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136 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

obtained in a library or rhrough the 1 CSS website,

b. Reflect on the extent [Q which the information in this ( Identify at least tWO K-2
chapter corresponds [Q what you have observed in the studies standards around which you could develop
field. Whar is your reaction [Q any discrepancies you group time for young children.
perceive? b. Create a complete group-time agenda from ope'
c. Identify goals for yourself relared to whole-group closing for one of the social studies standards you'
instruction for young children including how you intend
rified above.
to pursue these goals. c. Look up the preschool standards for your state. I
a science or language standard you could address'
6. Consult the standards group time with young children. Describe the app
a. Look up the social studies standards published by the
~I ) you would take.
lb.Kna National Council for the Social Studies. These can be
and lea-
and thai
136 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

b. Reflect on the extent to which the information in this obtained in a library or through the NCSS websi
NAl chapter corresponds to what you have observed in the
field. What is your reaction to any discrepancies you
(hrrp:! Idenrify ar least rwo K-2
studies standards around which you could devel
perceive? group time for young children.
c. Identify goals for yourself related to whole-group b. Create a complete group-time agenda from ope .
instruction for )'oung children including how you intend closing for one of the social studies standards yon
1: Pn>nI to pursue these goals. rified above.
Leornil! L Look up the preschool standards for your state.
la. Kno¥ 6. Consult the standards
ch1dren' a science or language standard you could addr
a. Look up the social studies standards published by the group time with young children. Describe the ap
lb. Kno¥
National Council for the Social Studies. These can be you would take.
and lean
and diaD

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138 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

Learning Outcomes

1: Pnlm
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
~ Organize the physical environment to supporr children's learning.
~ Create and use learning centers.
la.1<noI ~ Modify indoor and outdoor environments to enhance children's development and
children learning. . .
lb.1Cnoo ~ Select developmentally appropriate materials for each curricular domain.
and lear
create h
and chal

NAEYC Standards and Key Elements Addressed in This Chapter:

2: Buildi
Za. Kno, Standard Ib: Knowing and understanding the mulriple influences on development and learning .
diverse f
charaete Standard lc: Using developmental knowledge to create healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging learrung
2b. Sop!
and COlT
reciproc Standard 4c: Using a broad repertoire of developmentally appropriate teaching/learning approaches
2c..lnvot Standard 4d: Reflecting on their own practice to promote positive Outcomes for each child
in their (
learning Standard 6d: Integrating knowledgeable, reflective, and critical perspectives in early childhood education
and Fa"
3a. UndE
and usee
3b. Kno.
Sc, Kroa. ea madk·rng
• A blanket IS. draped ouer a sturdy table in the pretend p Iay area,
""""'" tent. Four-year-oldsJenny and Seth enter the area talking loudly han down
3d. Und . Th ey peek under the blanket and find the tent empty. Cr oac mg
positive low, they begin to whisper as they enter the cozy space. area
4: Usinc Th k· d·
Appro;' • ree m ergartengirls arms locked in unison marc h over to the artare
and Fan ' that the art table has'. four chairs, but uuo ith
to make collages.They see
40. Un<!
relatio~ already occupied. "Come on," announces Sara, "Let's find a 'place.~ stick
workwn more room." The girls head ouer to the block area where a sign ~I 'ldingal
4b. Kno. figures shows that six children can play. Only one other child IS UI
the time. The girlshappily begin taking blocks off the shelf disPerse
ec, Usil\l • As the Przmary-agechildrenemergefrom the building, they eagerly ce area.
learning acrossthe playground,some with large balls toward the hard sur(J f the
4<1. Refll othersWithmagnifyingglassestoward
school. the small meadow at one Sl e o
for each

As illustrated by the children in these early childhood progra~s? th:P~

I cal en~tronment affects children's moods influences their ablh~ t
re anonshlps and h . ,.' I anung,
d veI ' as a crucla role In their goal achievement, e
the °hPmen,t(B~llard, 2017). The younger the child the more this iS trQ
e P YSlca envtronm . 'hildho
must pay particular enr IS a POwerful force to which early
attention. o c
Chapter 5 .. Organizing Space and Materials 139

Organizing the PhysicalEnvironment

Maria Perez walked into the kindergarten classroom to which she was assigned
for the fall. She saw furniture and boxes of materials stacked high in the middle

of the room. Her classroom was newly painted and the floors were polished to a
shine. Though materials and furnishings were all there, she knew it would take a
lot of work to have the classroom ready for the children by the first day of school.
She wondered, "Where do I begin?" The first-gradeteacheracross the hall had a
simple answer: "Safety first!"

The health and safety of every child is priority one for early childhood personnel. Safe envi-
ronments are rhose in which obvious hazards have been removed and chances of injury are
minimized. When physical environments are safe, children can move freely to explore and
try new challenges. In safe environments adults remain vigilant, bur are also free to relax and
interact with children without having to constantly police the setting to prevent accidents and
harmful outcomes (Kostelnik & Grady, 2009). For all these reasons, safety is the first thing
to consider a bout the physical environment.
As an early childhood professional, you will be responsible for overseeing building,
room, and outdoor play area safety and for teaching children to use materials and equip-
ment properly. Because young children do not yet have a clear idea of what is safe and
what is dangerous, teachers never leave young children unsupervised. In addition, they find
ways to adjust the physical environment to minimize potential hazards (Rose, 2012). For
instance, adults:
• Maintain all mandated safety procedures: child attendance records, implementing
secure arrival and departure practices, conducting emergency evacuation drills,
and planning for safery during field trips, transportation, and nap time (Sorte,
Daeschel, & Amador, 2014).
• Teach children to use play equipment and materials safely, to pur materials where
they belong, and to keep pathways clear. "
• Scan the area regularly for safery hazards: objects in pathways where children
walk or run, clutter near exits, sand or water spilled on hard surfaces, glass or
refuse in outdoor play areas, sand or ice on hard-surface walkways. "
• Ensure that materials with loose parts are kept where children expect to fmd
• Remove any equipment or materials that appear unsafe. Repair if possible.
Report maintenance needs and follow up on them to ensure completion of work.
• Use materials, equipment, and playgrounds that are appropriate for the age and
abilities of the children. "
• Make necessary adjustments for children with special needs and empower all chil-
dren to use materials and resources optimally, evaluating to derermine If the accom-
modation for one child may pose a hazard for other children. .
• Clean and sanitize toys and table or work surfaces regularly to keep children safe
from disease. "
• Supervise children actively, watching for safe use of equipment and materials.
More specific examples related to each of these guidelines are presented in Table 5.1.

One of the bi diff b n early childhood classrooms and those designed for
Iggest erences erwee . " d k
older stud is h
ems IS ow
th " d Young children do not rypically SIt at es s.
e space IS arrange . "
Instead, their classrooms are subdivided into interest areas that can accommodate a variery
of I" " "d b f hildren (Beneke & Ostrosky, 2013).
" earnmg expenences, materials, an nurn ers 0 c "
Sunilar principles apply outdoors. Thus, children need well-deSIgned spaces that allow them
140 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

Safety Examples Indoors and Outdoors

Indoor Safety Examples

1. Electrical outlets at the children's level are covered with safety caps.
2. Extension cords are at adequate length to reach tram plug to object and are not strung together. .
3. Emergency telephone numbers (e.g., hospital or medical emergency clinic, tire department, poison control) are clearly posted In the room.
4. Electrical appliances such as hotplates, electric skillets, or irons are used only with direct adult supervision. ..
5. All chemicals (plant tertllizer, cleaning compounds, medicines, etc.), appliances, and sharp objects meant tor adults (e.g., SCISSorS, knives)
are stored out of reach at children.
6. Toys, materials, and furniture are safe, durable, and in good condition (e.g., free of sharp edges and broken parts, no choking hazards).
7. A well·supplied first·aid kit is available, accessible to teachers and out at reach of children (American Academy at Pediatrics, American Public
Health Association & National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, 2011).

Outdoor Safety Examples

1. Outdoor equipment is in good repair (e.g., no sharp edges or splinters, moving parts are lubricated).
2. There are no tripping hazards.
3. There are no poisonous plants in the play yard.
4. Force·absorbing material is under climbers, slides, swings, and other equipment.
\ Note: Additional resources on playground safety may be accessed through the National Program for Playground Safety website at

