletin boards, bookshelves, or room dividers, provides a clear view of the area and permits a more flexible use of the space itself.

In supervising a group that includes children with special needs, the teacher needs to be aware of the specific limitations of these children and to check throughout the day that their needs are being met. For example, in working with children in wheelchairs, the teacher should ensure that they are not in the same position for long periods (more than ). The teacher should also be aware of when to move children who use wheelchairs to the proximity of ongoing activities.


Space should be kept as open and flexible as possible so it can be adjusted as children grow, develop, and change in their needs. Your early childhood program certainly should not look the same on the last day of the year as it did on the first day of the year! The early childhood environment must reflect the young children in it—changing and developing along with them (see Photo 6-2). In response to children’s growing ability to deal with more concepts, the room should now incorporate additional equipment, supplies, and interest centers. Conversely, materials, equipment, and even whole centers need to be removed to storage when children have outgrown them. This same idea holds true for older children in middle-and upper-elementary grades. The classroom that never changes is boring and a less-than-stimulating learning environment for these children. In a flexible environment, space can easily be rearranged to fit these new centers without major renovations.

Photo 6-2

Choose materials that are simple in design and versatile.

Casper Holroyd

This same flexibility holds true when working with children with special needs. For example, at the beginning of the school year, children who are visually impaired need to be in a room where there is assigned seating. This will aid in helping them learn their classmates’ voices and names. The reason for assigned seating needs to be clearly explained to the class so they can understand the importance of the seating arrangement. Another helpful suggestion is to make sure children understand that they should identify themselves before speaking.

6-3dTraffic Flow

Even when increasing activity options in a room, space should be as free as possible to allow the traffic to flow between activities (see Photo 6-3). For example, the traffic flow should not interfere with activities that require concentration. A language arts center is more likely to be used by children if it is away from the noise of people coming and going. The block corner, too, will be used more often if it is planned for a space that is free from interruption and traffic.

Photo 6-3

Space should be as free as possible to allow easy movement between activities.

Casper Holroyd

Older children will enjoy an arts center that is situated in an area where they can concentrate and work without a lot of interruptions (that is, away from the door or other heavy-traffic areas). (See Photo 6-4.)

Photo 6-4

Older children need more room for special projects.

Casper Holroyd

Involve children in arranging the space. Sometimes children as young as , as well as older children, may help determine where particular centers should be located and the reasons for such decisions. For example, a kindergarten teacher, introducing the woodworking bench, held a discussion with the children about where it should be placed. They wisely considered safety and noise factors in making their decision. Older children can actually help move desks, tables, and other equipment to carry out their own space reorganization plan. You may even tape arrows to the floor to teach the children traffic patterns for moving about the room.

6-3ePersonal Space

In the early childhood years, children are growing physically and intellectually and developing their sense of self. For this reason, it is very important to plan space in such a way that each child has a place of her or his own (see Photo 6-5). Having a place of one’s own to keep personal belongings, extra clothes, artwork, and notes to take home helps encourage a child’s developing sense of self. A snapshot of the child used to label the personal space is a good way, too, of assisting the growth of a sense of self. A snapshot removes all doubt that the place is private property even before a child has learned to recognize his or her name. Each child needs to be able to count on having a place belonging only to him or her.

Photo 6-5

Each child needs a personal space in the early childhood program.

Casper Holroyd

It is only by firmly establishing an understanding of ownership that a young child learns about sharing. Having a cubby of one’s own helps the child learn about possession and care of self, which are both basic to a growing sense of independence.

If there is not enough space for individual cubbies, labeled dishpans, clear plastic shoeboxes, large round ice cream containers, or even plastic milk crates can be used. Making personal space important recognizes each child’s personal needs. This says to the child, “You are important.”

In developing a positive self-concept, young children also need privacy. Besides respecting a child’s private cubby, the space should be arranged so that there are quiet places to be alone. Especially as children grow intellectually, they need space and time to reflect and think. Quiet places to be alone encourage this reflection where children can enjoy their own thoughts and mental perceptions of the world. Older children have no less need for privacy and personal space. The classroom needs to have a designated space where a student’s need to be alone is respected.

Children with attention deficit disorders (ADD) have a more intense need for concentration in a designated personal space. They tend to be most successful when they have their own materials and space in which to work. Even a cardboard box on a table can function as a study carrel for children with ADD.

