Three-Year-Old Kindergarten teaching toolkit - environments for learning

Anthony Semann: Hi, I'm Anthony Semann. And I'm joined by Wendy Shepherd, early childhood trained teacher and consultant. Wendy, thank you for joining us.

Wendy Shepherd: My pleasure.

Anthony Semann: The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, or the VEYLDF, really highlights the importance of an environment, the physical and the social environment and the impact it has on children's learning and development, both indoors and outdoors. I'm wondering if you could share with us your thoughts about those core critical components of an environment that an early childhood teacher and educator might consider when establishing a space and environment within a three-year-old kindergarten program.

Wendy Shepherd: I think the most important point to start with is the context. So what type of community are these children living in? What's reflected within your materials and your furnishings that speak of the life lived for those children? And then the uniqueness of three-year-olds that we need an environment that supports their desire to play, to explore, to be curious and to to find out about things, and to play with others.

Anthony Semann: Can you share with us your thoughts about what a high expectation for children's learning and development looks like when establishing an environment and the resources?

Wendy Shepherd: First of all, you have to have high expectations of the adults to demonstrate respect and care for the resources in the way they arrange the equipment, in what they provide, so there is that notion of the theory underpinning how you set up a room. It could be that you're kind of stuck in that maturationist mode where things are kept in the storeroom and you bring things out one piece at a time, going from simple to complex, instead of organising a room where children can work together to solve those problems, to work out what's simple and what's complex.

Anthony Semann: All this has an impact then on children's learning and development, doesn't it? The environment can't be seen outside of the impact it has on children showing us their knowledges.

Wendy Shepherd: Exactly. We're creating, as Lyndon and Moore say, "Chambers for a Memory Palace", and these memories have to be worthwhile remembering. So the invitations to engage are really specifically designed or thought through with your colleagues. So it's not just one person trying to keep all of this together, but it's also including children in the respect and maintenance.

Wendy Shepherd: And there are special ways of thinking about that. You need to designate spaces where things happen. Children need familiarity and continuity so they can build competency. They can choose between items that are placed carefully there. But if you're continuously moving around home play area, drawing, the blocks, children come the next week and they go, "Well, where is everything?". And so then you get aimless wandering.

Wendy Shepherd: So if you have purposeful engagement, you need to have specific places for that to happen. Children need cues from the environment. So build in those cues so that you are supporting your team and the children in valuing and respecting the materials. Otherwise, if there's only one person trying to hold it all together and they don't, and others don't, understand what are the goals for today? Why is this piece of equipment arranged in such a way? So there has to be collaboration.

Wendy Shepherd: And the most important environmental cue is the respect that adults have for each other. Because if children aren't seeing respect shown, then how can we expect them to show respect?