to move around freely and that enable teachers to interact with them individually, in small
groups, and sometimes all at once.
As an early childhood professional, it will be your job to plan the effective use of class-
room and outdoor spaces. According to national accreditation standards and many stat~
licensing standards, indoor floor space in childcare and other early childhood settings shaul
be at least 35 square feet per child, not counting closets, hallways, and immovable storage
units, Outdoor space should be two to three times this number-75-105 square feet per
child (NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria, 2007) or,
in some cases, a set minimum such as 1,200 or more when the minimum is not adequate
for the numbers of children cared for by the center (Michigan Department of Human Ser-
vices, 2008). Children ages 5-8 need additional outdoor space to engage in vigorous game:
or to grow gardens (Frost, Wonham, & Reifel, 2012). More children or less space m th
classroom or outdoors are linked to increased aggression, decreased social interaction, and
noninvolvement with tasks (Maxwell, 2010). Sometimes facilities that at first glance appear
limited can be adapted. For example, in high-ceiling classrooms, a loft holding a listenlllg
Vertical space provides center on top with a writing center underneath can be used to increase the total space avail-
children with exercise and a able, making effective use of vertical space as well as floor space.
different perspective. /f addi. . The organization of physical space is an effective predictor of program qualiry because
tiona/ materials are added, It affects what children can do, determines the ease with which they can carry out thetr
more than one center could
be on or under the structure. plans, and affects the ways in which they use materials, Every classroom should have a
vanery of spaces that supporr differentiated instruction where children of differing ablhnes,
interests, and learning needs may find ways to be successful,
This calls for targeted planning on the pan of the teacher that
provides spaces for a child to work alone or with others (Bre-
dekamp, 2017; Tomlinson, 2014). For example, one teache~
set up a study carrel where one of his second graders who ha
difficulty attending could work away from the group and not
be distracted as easily. Consider the many kinds of indoor and
outdoor spaces that children need to have access to in order to
achieve their goals.
. First, childI ren need private space where they can w ark
mdependently or gain Control of their thoughts and feelings, A
study carrel, secluded chair, or pile of pillows meet this need,
The coat-storage area, the cubby and children's school bags
are private places where children'might store their work an~
private possessions. Landscaped areas where children can Sit
near bushes, under trees, or well away from equipment p~o'
Vide private spaces outdoors, Some children find and claun
-------- Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 141

special spaces within the confines of a playground or classroom. Such personal spaces are
in corners, behind shelving, or under a planting on the playground, affording privacy and
seclusion. These personalized spaces that appeal to children have a threshold or barrier so
that they can be together with a friend or alone. Children are delighted to have some degree
of control and privacy (Hall & Rudkin, 2011). Older children may refer to a similar space
that they built with blocks or wirh large snowballs as forts. Nevertheless, you still need to
supervise these spaces and keep them within your viewing and hearing range.
Second, small-group spaces for two to six children encourage quiet interaction with
one another. They are likely to exhibit cooperative and helping behaviors when rhey are
in close personal space (2 feet) and when the task set for the group is noncompetitive.
These spaces may also be called "maker-spaces," where small groups of children may meet
together to explore unfamiliar materials, think, problem-solve,and create, design, or invent
something (Hertz, 2012). Small-group spaces vary in size, with secluded spaces for a pair
of children as well as for four to six youngsters. Often, a small table with the appropriate
number of chairs can meet this need. When areas are designed for small groups rather
than only for individuals or large groups, behaviors such as wandering, running, fighting
over materials, and repeating the same activity many times can be minimized (Kostelnik,
Soderman, Whiren, & Rupiper, 2018).
Often, the outdoor play equipment determines the configuration of individual and
small-group spaces outdoors. Swings may accommodate individuals or two to three chil-
dren. Usually, climbers accommodate three to fivechildren at a time, depending on the size
and the complexity of the climbing srrucrure-Likewise,dependingon how it is used, mobile
equipment such as tricycles, ladders, and crates may be used by twa or more children. Other
small-group spaces are found under grape arbors or in the center of a group of bushes,
which have been carefully pruned for the purpose.
The third kind of space, large-group space, is one in which several children listen to
stories, sing, engage in games or other movement activities,and share whole-group instruc-
tion. Although some common whole-group activitiescan be carried out while children are
seated at tables, having a separate area where children can sit on the floor is preferable.
Children can sit closer together, see pictures or demonstrations better, and often feel more
like a cohesive group when seated on the floor.
. Most outdoor large-group areas are very large, spaced so that children may engage
in ball games and other whole-group motor activities. Ideally, a second large outdoor
space exists where children can gather comfortably in the shade for demonstrations and
To structure all three types of space, early childhood professionals must separate
them by clear, physical boundaries. Storage units, pathways, equipment,. low dividers,
and even the arrangement of materials on a table can delineate boundanes. Imagmary
boundaries, such as a pretend line between tWO children sitting Side by Side at a table, spaces
have multiple uses: group
are not effective. Children naturally expect to interact Withneighbors. However, they can
experiences and space to
determine the appropriate number of participanrs for a specific space by the numbe.r of construct with blocks.
chairs or the amount of £Ioor space wirhin rhe boundanes. Teachers can also use sIgns
to indicate to children the number of people that an area can
Fences, paved surfaces, curbs, sandpits, grass, and other
structural features usually establish the boundaries in outdoor
areas. Adults may add movable fearures such as tents, blan-
kets, or orange cones to mark other areas for specificplanned
Pathways between activity areas allow children to move
readily from one activity to another without interfering With
the ongoing learning of other children. These pathways must
be planned so that the flow of children in the classroom or
outdoors is smooth and efficient. Pathways often need to be
made wider to accommodate children in wheelchairs or those
who use walkers. Other adjustments may be needed to ensure
accessibility for all children in the program (Sorteet al., 2014).
142 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

NA Sound control is an ongoing challenge in programs that encourage independent, coopera-
tive, and learning-center work. A generally noisy environment from which children cannot

get relief is not conducive to overall cognitive development, academic achievement,ot
health (Maxwell, 2010). It is particularly challenging for children with hearing impair-
ments and those with autism. Hard surfaces in the classroom are easy to keep clean but
la. Kr tend to increase noise, and softer surfaces that absorb noise provide a warmer, more resl-
ient surface to touch but are more difficult ro maintain. Hard-surface floors are best where
multi, tbere are messy activities or children are likely ro track in dirt from outdoors. Carpeted
andlr floors are best in areas in which children will be sitting on the floor and playing actively.
With soft, sound-absorbing materials in the classroom, normal noise is diminish~
and c For example, large pillows, instead of chairs, placed on a small carpet can be used m
tbe independent reading area so that children can read aloud without disturbing othen
nearby. Draperies, carpet, pillows, stuffed animals, and upholstered furniture are aD
sound absorbent. Another strategy ro control sound environmentally is to increase the
secluded spaces for one or two children and decrease the number of spaces for six or more
children. Use furnirure or mobile screens for barriers between activity areas or reduce the
floor area of some of the cemers.

Corm Equipment and Material Size
20. ~
erver. Furnishings, tools, and equipment should be appropriate for the size of the children using
chara them. Children experience serious discomfort if their feet do not touch the floor while they
2b.S are seated or, conversely, if their knees bump into the table. Outdoor climbers have more
reap! rungs closer together when designed for 3- to 5-year-olds than is true of structures for old:
2c..ln children. When children have sufficient space in which to move without interfenng WI
in the
leam others and experience challenge matched with their size and ability, they engage comfort-
3:01 ably WIth one another and the materials thar supporr play and learning.
and I
3a. U Mobility
3b. , Early childho d f . I . I, involve
. 0 pro ession, s are responsible for planning programs that actIve j .
partr chIldren and allo h f PatbwajS
profe . w t em to move rom place to place in an orderly manner.. or
3c.K should be WIde enough for children to walk on without bumping into other children.
esses mterfering with the work and play of others. Avoid long empty spaces because they i~v~r~
runnmg Or hurrying In t d b k h ' . h rers. Tou!>
a b·out usmg the cent. s feah , rea up t e space by carefully arranging t e cen d on Iarg e
3d. I
posh bl er 0 r e room as open space with learning areas arrange 'der
ta es Or clusters of smal] bl I' d th Consl
4: U: dif . a ra es p aced so that traffic must move aroun em. biliry
App mOhlalllCatIonds
ISc enge. that should be made to accommodate the needs of children whose mo
wo~ Attractiveness
An attractive enviro . design,
edu< scent, and Sound al~ent ISone that appeals to the senses. Texture, color, pattern~n envi-
4c.1 ronment and are s contnbute to the sense of beauty and place. People shape ment is
dev€ by
child centered haped d It(Greenman, 2007). An attractive learning env,ICOnaC'ffor
' serene an exc t' I" . .d s pnv
4d. , reflection It al
SOre ecrsthe
I mg. t mvItes chIldren to engage and provi e
'. f . h co
!"on of children in th vanatIons 0 culture and taste representing t e ce -
for E
e room. Parents a II .'. k the spa eul.
turally relevant a II . re an exce ent resource III helpIllg to rna e MainpJII
flexibility in cha~~~; ~~s~aking the space more attractive (Sorte et a!', 2014; stra~
thar make the rOom lrvabl~"YS,addlDg color, IDcorporating plants, and othe
When adults demonstra h' . hi!
more likely to irnitat hi dte t eIr respect for cleanliness and attractlven~s, C d

orderly environment ~ t Sf esIrable behaVIor. Strive to provide children WIth a b

dren can locate th ee 0 unpleasant odots. To achieve an orderly environment W
e matenals sit tb fl . k
' on e oor and look around to gam a eenee
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 143

of the room from the child's viewpoint. Being orderly is not the
same as being sterile. Messy activities should occur, animals
should be observed, loose parts (collections of rocks, leaves,
or materials with many pieces), or junk (selected discards such
as nuts and bolts, clocks) should be available for exploration
and still be in an overall orderly classroom. Avoid clutter in the
learning environment both indoors and out.
Encourage children to care for their learning and living
environment by putting materials back where they belong and
participate in cleaning. This activity is also an opportunity for
children to learn classifying, matching, and reading skills if the
storage areas are adequately labeled. Keeping working surfaces
clean is a reasonable expectation of children. Before children
leave a messy area, encourage them to wipe the surfaces and
clean up for the next child's use. Pictographs or written instruc-
Parents are an excellent
nons for cleaning and storage also contribute to children's emerging literacy skills because resource for making a
the information is practical, useful, and meaningful to them. classroom culturally relevant.
. Ultimately, adults must arrange the physical environment to contribute to the ongoing
mstructional program. Rotate materials, bulletin boards, and pictures to reflect various topical
themes. Add bright touches to attract children to centers. Regularly change the substance of the
learning centers to reflect the children's changing needs and interests.
Displays may evoke interest, convey information to parents or children, and build a sense
of community and pride as children display their work. Good displays make expecrations
and learning visible, share ideas, help children reflect on their experiences, and learn directly
from the environment. Guidelines for creating an effective display include consideration of:

