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Making Your Environment “The Third Teacher”

by Margie Carter
July/August 2007
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/making-your-environment-the-third-teacher/5017622/

“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.”
Lella Gandini (1998)

The Italian Schools of Reggio Emilia are acclaimed for the stunning environments their educators have created, and they provoke us to recognize the instructive power of an environment. This is not a new concept, but in their schools we see vibrant examples of learning environments that dazzle our senses, invite curiosity and discovery, and most importantly, foster strong, respectful relationships. Reggio educators seem to have a different notion about the role of the environment in educating children, for unlike the typical U.S. early childhood classroom, their walls aren’t covered with alphabet letters, calendars, and job charts. Nor do you find commercially produced bulletin board displays, labels on every shelf and surface, or rules posted. What could they be thinking?

In the name of early education, homogenization and institutionalization are sprouting up everywhere in early childhood programs across the United States. Our programs have been developing what author and Harvard educator Tony Wagner (2001) calls “a culture of ...

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