Co-constructing a learning environment

Thursday, August 10, 2017

In June I had the opportunity to return to Simcoe County and co-present with Ellen Brown on a topic that remains a passion of mine!  Our session was entitled, "Exploring ideas of environments that support early learning interactions in emergent curriculum settings."

Here is a little glimpse into the presentation description:

What does it mean to work with an “emergent” curriculum? What does “learning” mean to you? What does “environment” mean to you? Why does environment matter in emergent curriculum or Reggio-inspired settings? What may you offer children in your early learning environments that support them in their learning experiences? Please join Joanne Babalis and Ellen Brown in this full-day presentation as they offer their experiences and ideas of these concepts as educators and doctoral students researching Reggio-inspired settings. 

Of course we could have spent our day lecturing on this topic and providing photograph examples, but we thought that it would be more powerful and engaging to make it a hands-on experience.  As Ellen and I began planning, we thought we would shake things up a little bit and have participants co-construct the learning environment rather than us having it set up entirely for them upon their arrival.

On each of the tables we had a runner with a large clear bin and wild flowers.  Then on another side of the room we created a mini atelier (studio space) almost like a buffet of materials that could be accessed freely as required.  Participants were invited to collaborate with each other at their table groups to plan a provocation or learning experience for another group in the room.  They could fill their clear bin with what they needed to create a learning environment. 

Here are some images from our workshop:

I really enjoyed my time with the educators who were so engaged in this process.  Special thanks to Ellen Brown and Tonya Millsap for including me in this learning opportunity!  I am glad that we tried something new, as I felt that co-constructing the learning environment was far more meaningful than what I had done in the past...  It helped us to go deeper and reflect upon preparing our spaces for an emergent curriculum.  Such a Reggio Emilia inspired day!!!

Children develop through interactions,

first with the adults in their lives - parents and teachers -

then with their peers,

and ultimately with the environment around them.

Environment, said Malaguzzi, is the third teacher.

-Loris Malaguzzi


  1. Lovely! Gives me some new ideas for my own classroom (early childhood special needs). Thanks so much for sharing the pictures for those of us unable to be part of the workshop. (p.s. - Your maternity pictures blend beautifully with the Reggio Emilia environmental design.)

  2. I love this!I am a retired educator and even got to take the ultimate "field trip" to Reggio in 2013. Now I volunteer with our Master Gardener program and volunteered to coordinate the Kid's Zone in the Master Gardener booth at the Tulsa State fair. It will be held during the Monarch Migration through our area of the country. Have you ever developed butterfly provocation? Thousands of children and their parents will visit our booth and I hope to provide inspiration for all on the joys of nature and gardening. Thank you in advance and congratulations on your new little bundle!