• Variety of surfaces: wall areas, display boards, cabinets, hanging signs may be
• Location: Create displays that are at the height and placement most appropriate
for easy viewing by the children
• Flexibility: How easy is it to display materials with two and three dimensions?
• Safety: Think about types of fasteners and the size and weight of things to be
Overall, simplicity is key to the entire physical setting. Remove extraneous materials.
Each object visible in the room should have a purpose and meaning for the children. When
you ask yourself, "Is this contributing to the goal I had in mind?" or "What am I trying to
accomplish with this?" you should have a clear, immediate answer. In addition, avoid leav-
ing children's work displayed longer than 1 week; take it down and display other, newer
The elements of the physical environment fit together in a comprehensible way and
should be designed to make life in that place a rich sensory experience. The effective use of
lighr and children's an displays, plants, an from around the world, and arumals adds to .the
beauty and livability of the classroom. A classroom that ISmore homelike and less insnru-
tional helps children feel secure and ready to learn. The aesthetic qualities of the classroom
provide the children with a code for behavior and a feeling that contributes to their sense of
beauty as well (Curtis & Carter, 2014).

Teachers make important decisions about the selection, storage, and display of materials.
Objects should be stored near the area where rhey WIll be used. Ideally, materials will be
in open shelving if children are to have ready access to them, and ID closed cupboards or
on high shelves if the teacher needs to maintain control of the materials, For example,
pencils , pa per, SCissors,
. an d glue are used daily
. and sbould .be readily accessible
. near rhe
rabies where they are used. In contrast, fingerpainr or a microscope might be put away
and retrieved as needed. Marerials that are small and have many pieces, such as counters,
small plastic building blocks, and fabric scraps, should be stored III transparent plastic
144 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

containers, which hold up well with long-term use. Mobile srorage of the right size and
shape is particularly useful for work in centers. Teachers should also consider safetyin
NA storage, especially when stacking containers or placing heavy irems on high shelves.
Easily accessible storage for outdoor learning materials is as essential as for indoor

1: Prot
materials. Wheeled toys, tools, containers, sleds, and other materials should be securely
stored in a large outdoor shed or a closet opening to the outdoor areas. Children will use
the contents more frequently than if they must carry mobile equipment some distance.
la. Knt
childre Safety, comfort, space, noise control, mobility, attractiveness, and srorage are basic
lb. Kn elements of the physical environment. 1 ext, we consider how ro combine these elemenae
create effective learning spaces both indoors and outdoors.
1c. Usi
endch Arranging the Classroom

Video Example S.1

Watch this video about preschool room arrangement. Note how rhe learning ce~ters or
interest areas are placed in the space, with boundaries and pathways and prOVISIOnsfor
pnvate and small-group spaces. How extensive was planning for sound, mobility, storage,
2: Bui and the size of the children?
and 0 Few classrooms are perfect and there is no one room arrangement that is ideal for every
space. Consider the organization of the space in the following classrooms: The preschoolo~
in the kindergarten classroom depicted in Figure 5.1 has the advantage of a large adJacent::
[eami age area but has numerous corners. When setting up the classroom, the teacher care .. Y
3:ot selected
'. i cliff'iculr-ro-see spots and the nature 0f the acnVlnes
the size of the centers Iocate d m d
and I going on m them. The brst-grade classroom (Figure 5.2) has a more traditional shape ao
lao U
arranged to accomm 0db' ate center- ased instruction for most of the d ay. Whole-group
and l mstrucnon
I b I occurs in the block area ' with rh e child ..
I ren SItting on th e floor
Subj ect-matter
f the
lb. ~
partr a e s are used to denote the activities that are usually locared in rhe various areas 0 ft
profr rjoom'dbut these designations are not rigid. For example social srudies activities are 0 en
lc.K ocate at the center lab I d "S 11' » ' d to the art
docu bl h e e pe mg, and many science activities are move .
ta e w en more space i d d h A raOl1!
esses I e IS nee e or w en more children are ar work in the center.
3d. I sca eM to assess room arrangement is suggested in Figure 5.3 (Heroman et al., 2010). I'
resp est states are us' f he qua Iry
post he env: mg a more orrnal reliable instrument ro assess t I
o f tr e envlronrne' I hi . Sca e-
4: U Revised (ECRS R~~ m ear y c ildhood programs. The Early Childhood Ranng aod
age groups. -, arms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2005) has versions for various settlngs
4a.1 Another measure for hId' A ment Scor-
ing System (CLASS) (P' presc 00 san primary grades is the Classroom ssessCLASS are
won observational tool f ianta, LaParo, & Hamre, 2008). Both the ECRS-R and uppal!
4b. children's Ie . s Whocusmg on teacher-child relationships in the environment to s aod
effe arnmg. en teach d . . f rmanon
edu suPPOrt from th· d . . ers un erstand the criteria and receIve 10 o. I rOOD
ell a ffilrUstrator h k . . . th If C ass
4<.1 environments that the m' . s, t ey rna e substannalllllprovements 10 e all 2008).
de~ These tools are \V'ldely admthram over time (Scon-Little, Brown, Hooks, & Marsh .' n with
lear . d' 10 con) 'uncno
the early childh d y use tough out th e country and are often cIte
00 program St d d f
an ar s or many states and programs.

Arranging Outd E'

. . oor nVlronments
The prmclples of usin the i d . a plY
outdoor environments~ The n Oor envIrOnment to influence development also I~
centers. Note that rna f play yard illustrated In Figure 5.4 supports several
fences, hills, and plannrm!
as play structures, water sources, hard surfaces,
gs are ed.
---------- Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 145

FIGURE 5.1 Preschool or Kindergarten Classroom


- -0 hallway

room divider


.. multipurpose


"" multi-


I easelj

sink I sand I blocks and props

storage o _. bench
bathroom rocking
Big Book easel

Sand is used under the climbing srrucrure ro absorb rhe force of falls bur is also avail-
able m rhe curbed sandbox nearby. The climbing and slide srrucrure is bounded by a hard
surface used for wheeled roys. Designed for children younger rhan age 6, the strucrure has
at lot short risers, a srair, an arched climbing srrucrure, and a chain climber, leading ro various
\ss'~ heights of the suucrure for a variety of challenges.Both a single-person slide and a lower
iupf two-person slide provide differences for comfort in high places. A tire-swing strucrure is
ont: adjacent to the climbing apparatus and is large enough for three children. A pretend play-
,srrJt house at the far end of the yard features a doorway, windows, shelves, and seats. The floor
, 21ll! IS composed of a force-absorbent material that absorbs heat and light, which makes ir free
on~ of snow and ice earlier than the turf or sand-coveredareas. A picnic table shaded by a large
tree is convenient for snacks or table acrivities.A large shed for sroring snow shovels, sand
and water toys, wheeled vehicles, water tables, chairs, tables, and other occasionally used
equipment is in the corner.
Play yards that include bushes where children might hide, hills ro roll down, grassy
~wns to run across, and flowering plants and rrees.are appealing learning environments.
my gardens or clustered plantings, vegetationpernurred ro grow on fencing, scented herbs
and shrubs, and flowers in a playground stimulate young children's senses and curiosiry. In
144 Part 2 .. Setting the Stage for Learning

COntainers, which hold up well with long-term use. Mobile storage of the right size and
shape is particularly useful for work in centers. Teachers should also consider safety ID
storage, especially when stacking containers or placing heavy items on high shelves.
Easily accessible storage for Outdoor learning materials is as essential as for indoor
materials. Wheeled toys, tools, COntainers sleds and other materials should be securely
Stored in a large outdoor shed Or a closet opening to the Outdoor areas. Children will use
the contents more frequently than if they must carry mobile equipment some distance.

Safety, comfOrt, space, noise comrol mobility attractiveness and storage are basic
elements of the physical environment. ext, we consider how to combine these elements to
" ,
create effective learning spaces both indoors and outdoors.

Arranging the Classroom

Video Example 5.1

Watch this video about preschool room arrangement. Note how the learning centers or
Interest areas are p Iace d III
i t h e space, with boundaries and pathways and proVISIO
private and small-group spaces. How extensive was planning for sound, mobiliry, storage,
and the size of the children?

