Domain III:  The SSU teacher candidate demonstrates sensitivities to learning contexts and environments. 

  • Create environments that encourage positive social interaction, active learning, & self-motivation

INTASC Standard Five:  The teacher uses an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning and self-motivation.

NAEYC Standard 1.  Promoting Child Development and Learning:  Candidates use their understanding of young children's characteristics and needs, and of multiple interacting influences on children's development and learning, to create environments that are healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging for all children.

Name of Artifact:  Physical Environment Paper

Date:  Fall, 2004

Course:  EDEC 255

Rationale:  This artifact is a reported prepared for EDEC 225, Educational Environments.  The report defines what is meant by a classroom's physical environment and what components would be included in a developmentally appropriate physical environment. This report identifies the developmental needs of school-aged children and the importance of developing physical environments that meet these needs.  This is an important factor in planning and preparing the physical environment of a classroom so that it will be developmentally appropriate for the students in the class. Classroom instructors must be aware of where the students are at in terms of physical development and create an environment that will meet the needs of the students. 

I have included this paper in my e-portfolio for the reason that it illustrates what to consider in creating a developmentally appropriate physical environment, taking into consideration the needs of the students.  By being aware of physical needs of the students, teachers can create an environment that encourages social interaction while providing opportunities for active, self-motivated, and challenging learning.




Physical Environment

Kyle Brewer, Jessica Woodruff, Kristi Rhoades, Jill Davis, Janice Elrod, Jill Montgomery and Kevin Downey

Dr. Wei-Ying Hsiao

October 7, 2004








I.                   Rationale to set up our learning environment.

“Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) means that which is suitable or fitting to the development of the child.  It refers to those teaching practices that are based on the observation and responsiveness to children as learners with developing abilities who differ from one another by rate of growth and individual differences, rather than of differing amounts of abilities” (Gordon and Browne, 2004, pp635-36).  DAP is not a “one-size fits all” approach.

Six, seven, and eight-year olds are interested in real-life tasks and activities.  They are learning to control both their large and small muscles, along with mastering fine and gross motor skills.  Child-centered learning enables a child to make his or her own choices and to learn through play, while working independently, or in groups.  They can experience hands-on activities provided by education centers placed throughout the room.  This allows the child to discover (or make discoveries) themselves in an effective, practical, and meaningful way.

II.                Describe what school-aged children are like and what they do.

School-aged children are like little sponges.  They want to soak up as much information that they can and as soon as they can!  Although every child is unique, there are some common characteristics generally shared by school-aged children.  This age group has a thirst to know and to understand.  They are eager to join groups of peers, spending time and energy at becoming competent at the things that interest them. 

Furthermore, school-aged children are very active and enjoy hands-on activities.  They grow rapidly and need large muscle activity on a daily basis.  It is important that provisions be made for indoor as well as outdoor physical activity.  Time spent using large muscles in play also provides opportunities for rapid language and concept development.  School-aged children are great game players, indulging in simple sports and games such as catch, tag, hopscotch, and swinging.

Gradually, young children learn to deal with the challenges of their expanding world, acquiring a level of trust in themselves and the environment (trust vs. mistrust).  This developed trust is much needed because of the long hours spent away from home and families while attending school.  By age six or seven, children have become more organized in their view of the world and more skilled in using symbols to understand and communicate about their experiences (Ladd, Vol. 10, Issue 2).

III.             Identify the developmental needs of school-aged children to which the physical environment must respond.

Developmental needs of school-aged children vary based on their ages, personalities, and cultural backgrounds.  Effective programs will provide activities, materials, and staff that match the developmental stages, interests, and backgrounds of the children.  The developmental needs of children should be reflected in the physical environment, in the materials and supplies available, and in the way peers and adults interact with children.

Theses school-aged children are in the “concrete operational stage,” and are increasingly interested in the fruits of their labors.  They need time to practice more complex skills, along with a need to be with friends and feeling part of a group.

The physical environment for children from age seven to nine should reflect their need for a wide range of choices where they can pursue their interests.  For example, the arts area might have materials for building modes.  This could change over to weaving and pottery for the next two weeks.  Then, it might be used for making puppets and performing puppet shows.  Children this age need time and space to meet together in large and small groups.  Choice is very important for school-aged children.

The physical environment should foster growth and development of the whole child through opportunities for exploration and learning at each child’s developmental level.  Some guidelines are arranging the areas by using room dividers and furniture.  Make sure there is enough space to provide clear pathways for children to move from one area to another and to minimize distractions.  In addition, arrange age-appropriate materials and equipment on low, open shelves to promote accessibility and independent use by children.  The shelves and containers should be labeled with pictures and words to help children return items to the proper place when they are finished playing (Head Start, 2002).

School-aged children need to be able to move around in an area.  The physical environment must be user-friendly and interesting to allow the children to use their senses.  The effective physical environment influences conditions that help a child change the way he or she behaves, feels, and lives.

IV.              Describe considerations in planning appropriate environment and schedules.

Warm, well-run classrooms begin with the room’s physical layout-the arrangement of desks and working space, the attractiveness and appeal of bulletin boards, and the storage of materials and supplies.  All of this reflects the teaching style.  Consideration should be to the space of the room, what furniture will be needed, and what centers will be set up.

In a child-centered learning environment, easily accessible materials and supplies can eliminate delays, disruptions, and confusion as students prepare for activities.  Also, temperature, lighting, and noise level are factors that affect students in different ways and are related to individual learning styles.  The arrangements of tables allow for the formation of small groups, which encourage interaction and group work.  The center should be very exploratory, mainly divided into academic topics, arts, or themes.

In the developmentally appropriate primary classroom, both teachers and children concentrate on the tasks to be planned and accomplished, rather than letting the clock dictate what learning should be occurring at any given time.  Children need blocks of time to experience learning to manage their own time.

V.                 Identify several components that would be omitted from a developmentally appropriate school-aged environment.

Several components related to space, arrangement, and time that are not developmentally appropriate school-aged physical environments include the following elements:

1.      Children work silently and alone most of the time in assigned desks that are not moved.

2.      Children have few choices in planning their activities or workday, which is broken-up into short periods for different instruction.

3.      Instruction is given mostly to the large group.

4.      Curriculum is divided into separate subjects, primarily reading and math, with others covered if time permits.

5.      Special learning projects, centers, and outdoor play are either absent or used as rewards for good learning behavior or occasional treats.

6.      Teacher-directed reading groups take up most of the morning, while children spend most of their time doing paper-and-pencil practice exercises (Gestwicki, 1999, p.130).

School-aged children need environments that enable them to have an active role in their learning.  The physical environment is like “another teacher”, motivating children, enhancing learning, and reducing behavior problems.


















Gestwicki, Carol (1999).  Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Curriculum and Development in Early Education, Second Edition.  United States.  Delmar Publishers.

Gordon, A.K., & Browne, K. W. (2004).  Beginnings & Beyond: Foundations in Early Childhood Education, Sixth Edition.  United States.  Delmar Learning.

Head Start of Lane County (July 16, 2002).  Setting up the Physical Environment.

Ladd, Linda, National Network for Childcare: Character Development in School-aged Children Ages 6-10, College Station, TX.