Identifying and Understanding Resources


Principles of design used to create aesthetically pleasing home or commercial environments can and should be applied to classroom or care spaces. Children and adults alike benefit from spaces that are soothing to the senses and inviting without being overwhelming or artificial (Deviney, Duncan, Harris, Roday & Rosenberry, 2010; Edwards, Gandini & Forman, 1998). Early childhood commercial catalogs tend to feature plastic, brightly colored materials in primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) that are cheerful but do not necessarily promote the warmth and familiarity of a more homelike setting.

In their 2010 book Inspiring Spaces for Young Children, Jessica Deviney and her colleagues identify seven principles of good design to consider for establishing environments that are not only functional and efficient but also calming and inspiring to children and adults alike:

  • Use natural items to bring the outdoors in, reflect the local climate, and promote a sense of tranquility. Elements such as plants, rocks, seashells, twigs, and flowers provide pleasant sensory connections.
  • Color establishes mood and generates interest, but overdoing it creates “visual clutter.” A good rule of thumb is to focus on a neutral color scheme and use primary colors conservatively.
  • Use furniture positioned at 45- or 90-degree angles to define spaces and create cozy areas that remind children of home. Include authentic items such as lamps, pillows, upholstered furniture, and decorative/functional items that children recognize from the real world.
  • Texture adds depth and sensory stimulation. Items such as wall hangings, weavings, and mobiles made from natural materials provide visual interest. Natural or recycled materials such as pine cones, corks, bark, and stones can provide opportunities for observation and differentiating the physical properties of materials.
  • Displays, especially those that feature childrens collections and creations, personalize space. Items such as baskets, buckets, and interesting containers can be used for sorting, classification, and storage.
  • Lighting, scent, and sound dramatically influence the way the environment is experienced and perceived. Think about ways to minimize the “surgery” effects of fluorescent lights and balance low- and high-level lighting.
  • Focal points invite engagement and attract the childrens attention. It is very important from time to time to view the environment from their vantage point so you are aware of how they see the space.

Classroom on the left has no windows, the walls are covered with decorations, the shelves have brightly colored boxes, and the mat the children are sitting on is multi-colored. The classroom on the right has a large window, a more muted color scheme and there are plants.Hutchings Richard / Getty Images (left); John Humble / Getty Images (right)

In these two photos of preschool classrooms, you can see that one is cluttered, crowded, and a kaleidoscope of colors; the other has natural light, natural elements such as plants, and a low-key color scheme. Which classroom better applies the principles described above?

6.3Identifying and Understanding Resources

Teachers and caregivers use many different kinds of resources and materials that help them select, organize, and evaluate activities to support curricular goals, objectives, and standards. Since early childhood curricular options (as discussed in Chapter 1) range from open-ended approaches to specific models, the types of materials teachers use to plan can vary widely as well. This section describes a variety of concrete tools and how you can use them in your planning.

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