FewC classrooms are perfect and there is no one room arrangement that is ideal for every
space. onsiider t h e orgaillZatlon
" of the space in the following classrooms: The presc h 0 01 or
kindergarten classroom depicted in Figure 5.1 has the advantage of a large adjacent stor-
age area but has numerous corners. When setting up the classroom, the teacher carefully
selected the size of the centers located in difficult-to-see Spots and the nature of the acrivinee
going on in them. The first-grade classroom (Figure 5.2) has a more traditional shape and
was arranged to accommodate center-based instruction for most of the day. Whole-group
instruction OCcurs in the block area, with the children sitting on the floor. Subject-matter
labels are used to denote the activities that are usually located in the various areas of the
room, but these designations are not rigid. For example, social studies activities are often
located at the center labeled "Spelling," and many science activities are moved to the art
table when more Space is needed or when more children are at work in the center. A rating
scale to assess room arrangement is suggested in Figure 5.3 (Hero man et aI., 2010). .
Most States are using a more formal, reliable instrument to assess the quality
of the environment in early childhood programs. The Early Childhood Rating Scale-
age (ECRS-R; Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2005) has versions for various settings and

Another measure for preschools and primary grades is the Classroom Assessment Scor-
ing System (CLASS) (Pianra, LaParo, & Hamre, 2008). Both the ECRS-R and CLASS are
observational tools focusing on teacher-ehild relationships in the envlIOnment to support
children's learning. When teachers understand the criteria and receive. information and
suppOrt from their administtators, they make substantial improvements III their classroom
environments that they maintain over time (Scott-Little, Brown, Ho~ks, & Marshal~, 2008).
These tools are Widely used throughout the country and are often CIted III conjunCtIon With
the early childhood ptogram standards for many states and programs.

Arranging Outdoor Environments

The principles of using the indoor environment to influence development also apply to
outdoor environments. The play yard Illustrate
' d iIn F'igure 5 .4 suppons several IearnIng
centers. Note that many features such as play structures, water sources, hard surfaces, trees,
fences, hills, and plantings are fixed.
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 145

FIGURE 5.1 Preschool or Kindergarten Classroom


I easel I -

bIoCl<S and props


""""" Ia<ge-

bath.- rocking
Big Book easel

Sand is used under the climbingsuucrure to absorb the force of falls bur is also avail-
able in the curbed sandbox nearby. The climbing and slide srrucrure is bounded by a hard
surface used for wheeled toys. Designedfor children younger than age 6, the structure has
shon risers a stair an arched climbing suucrure, and a chain climber, leading to various
heights of the stru~rure for a variery of challenges. Both a single-person slide and a lower
two-person slide provide differencesfor comfort in high places. Atire-swing srructure is
adjacent to the climbingapparatUSand ISlarge enough for three children. A pretend play-
house at the far end of the yard features a doorway, windows, shelves, and seats. The floor
is composed of a force.absorbentmaterial that absorbs heat and light, which makes it free
of snow and iceearlierthan the turf or sand~covered areas. A picnic table shaded by a large
tree is convenient for snacksor table actIVIties.A large shed for storing snow shovels sand
and water toys, wheeledvehicles,water tables, chairs, tables, and other occasionall; used

eqUipment is in the hes where children might hide, hills to roll down, grassy
Play yards g plants and trees are appealing learning environments.
lawns to run acr s, vegetation permined to grow on fencing, scented herbs
Tmy gardens or ound stimulate young children's senses and curiosiry. In
and shrubs, and
146 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

FIGURE 5.2 First-Grade Classroom

Il=l\ file
weather graph heater
fish IU ks

oc9 books

""Ic. storage





2: 1

in t
I storage \
day toys
10 an

mall slots

pro ""I pegs
stOl'age above
do \ exit

.cc rent plants o

4: one playground a comer was left alone so that a natura 1 mea d ow many owe urag wor (115 ,
and animals .
thrived there. In another, leaves were Ieft year-roun d tofullencof water bec.ame
4a which were later studied by the children. A shallow snow saucer left h 0 they get dirtY,
,,1 the home of tadpoles. In some childcare centers, children have mud pItS w ~~Keeler, 2012).
we make mud pies, and revel in the sensory experience of playing in the mu nvirOnrnentbr
Children also have a role to play in maintaining the outdoor play-learnmg bit of rnatena 5
,ff watering plants, filling feeders and baths, and picking up paper and other 1 S .
4b \
that blow into the area (Starbuck & Olthof, 2008). . ce first being
~\ Natural playscapes or nature classrooms are becoming more co.mmonsin . rive envuv.~rlln'
4cI the 1970s (Noguchi, 2016; Van Linen, 2016). In these un~~~~ and, ~~
pro ments~ traditional playground equipment is generally absent (or mmuna~y rth rnodulan?~
matenals directly from the environment are prominent (see Figure 5.5). Ea lIy proVl~
(i.e., hills and gullies) are landscaped into the space if they do not occur natura sand. of '1
children with places to run~climb, roll, jump, or slide. Flowing ~ater next ~oa:o:':e sound
gravel provides children WIthendless oPPOrtunities for exploration, as we d do n()l:iP'!
\ f1ow~g water, These are COnstructedstreams of water that have open access an (J\II
the risk of ponds or stagnant water and are often the highlight of such playscat:1lI
Corr, Egertson, & Fichter, 2008). Trees providing shade as well as seeds and
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 147

FIGURE 5.3 Assess the Physical Arrangement of the Room

To what extent do the following statements describe your classroom?

Completely Somewhat Not Usual

1. Children move from one part of the to another without interfering 0
0 0
with other children.
2. Pathways and boundaries between 0 0
learning centers are clear.
3. Ar~as are arranged to encourage active 0
0 0
child choice.
4. Storag~ is labeled and near the center so 0
0 0
that children can put things away. 0 0
5. Shelves are neat and uncluttered
6. Quiet areas are clustered away f';'m 0 0
more active, noisy areas.
7. There ar~ places where children may work 0 0
alo~e, with a small group, or in a large group.
8. ~hIIdren and adults can gather comfortably 0 0
In the large-group space.
9. Temporary centers are adjacent to related 0 0
core centers. 0 0
10. Adults see the children at all times 0 0
11. Th e setting
. . 0
has been checked for safety.
12. Fumishinqs are child size clean 0 0
and comfortable. ' '
13. Decorations reflect the children's specific 0 0
backgrounds, experiences, and identities.
14. Differences in ethnicity, ability, culture,
and economic conditions are reflected in
the books, pictures, and other materials
o o o
In the classroom.
15. The environment is filled with words, books,
o o o
and symbols.
16. Children can do things independently in o o o
some centers.
17. Children make choices use materials
appropriately and with ~are and experience o o o
success in most or all cent~rs.
18. There is a convenient place for children to o o o
keep personal belongings. o o o
19. Adult areas are separated from child areas.

~tance the landscape, as do many plants thar are safe and will grow well in the local climare.
~nrs provide many loose parts such as seed-pods, flowers, fluff, or fruit. Some plants such as
bo e beans and sunflowers make fine small-group spaces and enclosures; others such as bam-
00 can be trained into runnels. Pathways may be of snow, gravel, wooden slabs, or concrere
ste~pmg stones. Many have a stage, which basically is a place that has seating for an audience
~:U~:lace to perform. The seating may be tree srumps or logs arranged conveniently. A
dr r of these settings have interesting sounds such as willd chimes, hand chimes, or wood
Iurns as well as the narural sounds of birds wind, and weather. Hideouts may be under a
p annng of bushes or ornamental grasses, 0:a lean-to conscrueted of branches. Most have
0t~n areas of grass or a meadow filled with local wild planrs. Seating is usually benches or
Th a s of wood at appropriate heights. Often there is a space for deliberare gardening projects.
i, deli ghtful natural classrooms are being consUUeted U1
ese . our most mnovatlve
. . e Iementary
sc h ools , presc h ools, and childcare cenrers.
o The advantages of the nature playgrounds for children is that children are more active
dutdoo ; they learn how to handle outdoor risks safely and they connect to narure more
elepl (Nelson, 2012). There can be a flow between indoors and outdoors with most ms
panned acnvines ... available in either or both locations. Engagement ill
. nature c Iassroo
counteracts the increasing tendency of children to perceive the outdoors as an unsafe and
148 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

FIGURE 5.4 Playground for Children Under 4 Years of Age

0' foIsylhia with

hanging bird feeders

ta ~
I playhouse I
pine tree

lb. I
malt 1;10<00
kl turt 0
and 00
water tap
g8g 0

ON' ~
2b. sand
and cement
2<.1 tn,ebumps
in tt gate
3: (
and gate
fearful place. Teachers repon that behavioral issues among children. an'
pm . h decreased
tan all- dr~gh
3c. cally, family involvement has greatly increased, and teacher satisfaction IS a tiIne . h
do< in such environments (Rosenow, 2014). nenrs in whlc
3d. Classrooms, playgrounds, and playscapes are the Iarger space compo . I plan acn. 'nes
res learning occurs. Within each of these, professionals must organize matena ~~arners. Lea -
IX> to meet educational goals, supervise the activities, and assess the progress f0 rn
ing centers are the vehicle for delivering the curriculum in all of these spaces.

l,( 1 Check Your Understanding 5.1 .
ed Gauge your understanding of the concepts of this section.