6-3fPlanning for and Displaying Children’s Artwork

The way you plan for and display children’s artwork tells children a lot about how much you value their work. Here are some suggestions on how to manage children’s artwork in a way that shows children you value their work.

· Plan your artwork exhibits so they reflect children’s ideas and experiences. Ask children to help select the items to be displayed. They may want to (or have you) write down why this particular work is meaningful to them. For instance, they like the medium, color, or subject.

· Enliven students’ artwork by providing interesting backgrounds. Use gift-wrapping, colored paper, maps, sheet music, foreign newspapers, and wallpaper samples to encourage children’s creativity.

· Make interesting groupings of children’s artwork. Feature a specific theme, stress a particular color, or highlight a special medium.

· Display artwork outside as well as inside the classroom. Use the hallway and stairwell walls and other flat surfaces, such as doors, for your gallery. A sheet of butcher paper or bulletin board paper can be attached to a wall to define a display area and unify the works of art.

· Exhibit artwork in various stages. Include photos of the work in progress for documentation so others can enjoy the process, too.

· Place artwork at children’s eye level. Label the displays with large, easy-to-read letters, and make up simple but catchy titles. Older children can make up these titles as well as cut out or write them out for the display.

· Handle work respectfully. Let the children know that you appreciate and value their skills and creativity. Frame or mount their work attractively. (Use backgrounds with contrasting colors and interesting textures, such as burlap or corrugated cardboard.) Encourage the young artists to sign their own names. Be sure not to write on their work without permission. Take dictation on a separate strip of paper. Older children may want to write a short statement to accompany their work.

· Mobiles and kites are best displayed from the ceiling. Make certain that all materials are well attached and that the items hung from the ceiling are secure so they do not fall or set off sensor alarms. As with all displays, it is important to know your school’s policies about the types of adhesives allowed. Hot glue has a tendency to peel paint, low-temperature glue guns may not work on some surfaces, and double-sided tape can leave a residue. Humidity and the wall’s surface both affect what will and will not work. Reusable tacky putty sticks to most surfaces and leaves few marks.

· Showcase work in exciting ways. Instead of stapling work to bulletin boards, hang pictures with clothespins from clotheslines. You can also use tree branches to display mobiles. Create a free-standing kiosk with four display sides from a cardboard refrigerator carton. A cardboard, folding, pattern-cutting board can be used to display art on both sides.

· Two-dimensional works of art can be mounted on larger contrasting or neutral-toned paper. The top and sides are usually of equal width with the bottom larger, unless the work is square, in which case all four sides are equal in width. When matting art, a – to mat is standard, with the bottom being an inch wider than the top and sides. The mat acts as a resting place, so when arranging mounted or matted art, the works should not overlap.

· Arrange special areas for fragile or three-dimensional work. Supply stable shelves or low tables to display wire and clay sculptures or woodwork. Use cardboard “shadow boxes” for added emphasis and protection. Arranging sturdy boxes of varying heights and covering them with complementary cloths allow sculptures to be equally viewed. If sculptures are of varying sizes, the largest should always be placed toward the back and the small works in front. Arranging works in odd numbers creates interest as well.

· Provide individual display space. Have each child choose his or her own small area of a bulletin board that has been divided into sections. Let him or her select and change dated samples to document growth.

· Organize a space where parents can collect artwork. Designate the top compartment of the child’s cubby as the “art shelf” or create an art “mailbox” from a large, partitioned, cardboard beverage carton turned on its side. Use cardboard mailing tubes to send home rolled-up artwork to prevent folding, creases, and tears.

Did You Get It?

· At a local preschool, the three-year-olds’ classroom has a large, uncluttered space, while the kindergarten classroom’s play space is full of play equipment. What is the most likely reason for this difference in classroom arrangement?

1. The kindergarteners have learned how to use equipment appropriately.

2. The increased coordination of the kindergarteners calls for less empty space.

3. The lack of equipment in the three-year-olds’ classroom fosters creative play.

4. The increased social sophistication of the kindergarteners calls for use of equipment in cooperative play.

Activity/Interest Centers that Encourage Children’s Creativity

LO 4

One approach to fostering creative activities and use of materials is to provide as part of the environment activity centers or interest centers and to identify activities and materials for each, based on the group of children in the class.

