The learning environment

Rethinking Environments

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.
Winnie the Pooh

In the special 200th issue of Exchange, Sandra Duncan, co-author of Inspiring Places for Young Children, contributed the thought-provoking article, “Breaking the Code:  Changing Our Thinking about Children’s Environments.”  In the article Duncan observed:

“The new trend in aesthetic codes focuses on beautifully designed environments that are harmonious with children’s beauty.  In such environments, neutral colors are used on the walls and floors, the furniture is made of natural materials, and the beauty of nature is infused into the room.  Instead of bold and bright colors generating from the furnishings or wall decorations, the new code brings color into the space through the simple beauty of children’s paintings, weavings, drawings, or sculptures.

“Also, this new code embraces simplicity and values children’s work, especially regarding how their masterpieces are displayed.  [In “Aesthetic Codes in Early Childhood Classrooms“, Patricia] Tarr challenges early childhood educators to think beyond the idea of decorating the classroom walls with scalloped borders and alphabet posters.  She says, “Work that follows formulaic schemas, such as prescriptive worksheets or the St. Patrick’s Day mobiles hanging from the ceiling, stifles the true capabilities of young children and consequently silences imagination and creativity.”  Still, many educators continue to cover the walls with materials that not only have little educational value but also perpetuate the wrong aesthetic code.

“Breaking the traditional aesthetic code requires de-cluttering the walls, removing commercially-produced materials, and placing children’s framed creative expressions, as well as thoughtfully chosen masterpieces, such as Monet or Rembrandt throughout the classroom.  By doing so, teachers can break down the walls of the antiquated aesthetic code and begin to create new codes that honor children’s work and create beautiful spaces.”