Creating and Using Learning Centers

Mrs. Lakashul VIsIteda
.. kindergarten group near her home the sprt 'ng before
child would enter kindergarten. She observed small groups of cbildre: a
engaged in a variety.of activities. Occasionally one child w~uld leave rea :::Wls
begm another actIvItyelsewhere. Conversations and tbe clink of rna or
be heard. The teacher,Ms. Green,stayed with a small group of children fi
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 149

FIGURE 5.5 Nature Classroom





minutes until she finished showing them how to use the materials, have a conversa-
tton with a particular child, or assess the skill level of another; she then moved on
to another group. Children's writing samples and labeled drawings were displayed
~n the wall. Children were intensely engaged and obviously enjoying the activities.
t-fthe end of the session, Mrs. Lakashul said, "Children love it here, don't they?
do you manage to have so many children so busy at the same timet"
hi Oh, children enjoy learning centers. I plan activities for each area, and
c ildren accomplish their goals at their own pace, » replied Ms. Green.
~~arning. centers are well-defined interest areas that provide children with a wide range
.matenals and experiences across the curriculum. This happens in a 45- to 60-minute
un IDterruptd' . during which they can pan,
e time period I'" mmate, rnake choi
oices, an d practice
150 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

developing skills, aU 01 which are necessary for mastery (Bredekamp, 2017). Each center
is carefully constructed to address specific educational goals. Multiple centers from which
Nt to choose at a given time in the preschool and kindergarten commonly include blocks,
creative arts, pretend play, language arts, science, and math. Because children self-select

1: 1\
the activity, the pace, the order, and the specific means through which they will approach
different learning tasks, and learning centers are well suited to their educational needs. In
addition, the active, hands-on learning that occurs allows children to integrate emotional,
la .•
physical, and mental processes that support optimal brain development (Rushron, 20111.
<hoc Learning centers give children opportunities to: j
mu. • Make choices
\ • Develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills
aea1 • Move about as needed
and, • Build on previous experience in meaningful ways
• Progress at their own rates within and among activity areas
• Choose activities that fit their particular learning styles and needs ar the time
• Sustain self-directed activity
• Integrate knowledge and skills from one activity to another
• Develop concepts and consolidate their learning across the curriculum
• Develop skills in working on their own, with peers, and with adults

2: Bl Teachers value learning centers, too, because they make it easier to:
Za.K • Address children's need for hands-on experiences, mobility and physical activity,
diver SOCIalmreraction, and independence
• Accommodate children's varying attention spans and abilities
and, • Build acnvines around children's individual interests
• Move about the room asking probing questions, offering information, and other-
in the WIsescaffolding children's learning as appropriate
learn • Regularly assess student understanding and skills
Asse, . Disciplioe problems, which happen when children are disinterested in an activity or if
and I
children's skills are out of sync with whole-group instruction, are minimized when le~~
and l
centers are mcluded as part of the early childhood day. Children with specia.l needs fit W
3b. K Within a learning-cent er approac h b'ecause coaching and support from th e reac h e rand . aSS!5'
. aI
ranee from one child to another are normal for all children. For all these reasons, nanon 1
accreditatIon stand d d li . . rbe use 0
3c.Kl I' ar s an state censmg requirements in all 50 stares reqUlfe ,
docu ~:=g centers at the pteptimary level, recommending approximately 60 minutes of cen:
3d.l mSMtrucnonin half-day programs and two such periods if children attend rhe prog\g
n"IX a U d ay, oreover , many ear Iy childh 00 d orgaruzanons
" .
advocare mcorpora ring leartU
cent~ a~f~ of the daily routine for all children through age 8 (Bredekamp, 20 17\ui\d,
ill IS g learrung centers is not a guarantee that oprimal knowledge and skill
4: U!
App, , rs,
and I mg IV occur. Children m b h' . I rhe cente
includi h USt e taug t the skills necessary to effective y use . for
4a. U mg t e purposes of the c· . li d suategles
reteti self-appraisal related to wh enters, ways to exercise self-discip me, an itb attention
inter. to the f U '. at they are learning, To do this construct centers WI
worlc o owing SIXkey points. '
effec 1. Organize and imple he childreJl
educ and their abili F menr centers on the basis of your knowledge about t ,..cPU
'kU nes. Orevery act' . d . ask yo",~
these questions: IVltyan expenence that occurs in a classroom,
4d.R • How does this activity· I '
prom • What do . I center contrIbute to long-range outcome goa s . .v1I. do I
for ec mam-re ated obI' . . , w .. at
bope the hild . .ectIvesare met in this activity or experIence.
• H dC, ren Willgam from this?
ow oes this actiVityb 'Id I d '
• Is this the b ,UI on most of the children's past know e ge.
est pOSSibleway t . ,
• Is this the best 'bl 0 present such an Idea or concept.
\ \ • Ar e the activiti
POSSIe use of th hildr ' .
. ec en s trme?
opmentallevelses, ed~enences, and materials well matched to the childreD:
an rntetests?
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 151

• Are the materials and equipment accessible to all the children? Does the activity
contribute to meeting the IEP goals of children with special needs?
• Does this activity provide an opportunity for children to explore ideas or be cre-
ative with the materials?
• Does this activity provide learning opportunities for all of the children?
• Does this activity engage all or most of the senses?
• How will I evaluate the effectiveness of this activity or experience?
2. Keep center activities flexible and adaptable rather than rigid and static.
Although you may have in mind a particular outcome following children's use of
materials in a center, you will want to be alert for paths children want to take in
their exploration. Children often have good ideas about creative and divergent
ways to use available materials. In a well-designed learning center, children can
work on domain-related goals established by the teacher while still fulfilling their
needs in that or another domain. This flexibility can be accomplished by using
basic, open-ended materials stored and available in each area in addition to newly
introduced materials.
3. Provide a diverse range of learning centers that are appropriate to the age,
culture, and individual abilities of the children, as well as a balance across all
developmental domains to achieve a comprehensive curriculum. In addition, the
amount of space needed for a specific center might be altered over time as children
develop. For instance, a language arts center for 3-year-olds might be enlarged
and enhanced to provide separate reading, writing, and listening centers for 5- to
4. Take time to introduce children to new activities and materials before they
encounter them by themselves. Some teachers prefer to give children "previews
of coming attractions" by letting them know, just before they prepare to leave,
what to expect the next day. Other instructors plan an opening or greeting time in
their schedules. During this time, they discuss what may be new or unusual, any
safety information children need, and any limits on the number of children who
can be involved. At this time, they demonstrate the use of particular materials or
unfamiliar equipment.
After children have had opportunities to explore the materials, teachers may
want to assign certain tasks to be completed. For example, as part of a thematic
unit on clothing, one teacher set up a "shoe shop" center. One of the children's tasks
was to weigh one of their shoes with nonstandard weights, record the number on a
paper shoe the teacher had provided, and place their work in a shoe box posltloned
10 the area. The teacher demonstrated the activity from start to finish by weighing
one of her shoes and having the children count the numbers of weights used. She
then recorded the number on one of the paper shoes and placed it in the designated
shoe box. The teacher reminded the children that, for this particular activity ,they
must keep the container of nonstandard weights in the shoe-shop area and limit the
use of them that day to the children who were involved in weighing. However, the
children were allowed to use the weights to weigh other objects III the shoe-shop
area. Besides serving the purpose of knowledge and skill bwlding about use of the
mat . I h ' ' ' hildren' curiosity and encourage them to
, eria s, sue Introductions activate c en 5
Visit a particular center. ' I b 'dent to child ren b Y th e materia' Is
Th e f ocus of a learrung center maya so e eVI "
that are I d i . F' fter children have had expenence With rub-
p ace In It. or Instance, a ' , . Il th
bings of objects, the teacher may highlight a leaf-rubbing actiVity by purnn~ a ,e
relevant materials in the middle of the art table. Doing so would dra~ ,children s
~ttention to the leaves, crayons, and paper, which would make the acnvity appear
mviting. Yet, children could still have access to other art supplies stored on shelves
152 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

nearby. Written directions in the form of pictographs, photographs, or words and

periodic participation by the teacher are other ways the goals and procedures 01 an
activity could be made clear to children.
5. Use the area or center space to address different domains
over time. Depend-
ing on how teachers structure a learning center and how they set goals, the sa~e
1: P materials (e.g., an materials, blocks) could be used to address the cognitive domain
leal one day, the language domain another day, and the social domain yet anotbe,
chik Keep in mind that academic subject areas fit into domains and can be incorporated
lb. into any center. For example, reading, writing, viewing, and listening generally
and occur in all centers, though these subjects are also addressed more specifically on
kl a daily basis in specialized centers.
and 6. Interact spontaneously with children engaged in center activities. Enhan~~
extend, and evaluate learning experiences and developmental outcomes. Hold bn
conferences with children about processes and products as children act on ~e
materials in the room. Teachers who choose to be active with the children dunog
this time can also ward off potential difficulties as children work and play together
in the chosen COntext.

