In the Reggio Emilia approach, Loris Malaguzzi named three teachers of children – adults, other children, and the physical environment. The physical environment is often referred to as the third teacher, and is an active participant in the journey of learning. Spaces are designed and organized to foster interaction, autonomy, communication, curiosity, exploration, and experimentation. But they also need to be flexible, responding directly to the processes of how children and adults are engaging with the spaces and how they may be constructing knowledge. This means the environment shifts regularly to remain responsive, though changes may be minimal.
Here, in the White Room, you will notice our classroom setup shift gradually over the year. While specific areas may remain the same, supporting the children’s sense of ownership over the classroom, other areas will change. If you remember, this is what our classroom looked like in the first weeks of the school year:
Several weeks ago, the children began to show us that the space was no longer serving its initial purpose. The mats were not the cozy space they once were. Instead, they became an obstacle course of sorts – a structure that stood in their way of getting from point A to point B. And they needed to climb over them. So, it was time to say “See you later, mats!” With that, we introduced the classroom loft stairs, revealed the meeting rug, and added a cozy corner in the rearrangement of the entire space and addition of new materials. This shift leaned into fostering interaction, autonomy, communication, curiosity, exploration, and experimentation.
And this week, after continued reflection of how children are using the space, we made a few more minimal shifts.
We are excited to see what learnings and discoveries accompany these shifts, and cannot wait to share more in the coming months about our third teacher!