The environment is the third teacher. This is the notion that teachers make thoughtful decisions about classroom aesthetic and design which affects student perception and their behavior. Teachers can create an environment which engages children and provokes inquiry just by carefully displaying materials.
When you enter a classroom, consider these questions from a child’s perspective:
1. What does this environment tell you about teacher values and expectations?
2. How do you think you might behave if you spent your days in this place?
3. What is in this environment that helps you focus and be intentional about your use of time?
4. What support and guidance might you need to benefit from this environment?
Consider the two pictures posted. The first is of building materials in a bucket on a shelf and the second is of building materials displayed. I make this distinction of “displayed” for a reason.
I tracked these materials over a few days in a learning environment I volunteer in. I left the materials in the bucket for a few days and then shifted them into the second position and noticed a change in engagement.
In the first picture, materials are mixed together in a dark purple bucket. Students were not able to see materials through the bucket. Therefore, did not choose to use them.
In the second picture, materials are separated and stored in a structural way. Students are able to see the shape of the items in the clear buckets and can consider potential for creativity upon noticing the item as they walk in the room. These were the first items students touched.
You have the power for provocation. Consider how you would like students to interact, and let the environment speak.
Read more about transforming your environment here!