2: E
Examples of Centers
2a. The kinds of centers found in any early childhood setting vary dramatically in terms of
a"" number, marerials, and equipment available and creative ideas generated by both teachers
2b. and children. The age of the children involved as well as the length of the program day or
program year will determine ro a large extent the number and types of centers to develop.
k Tools in the woodworking Most of the rypicallearning centers described in this section may be used either mdoolS
in t center are real tools: or outdoors if climate and weather permit.
hammers are heavy, saws cut Key centers are the language arts center, the creative arts and construction center (twO-
3: I wood, and nails are sharp.
los and three-dimensional an or modeling);the ;cience and collections center; che mach, maIllPu:
an, Ianve
. matenals . and table games center' a d ramanc. play area, h
3a. ' '.aceas
an< and a large space for blocks. Frequently, a large, open sp dance,
3b severalcenters (e g blocks' gross-motor acnvmes; rnusic, r
P'" . '" . but 00
pre or games; or group storytelling) set in it during one day, . to
3c. at the same time. Some centers may be broken down furthe~ ~vn
do subcenters. For example a mach center may be broken o~ 0
ass . a smallercenter focusing , . an d ser fonnano
into on classification
"" and a second center with a focus on shape and symmetrY. . ds
Special-interest centers may be set up for shorter pen~l_
(1 day to a few weeks) on che basis of che interests of the c ch
dr en and' teacher.For example large-motor-skill. eqwp. mentSU hen
as a climber or a balance beam may be added, particularly w d-
int wearhier limi ts outdoor use of such equipment. M u SIC 'kind
w, working, cooking centers, and special collections of one d peri-
eft another are introduced removed and rhen reintroduce I dullS
ed " require the use of ad di'tIOn
odllica y. Such centers may aa as
4c to mOll1toran
. d suppon children's use of marena. Is 0rspace,
lei might be the case when cooking or tie-dyeing is planned.
10 Technology To Ik't.
" 0 I. Floor Plans. Centers. and Materials
Enter early childhOOdequi e page
comes up. click Resourcei: catalog."in your browser. Select a company. When the hO~terialS
lists, and other inlormatio t ~dJorPlanning GUide.Several companies have floor plans, m vi •
ment. Explore two or thre~ 0 el~you set up a kindergarten. prekindergarten, or childcare en
websResto expand your understanding.
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 153

All centers share some characteristics regardless of the children's age or the nature of
the program. Guidelines for sening up any center include:

• Provide displays of materials with labeled plastic containers in open srorage on

tables or nearby.
• Provide a variety of appropriate writing or drawing utensils (pencils, pens, mark-
ers, etc.) in every center.
• Provide paper of many shapes, sizes, and purposes, such as sticky notes, old enve-
lopes, lined paper, small pads, and so on, as appropriate for each center.
• Display books, magazines, cookbooks, telephone books, clothing patterns, or other
sources of written material prominently in all centers so that children can easily see
their purpose. For example, an enlarged floor plan from a housekeeping magazine
can stimulate construction in the block area as children read and interpret it.
• Provide the tools and materials needed for cleanup, such as sponges in areas
where art materials or water is used or brooms and dustpans where play dough
or sand is used.
• Provide the materials necessary for assessment and recordkeeping for the adult or
the children ro record children's progress or participation.
• Incorporate electronic devices (cameras, tablets, interactive smart boards, laprops)
in centers as appropriate ro the goals of the activity or for recording children's
activity and assessment.
• Consider the electricity and water sources and the placement of doors, windows,
and pathways, as well as potential hazards, throughout the room when placing
specific centers in a room.
• Introduce new materials and tasks ro all the children, and include picrographs,
phorographs, tape-recorded directions, or other clues so that children can use rhe
center independently. Include directions for the care of materials and for cleanup
as appropriate.
• Include project-based or theme-related activiriesin three to four centers each day,
and periodically change all centers in a planned way. Everycenter will need a
variation within a 2- to 4-week period, but rarely
(if ever) should all centers be changed at once.
• Some centers should be self-susraining, requiring only initial guidance from the
teacher. The number of such centers should vary with rhe children's age and
• Include materials necessary ro meet the goals of children with IEPs within centers
related to those goals. Also include anything needed for a child to adapt to the
environment. .
• Label pictures and materials with English and other languages used by the chil- Comfortable seating, easy
dren, using materials both familiar and unfamiliar,and selectphotographs or access to books, and a table
and chairs for writing make
other artistic works representative of various cultures. this language arts center
Language Arts Center
The language center is an arena for children's active learn-
Ing through quality, age-appropriate experiences in listemng,
reading, writing, drawing, and reenacting stories.In such set-
tings, children can collaborate and compare rheir products,
both with one another and against the rich and diverselitera-
ture sources.
. Some teachers interact personally with each child daily
In ~his center through the use of brief "mailbox" messages.
Chddren eagerly look forward ro checking each day to see
what special messages the reacher has left and frequently
respond by writing a message to the teacher. At first, the
message may be only a word or the child's name and a piC-
ture. Children may also begin to write notes to o~e ~nother
and answer messages received. Mailbox "messagmg in the
154 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Leaming

language arts center is a highly motivating activity; children enjoy rhe surprise element FIC
of finding and leaving messages and are writing for real purposes (Soderman, Gregory,
N & 0 eill, 2005). Having a teal purpose is a powerful factor in children's wanting to
develop literacy skills. .
Story reenactment may be a part of the language arts center for younger children, butjr
is frequently an independent center for children in kindergarten and the primary grades. A
1: F well-read book and props related to the story that define the characters and the action ~
essential for the children to enact the story successfully. Sometimes stories are retold with
chil puppets, flannel boards, or other similar strategies. ..
lb. Listening centers with recorded stories and books may be either a periodic addition for
and younger children Ora regular part of the kindergarten and primary classrooms. Overall, the
lc, six general guidelines for organizing a language arts center are:
ano 1. Provide materials for aU areas of language development: listening, speaking,
reading, writing, and viewing,
2. Display the front covers of books rather than the spines.
3. Make a sheet-covered mattress or large pillows available as a comfortable spot
for book reading and viewing,
4. Display the alphabet and written messages at the children's eye level when they
are seated in the area,
5. Provide books that remain in the area so that children may reread them.
2: I 6. Provide access to books of aU types, such as narrative srories, information
books, biography, poetry, and reference books. Extend your room collectIon
div with a digital reader where many books may be retrieved.
Creative Arts and Construction Center
Young child ren are natura Uy drawn to creative arts and construction materra. Is WI'thwhich .
inl they can produce two- and three-dimensional products representing rheir perceptIons,
lea fee I'mgs? an d leas.
id See Figure
' 5.6 for recipes for play dough, You can ofren h ear c hlldren at-
expressrng these thoughts aloud as they tactically manipulate a variety of textures, P
terns, shapes, and products in the creative arts and construction center. Cows can be an~
3a color; the sky is something over their heads not coming down in a distance ro meet a hon
zon; adultStower over children; and suns ;re reserved only for happy, warm pictures, no~
pa for every picrure. In a construction activity children develop increasingly sophistIcate f
p" skills m manipul ti . I .' aspectS 0
. a !fig matefla s, arrangmg and rearranging them ro represent e
de thhetrworld. The teacher's role is (a) to demonstrate the skills that children need to(us
as t e mateflals (b) to Stun' I hinki . , I ratIons see
' U ate t mg, and (c) to encourage children s exp 0 . ,
3c A table for SCUlpting dough, Chapter 9). Instructo h ld id ' " , f chtldren s
nal rs s ou ProVI e explicir valuing and reinforcement a
an easel for painting, a drying perdso expression
rack, and an ample SUpply an matenals are: and private interpretations. Six guidelines for organizing the space
of matena/s Within reach
Ai enhance this center.
1 . A rrange storage units and furrushings
. . near a water
h the


Source; ensure that traffic does not flow throug
center. A corner is desirable.
2. Provide a rack or a table on which wet productS
ef dry,
4< 3. Provide a Space in which children's work may hbe e
I and a system by which war k iIS se nr am
4< regularly. h s
fc I 4. Provide materials for maintaining the area, sue a
Sponges, paper towels, and paint, smoc k s to cover
I 5
I . Arrange easels Side "a!s mateo
' by side or provide
large table so that children may work alone ~r.
6. Make access to an assortment of paper, wnnng.
painting implements, adhesives, and various pam
easy by storing them visibly in the area.
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 155

FIGURE 5.6 Recipes for Scented Play Dough

Each of the following recipes has a scent and also a distinctivetexture.To make the unscented version of any of them,
omit the powdered drink mix, cocoa, or cinnamon and add flourif needed. Youmay add food coloring as desired to the
plain dough.
Fruit-Scented Play Dough
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 packages unsweetened, powdered drink mix (Kool-Aid)
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups boiling water
Mix dry ingredients together and then add oil and water. Knead well, adding extra flour as needed for consistency.
Store In an airtight container. Refrigerate.
Chocolate-Scented Play Dough
1 '14 cups flour
V, cup cocoa powder
Vz cup salt
V, tablespoon cream of tartar
1 Vz tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup boiling water
Mix dry ingredients. Add the oil & boiling water. Stir quickly,mixingwell.When cool, mix with your hands. Store in airtight
container. Refrigerate.
Cinnamon-Scented Play Dough
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
5 teaspoons cinnamon
%-1 cup very hot water
Mix dry ingredients together and then add hot water, mixingwell.Store in an airtight container. Refrigerate.

