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A Pivotal Moment – The Environment as a Third Teacher

The Environment as the Third Teacher is a guiding principle in the Reggio Emilia philosophy.  Today one of Richland’s Senior Kindergarten teachers, Mrs. Kate Daniel, would like to share her recent insights on this topic.

Today I really understood, at a deeper level, the importance of the environment as a third teacher. My teaching partner and I have always put much thought and care into the design and purpose for the learning spaces within our classroom.   We were curious as to how this would impact the children’s learning.Following a strong interest from the children, “To experiment, just like scientists,” we created an area where the children could participate in some simple experiments.  In that area today were two identical shaped ice blocks.  Sugar could be added to one, and salt to the other.  The children predicted which block would melt first, and then began to experiment.In the middle of documenting the children’s ideas and theories, I was stopped by one of the children.  “May I document?”, she asked.  I passed the paper and pencil over to her, and not only did she begin to write down what was being said, but she also began to ask the other child, “Why do you think that?”  Observing the children’s interactions, I came to the sudden realisation that so much of what we do as teachers impacts children in ways we could never imagine.Having created an environment which offers many opportunities to explore, create, think, question and imagine,  and documenting their learning process on  a daily basis, these children have begun to take on this way of thinking and building understanding themselves.

What is implicitly communicated in their environment has begun to play out in these children’s deep engagement and ways of making meaning in their world.  The room has indeed become a place of many possibilities, and is supporting the children in their learning in ways we had never anticipated.


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