An activity or interest center is a defined space where materials are organized in such a way that children learn without the teacher’s constant presence and direction (see Photo 6-6). It is a place where children interact with materials and other children to develop certain skills and knowledge. Activities in each activity center are planned by the teacher according to the developmental needs of the children (Kostelnik & Grady, 2009).

Photo 6-6

Art materials need to be organized to provide easy access for children.

Casper Holroyd

Learning centers are places where children learn through direct interaction with other children and their environment. In centers, children learn through doing in an environment carefully prepared for their personal and active exploration.

An early childhood program organized around activity centers encourages creativity by giving children many opportunities to play, experiment, and discover as they engage in activities that help them with problem solving, learning basic skills, and understanding new concepts. In activity centers, young children can manipulate objects, engage in conversation and role playing, and learn at their own levels and paces. Materials in the interest centers also allow the children to experience various cultural and ethnic groups represented in their world.

Figure 6-1 presents the basic interest centers found in most early childhood programs. Figure 6-2 shows how interest centers can be arranged in a classroom. Again, this arrangement is a suggestion, to be adjusted to the needs of the children.

Figure 6-1

Basic Interest Centers in Early Childhood Programs.

ART AREA: This is a place for painting, collage making, cutting, pasting, and chalking. It should be located near water and light and away from large-motor areas.

HOUSEKEEPING/DRAMATIC PLAY CENTER. This is a place for acting out familiar home scenes with pots, pans, and dishes and to “try out” social roles, real-life dialogues, and grown-up jobs. It includes props that are specific to a wide variety of ethnic and cultural groups represented in the class.

BLOCK-BUILDING AREA. Here children can create with both large and small blocks, Tinker Toys®, logs, Legos®, etc.

MANIPULATIVE AREA. Activity in this center enhances motor skills, eye–hand coordination, and mental, language, and social skills through the use of play materials such as puzzles, pegboards, and games.

SCIENCE/DISCOVERY CENTER. Here children can learn about nature and science. They can display what they find at home or on nature walks. It is a place to discover, explore, and ask questions.

MUSIC CENTER. This center provides a place for children to listen to CDs or iPods, to sing, to express themselves creatively in dance, and to play musical instruments. Music from many cultures and ethnic groups is included.

LANGUAGE ARTS CENTER. In this center, children can be alone with their thoughts as they explore the world of books. Books in languages other than English for bilingual and ELL/ELS students as well as books representing a multicultural approach are included.

SAND AND WATER PLAY AREA. This is a place children learn through sensory experiences with sand and water.

THE SOCIAL STUDIES CENTER; PEOPLE AND PLACES. This is a special area where children can study about families, different cultures, ethnic groups, community awareness, specific occupations, and lifestyles.

WOODWORKING CENTER. This center provides children the opportunity to develop their large and small muscles by sanding, gluing, fastening, drilling, and sawing wood.

OUTDOOR PLAY AREA. This center provides a natural learning environment where activities from indoor learning areas can be extended.

Decisions Involved in Setting up Activity Centers

LO 5

Before setting up activity centers, you have to make a number of decisions about which centers to use, when to use them, and where they can best be placed in the classroom. Some of the questions to be addressed include the following.

· Will centers be offered all day, every day; part of the day; or only some days of the week? The ideal choice is to offer activity centers for a large block or blocks of time every day at approximately the same time. This lets children plan ahead, make choices, and get involved in activities. It allows teachers initially to structure learning centers throughout the room and gradually add, remove, or modify centers during the year.

· What room features offer potential settings for centers? You can make creative use of walls, floor, chalkboards, tables, and nooks and crannies.

· Should there be limits on the number of children using any specific center? If so, how will this be determined, and how will children know what the limits are? Activity centers need to be planned so children can work individually or in small groups of various numbers. The size of a small group of children at any center is determined by the amount of materials available, the purpose of the center, physical space considerations, and the need to avoid overstimulating confusion. Signs with stick figures and numbers can indicate the number of children who can use a specific center. For some children with ADD who may wander from center to center, make a photo display of the centers so the child can select from the photos to make an individual schedule of what she plans to do.

· What kinds of centers will provide a workable balance in terms of content? This will depend on the characteristics of the children and staff.

· How free should movement in and out of the centers be? Ideally, children should move at their own paces, guided by the teacher. This allows for more individualization within the program.