Science and Collections Center

Children who are engaged in science discovery observe and manipulate a variety of con-
structed and natural objects in ways that help them to recognize sumlantIes, differences,
and relations among the objects and phenomena. They sniff, look at, lisren to,. feel, punch,
and, if possible, taste a variety of materials to develop and exteod their ability to make
careful and accurate observations.
Encouraging children's investigation of natural and constructed phenomena in their
world is the primary focus of the science and collections center. Teachers guide children
toward an understanding of scientific processes as they have children scan, explore, attend,
plan investigations, observe, sort, classify, vary conditions, ask questIons,. compare,. pre-
dict pro id I " d ib I b I evaluate outcomes and commurucate their Ideas
, VI e exp ananons, escn e, a e, '
& Wisneski ' 2012). . d . "
rely teachers must become efficient
" 10 prepare the science and colleCtIons center a equa , ".,
m gathe . ki f d eplacl'ng science resources; protectIng children s
nng, ta 109 inventory 0 , an r . .'
safety. 0 .." .' d d outdoor expetIences; and arranging the environ-
, rgaruzmg mreresnng 10 oor an ."
ment"r hid b I th quality of the sCience expetIences rhey are pro-
vidi • 1eac ers a so nee to e a ert to e ib onceptual growth rather th an fester
109 and ensure that such experiences contn ute to c . .
"magical" thinki Effecri ' nd collections centers always have something active
f ,1 mg. ecnve science a , .
or the child
' to do not just objects or mediaf to view.10 'ngand wor kin g WIith rea Irnarena. Is,
Alth ough young scientists benefit most rom exp n b d.Exci full I
many good electronic teaching aids are now available and can e use. xcmng -co or,
realistl'c h h b 1 . I dl'splayed in the center, Teachers who want to attract
p otograp scan e se ecnve Y
156 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

children to a science center will work diligently ar setting up attractive, artenrion-getting al

displays, using novelty, humor, simpliciry, and suspense ro draw children (Carin, Bass,& «
Contant, 2009). The following rhree guidelines indicare how ro ser up a science and col- g:
lecrions center: Sf
1. Locate rhe science center according to the narure of rhe science content. Stud- b
1: Pr
ies of water volume and pressure require a water source. Work with a prism or a
Lean shadows requires a good light source. Collections may be placed anywhere. a
1a.K 2. Demonstrate the use, care, and storage of the tools. .
child o
3. Provide cameras, writing or drawing paper, and pencils for recording observations
multi and a variety of reference materials with picrures and drawings. t
and I
kU ~
creat Math and Manipulative Materials Center (
Children need a lot of hands-on experience wirh diverse marerials designed ro challenge
their abilities to perceive similarity and difference in many dimensions. The activlOes and
gaming experiences children encounter in the math and manipulative materials center gUIde
them toward increasingly complex organization of moror behavior, perceptual deve~op-
ment, and mathematical concepts with appropriate language and symbols. In addlOOn,
math centers help to motivate older children to practice enough so that they can remember
number facts and carry Out math operations (Kozakewich, 2011). .
2:Bu The teacher's role is to deliberately select materials and ro structure sequential expen'
Corm ences that enable children to construct concepts and to forgo less marure intuitive thinking.
2a. K Untimely abstract symbolization interferes with children's understanding. 0 marrer how
cha" carefully adults design or simplify the presentation of abstract symbols ro young children? they
. 'bl ~
2b.S inevita y understand only what they can concretely discern from direct sensory expen
The numeral III Or 3 does not have meaning in and of itself until rhe child has counted three
2c.ln objects several times and then associated the numeral with the quantity of three. The most
in th(
Viablearena m . w hi. Ch to givechildren time for such exploration and application IS .' in a center
that higWlghts acnviry revolving around parreming, sorting, classifying, varying, cOrnpa~:
~ graphing, and connecrmg quannnes and symbols. Mathematics objectives and aCtlVltles,.vitY
and I lined m Chapter 11, can be carried Out most successfully through organized center acn :
In .addition ,center
this may .mcrease £ine-motor skills problem-solving a bili ties, or mernon.
3a. U
3b.~ skills. To organize this center, refer to the following four guidelines:
pa ...
profE 1. Provide ample materials of varying difficulry levels on rhe shelves, well spaced t-
3c.K for younger children. Cluster similar toys. Materials for all aspects of marherna
esses ICSand quantitative thinking should be available. .
3d.l 2. Provide a balan f d' . ds) self·cor
. ce 0 open-en ed rnaterials (pegs Legos sewing car, I
posit recnng materials (wooden cylinders puzzles ne:ting b;xes) collectibles (barr e
4: U, caps, burrons, seashells, baby-food-jar tops)' and games (Lo~o, ConcentratIOn,
cards). '
and 3. Rotate items from th I In entianally
4a.l I e storage area to the display area regular y. r Tar
relet se .ks. some materials that challenge children's thinking as well as more farn!1
inter tas s.
4. To keep interest hi h . d ftemaans
4b.~ for childr' g , rotate some materials between morrungs an a
• ffe< en In full-day programs .
4c.l Blocks Center
teem Many skills and abilities ar f . . I open-ended
4d. ~ material is readil d d e Ostered in the block center because this relative y 'cuJarly
for e
enhanced as chil~ a apte to all developmental domains. Mathematical skills ate pattl _..... nd
th eir knowledge ofengexpenmenr with . . I ness an dCJ"r:
. quannry, number sense, spatia aware 'block b .•uiId
ing and higher perf eometn~ concepts; the positive correlation between early en "beD
gender, intelligence o~ance m later mathematics has been proven to hold trUe, eV
Wolfgang, Stannar~~ SOCIal class are taken into consideration (Clements & S~
~evelop from chiidren'sJ~~~. 200~)..In additi~n, fine-motor and gr~ss-mot~r COO
mg. Increased undernranding ~%~g, ~cking, balancing, pushing, pulling,.
o UIltWOnaliry;manual dexterity; eye-hand COO
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 157

ability to configure; problem-solving skills; socialization; and

conceptualization of patterns, symmetry, and balance are also
gained. When appropriate literacy materials are included in the
setting; the block center may also provide reading and writing
experiences (Schickedanz, 2013). Photographs and sketches of
block structures allow the children's constructions to be saved
and are an excellent starting point for either taking dictation
about the children's work or their writing about their building
(Neuman & Roskos, 2007).
. Unit blocks and large hollow blocks are critical to an effec-
tive block center, with children needing approximately 50-200
blocks and about 25 square feet of building space per structure
(Phelps, 2012). Consider the following when you are organiz-
109 your block center:
Blocks are stored on open
1. Arrange storage units around a large space that may be used at other times for shelves near large spaces for
whole-group instruction, enclosing three sides of the area to diminish the traffic construction.
2. Locate the area in the noisy part of the room and on a stable surface, such as a
flat rug or carpet.
3. Label the storage areas with silhouettes of the blocks that should go on each
shelf, and provide bins for storing other props that are changed regularly to ere-
are inrerest and srimulate desired play.
4. Establish rules for treating the blocks with care and encourage safety. Children
should take only the blocks they plan to use and construct at least 1 foot from
the storage shelves to allow others access. The blocks should remain clean and
5. For older children, provide materials for making signs; consider using floor tape
to mark areas for individual play.
6. Provide a variety of other materials for children to use in rheir constructions,
such as hard hats, traffic signs, furniture, pencil and paper, rulers, rwigs with
cork bases to be used for trees, small stones, vehicles,animals, and diverse
human figures; store rhese appropriately on nearby shelving. Hang maps and
pictures of houses, garages, bridges, and other inreresting outdoor structures.
7. If the area is also used for large-group instruction, attach fabric (use Velcro
fasteners) over the blocks displayed on shelves.Doing so allows the area to be
closed and creates a visual boundary, which enables children to focus on the
activities in whole-group experiences.
8. Encourage children to also use blocks outdoors, a different kind of experience
that enhances large-motor development, planning, cooperation, and the possibil-
ity of creating larger and different structures than might be possible indoors; pro-
vide carts or wagons to transport materials from place to place (Bullard, 2017).

Pretend-Play Center
In the pretend-play center, children interact with one another to reenact their life experi-
ences and play any number of imagined roles. They can pretend to be an authority figure
(doctor, teacher, big brother, police officer,mother, or father); someone who has a danger-
ous or risky profession (soldier, boxer, or race car driver); or even someone who does bad
thmgs (robber or monster). They can experiment with cause and effect With only pretend
consequences. They integrate and extend their understandmgabout what happen~ 10 parnc-
ular settings (pizza place, beauty shop, or post office)and build varying perspectives about
SOCial,family, and gender roles. In addition to these benefits, children gam sell-expressIOn;
vocabulary development; a senseof belongingand cooperaong; and vanous modes of social
exchanges that require the development of physical,logical. and SOCialknowledge.
The ages and interests of children in the group are important considerations when you
are promoting certain activities and experiencesin the pretend-play center. For example,
younger children may want to use the centerfor housekeepmg.They will want relevant props
158 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

such as dolls, doll furnirure, and dress-up clorhes. Older cbit- FII
dren will also enjoy using housekeeping materials occasionally.
However, they may be more interested in using the center when
it is equipped to simulate other contexts they are learning about

