ACEI Standard 3.4 - Active engagement in learning
I designed an educational learning environment (see Appendix F) for a preschool class using the NAEYC Developmentally Appropriate Practices. I provided detailed information about the context and demographics of the school and classroom. The learning environment incorporates both the Reggio Emilia approach and the Creative Curriculum. The Reggio Emilia approach guides the curriculum planning and implementation in the classroom. The Creative Curriculum is utilized for assessing students learning and development. Additionally, instruction is also guided by the five principals that lay the foundation for the Creative Curriculum – positive interactions and relationships; social-emotional competence; constructive, purposeful play; appropriate physical environment; and teacher-family relationships. I described the classroom layout and my rationale for using natural, earthy colors and materials. I also developed a weekly and daily schedule for the class and provided my rationale for both. Lastly, my plan describes the dramatic play center because of it significance in promoting students’ social-emotional skills.
My use of the NAEYC Developmentally Appropriate Practice to plan a learning environment for a preschool class aligns with ACEI Standard “3.4: Active engagement in learning” (ACEI, 2007). My goal for creating this plan was to design a supportive learning environment where students will feel safe to explore and take risks. I drew on ideas from both the Reggio Emilia approach and the Creative Curriculum. The Reggio Emilia approach is utilized when planning instruction and implementing instruction. I believe that children have “an innate desire to discover, learn, and make sense of the world” (Hewett, 2001, p. 96). I cultivated that desire by developing curriculum based on the students’ interests, knowledge, and skills. This motivates students and fosters active engagement in learning because it makes instruction meaningful, relevant, and stimulating.
According to John Dewey, “the classroom [should] be organized as a community in which children learn in collaboration with each other and their teachers” (Research Foundations, 2010, p. 2). Based on this idea, I aimed to create a sense of community within the classroom. The room is homey and peaceful with natural colors, wood, and natural sunlight throughout. The soothing ambiance provides a welcoming, safe, attractive, and stimulating learning environment for students. On the neutral colored walls, students’ work is valued and celebrated and can be seen on display, at children’s eye level, throughout the classroom. This helps students’ self-esteem and motivation. Additionally, all safe materials and tools are kept where students can easily access them independently. This promotes students’ autonomy and initiative.
This project also demonstrates my ability to use my knowledge of developmentally appropriate instructional practices to create stimulating and meaningful learning experiences. The learning environment I developed encourages active engagement in positive social interactions. Social-emotional competence is associated with success in school. Therefore, I began with building trusting relationships with students. These positive teacher-student interactions are critical for learning and development to occur.
The dramatic play areas provides opportunities for students to develop their social competence, build and maintain positive relationships with peers, and learn how to regulate their emotions and identify the emotions of others. The theme of the center changes with the students’ interests. I rotate materials when the theme is changed. However, I constantly modify the center, often by rotating materials in and out, to support students learning needs. I encourage students to participate in deciding on new themes “so that the children will find interesting, stimulating, meaningful, and challenging things to do” (Neilson, 2006, p. 15) while engaging in fantasy play. Students are intrinsically motivated and actively engaged in their learning because they are given the opportunity to express their ideas and participate in decision-making.
Developmentally Appropriate Practices