Environments reflect values and shape identity

Deb Curtis points out:

“People in the United States spend most of their time in human-made environments of one kind or another. Some of these are carefully designed, while others appear to have been haphazardly put together. Spaces are typically created with some kind of purpose or intention, whether or not this is evident. Every environment implies a set of values or beliefs about the people who use a space and the activities that take place there. For example, having individual desks rather than grouping children at tables suggests that the teacher believes children learn best in isolation from one another, and values individual work over group activities.
Thoughtfully planned or not, each environment also influences the people who use it in subtle or dramatic ways. Depending on individual dispositions, experiences, cultural orientation, or needs of the moment, people may prefer to be alone or in the company of others, quiet or actively engaged, in bright or filtered light, or in an urban or wilderness setting. An environment may temporarily overstimulate or bore, calm or agitate those in it. Spending an extended period of one’s life in an environment deemed unpleasant will eventually exact a toll. Because of this, a number of professional fields focus on designing spaces, from architecture to landscaping, lighting and interior design, marketing, and human psychology.
Children in the United States spend thousands of hours in early childhood programs. Nonetheless, most American programs have not drawn wisdom from those outside our profession who specialize in designing spaces. Early childhood program spaces are seldom put together with conscious, sustained attention to the values they communicate or the effect they have on the children and adults who spend their days in them. Perhaps this omission accounts for the awe that engulfs most visitors to the Italian schools of Reggio Emilia. Reggio programs are housed in aesthetically gorgeous spaces that most early childhood teachers and administrators would love to live or work in. At the same time, Reggio environments deliberately reflect the programs’ values and beliefs about children, families, teachers, and the social construction of knowledge. Here’s how Lella Gandini (2002), author and Reggio Children liaison, summarizes their intentions in designing spaces.

The environment is the most visible aspect of the work done in the schools by all the protagonists. It conveys the message that this is a place where adults have thought about the quality and the instructive power of space. The layout of the physical space is welcoming and fosters encounters, communication, and relationships. The arrangement of structures, objects, and activities encourages choices, problem solving, and discoveries in the process of learning. There is attention to detail everywhere – in the color of the walls, the shape of the furniture, the arrangement of simple objects on shelves and tables.” (p.13)

Ref: (bold blue emphases mine) Deb Curtis (2003?) Designs for Living and Learning

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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