Saturday, 30 August 2014

A new classroom of possibilities!

The Environment As Third Teacher...

There are three teachers of children; adults, other children, and their physical environment.

Loris Malaguzzi

Quite some time has been spent on planning and reflecting in regards to the setup of our new space. It's more than just decorating! Many factors played a part in creating an environment for children that acts as the third teacher. 

You may be wondering what I mean by "the environment acting as the third teacher"? According to Margie Carter, "we must ask ourselves what values we want to communicate through our environments and how we want children to experience their time in our programs. What does this environment “teach” those who are in it? How is it shaping the identity of those who spend long days there?"   

Carter, M. 2007. Making Your Environment “The Third Teacher”. Exchange Magazine

This is where the reflecting piece came in for me. The following are a few factors that I felt were important to the design and setup of our classroom environment: 

1. Flow in the room (allowing children to move freely between exploration areas, allowing for clear paths)

2. Accessibility of materials (supporting independence, being self-sufficient, seeing themselves as capable learners) 

3. Connecting home and classroom environment (creating softness, a safe home like feeling)

4. Starting with bare walls, and being open to co-constructing the space with the children 

5. Engagement through the natural world, (connecting children with nature by using natural artifacts and taking part in experiences outdoors)

6. Creating an environment that fosters wonder, exploration, and curiosity (being intentional with the materials that are placed out for the children to interact with and explore) 

7. Creating an environment that fosters respect for the materials used and for each other 

Without further ado, here are a few photos of our new classroom environment! But please note, it may change frequently based on the suggestions and needs of our students!

“In order to act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: it must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers in order to remain up-to-date and responsive to their needs to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge.”

Gandini, L. 1998. “Education and Caring Spaces” in Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. The Hundred Languages of Children. 

Sand Area 

Light Table Area (various materials intentionally placed to explore light)

Writing Area 

Paint Area - part of Arts Studio (allowing for curiosity and exploration using different sized brushes and painting tools. Clear containers to explore creating different colours)

Arts Studio (Mirror for sketching flowers etc. adding another dimension)

Line Provocation (exploring lines using different mediums, e.g., plasticine, crayons and paper, and wire) 

 Loose Parts (recycled and natural materials for creating)

Construction (big blocks, recycled large cardboard tubes, tree slabs) 

Wonder Window (binoculars! I wonder what we'll see this year!) 

Playdough Provocation (What can you create? Using corks, buttons, pebbles, shells, beads) 

Discovery Area  

Math Area (intentional materials placed, e.g. dice, dominoes, wooden numbers)

Reading/Quiet Area 

Closer look at our Arts Studio (shelving unit to the left contains various recycled materials for creating!)

"When teachers and parents find themselves in environments that are beautiful, soothing, full of wonder and discovery, they feel intrigued, respected, and eager to spend their days living and learning in this place. Aren’t these the very feelings we want the children to have?"

Carter, M. 2007. Making Your Environment “The Third Teacher”. Exchange Magazine

We are so excited to begin a new journey with you! See you soon!


  1. Thanks to this post, I think that I finally understand what the "environment as the third teacher" means. I love the thinking behind your choices, and you've definitely created a wonderful learning environment for your students. I'm interested in hearing how the classroom design changes once the students arrive. Another blog post, perhaps? :)


    P.S. I also have a Wonder Window and love your binocular idea. I may be shopping for some today. :)

  2. Iam going to share with early educators, maybe lots of educators.

  3. Great post Anamaria! Beautiful photos of your environment too - very inspirational. Your children are very lucky (",)

  4. Lookin' Good! But um, where are the hermit crabs?

  5. Thank you Anamaria (Ms. Ralph). Anna is very excited for her first day and we are all looking forward to a terrific school year.

  6. Wow - the new classroom looks amazing!! Dylan is super excited to see his teachers and classmates again tomorrow.

  7. Wow. I love your teaching philosophy and think Oliver will too! The students will LOVE and thrive on your constructivist approach!!! Well done.

  8. Thank you for all the positive comments! I'm excited to see how the space will evolve over time!

  9. I love your Wonder Window with the picture frame to look through - fantastic, inviting idea.

  10. Thank you Maureen! The students seem to really enjoy it as well!

  11. I love how you've set up your classroom. It is beautiful and inviting. I realize this post was made in 2014 and that you may have switched things around since then. I've been teaching JK/SK for quite a few years now, but have only begun to implement the play-based learning approach within the past two years. I am currently taking the Kindergarten Part 1 AQ course and am learning a lot. I am presently on maternity leave but am going back to work in September and am really looking forward to putting into place all that I have learned from the course and from the inspiring pictures of classrooms like yours. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Where can I get one of those rolling paint trays?

  13. What is the book that's open in your line provocation picture? (the one with the lines made with different mediums)

  14. Beautiful post and really inspiring. On your table of line inspirations can you tell me the name of the book in the centre. Thank you so much

  15. Hi Lorraine,
    The name of the book is Lines by Philip Yenawine. A great book to explore different types of lines and the use of various art materials.