· How will children know what to do in each center? Some centers will require more direction than others. You may want to use pictures or symbols for routine directions (hands with a faucet of running water to remind children to wash; aprons on pegs to facilitate art and cooking cleanup without having to mention it). Be sure your centers have the appropriate equipment for children with special needs. For example, children with physical disabilities may need to use art materials in different ways, such as lying on the floor over a bolster pillow to draw. For children who are auditorily impaired, be sure to provide in your centers many activities that use senses other than hearing. For the child who uses a wheelchair, which places him at a different height than the other children, it may be possible to use a beanbag chair for floor-time activities. For a child who does not have the strength to stand for long periods, a tabletop easel will let the child sit in a chair while painting.

· As we learned in the previous chapter, young children have many ways of learning. You can incorporate what you’ve learned about these multiple intelligences by including appropriate materials and equipment in your activity centers that appeal to multiple intelligences. Figure 6-3 presents a list of suggested materials and activities for preschool and kindergarten children. Figure 6-4 has the same information for grades 1 through 5. You don’t need to include all of these items in each center, but it is important to have a variety of materials for the multiple intelligences of children in your group.

· For elementary students, is there a place for storing ongoing projects? Milk crates or storage containers can be used for this purpose.

Figure 6-3

Materials for Multiple Intelligences—Preschool to Kindergarten.

· Books

· Maps

· Magazines

· Pipe cleaner letters

· Chalkboard

· Dry-erase board

· Rice/sand/shaving cream/finger paints

· Texture letters

· Construction paper

· Laminator

· Pencils/pens/markers

· Overhead projector

· Letter puzzles


· Manipulatives

· Counters

· Abacus

· Legos®/blocks

· Geo boards

· String art

· Cuisenaire rods

· Blocks

· Play money

· Puzzles

· Marbles/beans

· Geometric shapes

· Straws/string/clay

· Pattern blocks


· Legos®/blocks

· Colored pencils/markers/crayons/paint

· Puppet theater

· Tongue depressors

· Glitter

· Manipulatives

· Clay

· Posters

· Puzzles

· Sand/water


· iPod

· Musical instruments

· Headphones

· Cassette/record/CD player

· Keyboard

· Music books

· Video camera

· Kitchen utensils for making sound effects

· Recordings of nature sounds

· Toy microphones

· Posters of composers

· Tape recorders/blank tapes


· Audiocassette tapes

· CDs and CD player

· Beanbags

· Large-motor equipment

· Dress-up clothes and other props for dramatic play

· Manipulatives


· Books

· Puzzles

· Art supplies

· Cassettes/cassette players

· Computer

· Microscope

· Reference materials

· Writing materials

· Clay

· Musical instruments

· Tape recorder


· Art supplies

· Sports equipment

· Musical instruments

· Puppet theatre

· Books

· Video recorders

· Seeds/gardening tools

· Computer

· Cooking supplies


· Terrarium

· Microscope

· Ant farm

· Seeds

· Soil

· Bird feeders

· Bird guides

· Gardening tools

· Magnifying glass

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© Cengage Learning

Figure 6-4

Materials for Multiple Intelligences—Grades 1 to 5.

· Reference books

· Glue

· Encyclopedias

· Scissors

· Computer

· Desktop publishing software

· Bulletin board

· Thesaurus

· Dictionary

· Letter stencils

· Sentence strips

· Variety of paper

· Newspapers

· Notebooks

· Magazines

· Bookmaking materials

· Student-made books

· Writing utensils

· Books on tape


· Pattern blocks

· Protractors

· Unifix cubes

· Balance scales

· Tape measures

· Puzzles

· Rulers

· Strategy games

· Construction sets

· Objects to serve as counters

· Dice

· Cuisenaire rods

· Collections for sorting/classifying

· Science equipment


· Markers

· Art prints

· Crayons

· Video equipment

· Collage materials

· Videotapes

· Pastels

· Charts

· Graphic software

· Colored pencils

· Computer

· Stencils

· Puzzles

· Rubber stamps

· Graphs

· Drafting supplies

· Posters

· Architectural supplies

· Paints

· Clay

· Variety of drawing paper

· Lego® sets


· iPod

· Tape recorder

· Recording equipment

· Headphones

· Musical software

· Tapes/CDs

· Keyboard with headphone

· Homemade instruments

· Books on musicians and m

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