in their ever-widening world: stores, space command center,
television station, auto repair clinic, restaurant, formal school
setting, post office, or hospital. Such equipment is especially
necessary for encouraging boys to use the center. Older and
Ie. K
childl younger children may use the same props but enact portrayals
Ib.K in different ways. As children marure, their play may become
multi more realistic. Instead of merely playing at pizza making, they
and I,
1c.l}. will want to make the real thing and "sell" it to classmates who
oreat, come in, sit down, order, eat, and pay before leaving.
and c
If space and other resources are available, two pretend-
Teachers keep the house- play centers are desirable. The interaction between a theme-
keeping areas organized and related center and a housekeeping center often brings together boys and girls who do not
attractive. usually choose to work or play together. Opportunities for being creative, interacnng
socially, and understanding complex relationships (such as that between work and fam-
ily) are often fostered.
Older primary-age children often use pretend-play props to stage plays, and they spend
much tune and energy planning and producing these events. The following six sugg
2: Bui
Comn will assist you in setting up a pretend-play center.
divers 1. Enclose the center with furnishings so that children may easily determine when
2b. Su
they are in or our of the center. Avoid lining up the equipment against a wall. A
end « wall may he one boundary, and the equipment may be placed to form a corner
or an opposite wall. Placement near the block center often encourages exten-
2c. 1m
inthei sions of the play.
leamir rand
2. Add new props and remove others once or twice a week to expand unders -
3:01> ing d . " for a 100-
san rnamtam interest. Younger children may need the same serup
and Fi
3a. Un
ger tune than will older children.
3. Adjust the pretend-play center to coordinate with themaric units and projectS as
paM, 4. Store prop boxes for theme-related pretend play in a closet or on a high sbelf.
AVOIdclutter in the pretend-play center.
cloan 5. Encourage primary-age children to hring items to school to use to construct
assess appropnate pretend-play environments for themselves. . II
6. Include. books ad' a
n matena I stath are relevant to the project
. or t h erne ryplC Y
3d. Ur
The large-group center is found .lD the senin g, sue h as a sh oppmg
" list pad .in a house keepi
eepmg center or a
comfortable for adults and
4: Usil children. Everyone can see
menu in a restaurant center.
and Fi and all materials the teaChers
4a. Un need are Within reach. large-Group Center
wcrk v
\ P h
er aps the large-group center is the space that m
.. f hi
ost develoPS
nrer c 1
a spmt 0 unity within the classroom. In t s ce , ber of
effectr come together with the teacher as a group for a n:at ~
edocat 0
E purposes: smgmg, listening to a story, dlscussm~ a grouP
ac. Usi occur or what has happened during the day, w~ltmg a JIIusi-
0 letter to someone, participating in a choral readmg o~ ftoIlI
4d. Re- -o
cal actIVIty,attending
" to entertainment
. f 0rmanon .
or In
pn>mo c
for eec o visitors, or engaging in whole-group games or de~o:tra:n.
If Thus, lots of enjoyable safe experiences occur m sth
:;, To d.eveIop a space for ' whole-group mstruCO
. o- n, use
;;; lOWIngfour suggestions:
\ 0

'""., 1. Provide sufficient space to seat children

\ ~
comfortably. Such seating is usually 0",
tIDgor lIIeatpllt1is-· .dd~llSiiIiJ..aJblalJ;l.""fWIl~
Chapter 5 .. Organizing Space and Materials 159

FIGURE 5.7 Modifying Open-Storage Units

You can modify your open-storage units so that children will not see what is on the
shelves by doing the following:
1. Purchase and hem washable fabric to fit the opening of the cupboard.
2. Mar~ the fabric and the top of the cupboard about every 18-24 inches,
making sure that both ends of the fabric are marked.
3. Cu~ strips of Velcro about 3-4 inches long and center them on the markings,
glumg one side to the top of the cupboard and sewing or gluing the other side
to the corresponding place on the fabric.
4. When the leaming center is open, remove the fabric. When closed, secure
the fabric in place, cutting off the view of materials.

2. Close open cupboards or cover other materials to diminish distractions

(see Figure 5.7).
3. For young children, create seating spots with floor tape to designate individual
places in the group.
4. Arrange a focal point where the teacher and specializedmaterials are located. Big
books, music players or instruments, easels, and digital whiteboards are typical
materials. Bulletin boards with songs and poetry posted on them are also helpful
in this center.

Sand and Water Centers

Sand and water have been used for many years in early childhood programs because these
materials are so versatile. Children have complete control of rhe materials, and when
accessories are carefully selected, children learn about the flow of fluids, volume, measure-
ment, comparison, observation, and evaluation. Children develop eye-hand coordination
during pouring, scrubbing, grasping, and squeezingactivitiesand strengthen small muscles
when they are digging, ladling, carrying, and controlling the materials. Usually, children
share the area, engaging in conversation and cooperatively using materials. The process The tools or materials added
to the sand center influence
ISsoothing and relaxing as well. This center is often an area where children with special what children learn from it.
needs prosper because most of them are eager to participate and are
successful in doing so. Ideal for children ages 3-5 for exploratory and
sensory experiences, the sand and water centers are exceptionally useful
for teaching principles of numeric operations when standard measures
are used, and concepts such as conservation of volume when contamers
of various shapes but the same volume are provided. In addition, chil-
dren's social and language skills may be promoted and other concepts
supported when sand and water centers are properly facilitated. Other
theme-related concepts may also be learned. For example, when the
topic is dinosaurs, children learn about paleontologists' role in dlggmg
the bones out of the earth by digging up (cleaned and prepared) bones
III the sand center. Teachers facilitate learning by prepatmg the envi-
ronment, offering information, and gently probing children's thinking
about the topic. Conversely, teachers facilitate children's understandmg
when they listen, comment, and inquire about topics related to aCtlvltles
generated by the children, such as where rivers would flow and where
Streets would be needed in a sandbox city. Often sand and watercenters
are provided both indoors and outdoors. The following five gUidelmes
mdicate how to set up these centers:
1. Place a covered sand or water table near the sourceof water and
on hard-surface flooring. If a hard surfaceis not available,place
the table on a large, heavy plastic sheet in a carpeted room.
160 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

Large pans can be used and hung on the walls when not in use if covered tables are
not available.
Nt 2. Provide a covered 5- to la-gallon plasric pail for storing rhe sand when water is
in the table.

1: Pi
3. If space and resources allow, offer both a sand table and a water table.
4. Rotate accessories used with sand and water regularly
gram goals.
in accordance with pro-

5. Use the sand/water table for other sensory experiences by varying the materials lIT
lao ~
put in them such as black soil, fluffy pom-poms, cornstarch surprise (a box of
lb.t cornstarch misted with just enough water to dissolve), pea gravel, or packing
and \ peanuts.


Video Example 5.2

Watch this video of children using a water table. What were the children learning as a resuh
of blowing bubbles? How would this experience differ if they had been provided several
containers of various shapes all holding 8 ounces of water?

Corm a
20. K
Nature Study Center a
diver: Nature study can occur indoors as well as Out. Generally this is a long-term center where
children can observe and participate in the care of plants' and animals. Some animals th~t
and c do well indoors are fish, small reptiles, rodents such as hamsters or rats, as well a~eed~
occasional VIsitorsto the classroom such as cats and dogs. Children can partlClpate I1l
kin ing an d watermg
wateri many 0 f th ese creatures. Obviously children's health an d sa fery must. be a
in the
leami prioriry in the selection of classroom visitors. Plants indoors contribute to the aestheuc:~s
3:m well as the air quality of the room. Grow lights allow for herbs and flowers to groW e: cl~
and F inside, though windows work very well. In this center, the importance of the full hfe Y
3a. Ul and the ongoing needs of living things are of great importance. .
andu Plants
. and II . I
srna aruma s such as insects reptiles birds and mice rna . y live In an
3b.K d b d . ' ." ygro,
partn un istur e section of the playground so that the natural wild flora and fauna rna rIlls
or much land' IS requue . d to provide. a place where children might . d'ISCOVer wo . be,
3c.Kr Insects and burterfli Th I' . d uch ISto
doa.. I ' . res. e natura environment fascinates children, an m t c
es heti
assess earned from It (I arional Arbor Day Foundation 2007). Many cognitive and a h old
Jd.U acnvines may be develope d for use ..' . .
m this naturalized setting. In addition, c
hildren . sh 0also
Children are curious about all d eve Iop
positi 'b a sense of resp ect an d responsibility
. .. for the natural envlro. nmen t , whlCC op-
lIVing things and learn about
4:Usi conrn uEtesto quality of life over their lifetime (Keeler 2008' Nelson, 2012). The IOated
them naturally wi/h regular eranve xtens S . . " a. Is re
exposure, Ion ervice in each region of the United States has written maten I ping
and F . . . f r deve 0
4a.U. to natura Iized gardens. The eight gUldehnes 0
\ this type of center are very general, as folloWS:
I rght and
4b.Kr 1. Place the indoor nature center near natura 1
educa electricity and , if possible , near water. 'Ieal the
4c. Us 2. Keep animal food and bedding materia s.n I should
4d. RE
\ center. Cleaning supplies and other cheffil s
be stored well away from children. .
",om, 3. Provide materials to record change over orne s
fOf eao
drawing materials or a dioital camera.
0" af£i Su
4. Select an outdoor area away from tr c.
are usually in the back of the schoolyard oJ:
S. If the area is covered with gravel or hard-P
otherwise inhospitable soil, .eu1tinto
add oomp'osWilb
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 161

6. If the area is large enough, transplant shrubs and other plants native to the
region that attract butterflies and other insects.
7. Hang and maintain bird feeders.
8. Wait. With time, this area will become an interesting place for children to
explore and participate in guided-learning experiences related to the natural

Implementing Learning Centers

Parents, teachers, and administrators may have the following questions about classrooms
that devote large segments of time to center activity.
"How can you tell what they're learning?"
"How do you know what children are participating in when they're all over the room?"
"What if a child never visits the language arts center and spends all her time playing
with blocks?"
"There are so many materials needed. Where can I get them all?"
"I'm uncomfortable not having any structured time. Do I have to use centers all day

Getting Started
Construction of learning centers depends on (a) the program philosophy; (b) resources such
as the number of staff, the materials, and the space available; and (c) any constraints such
as a program's established curricular and evaluation requirements. Preplanning involves
deciding on the room arrangement, the organization of materials, the number of centers to
be used, the amount of time to be allotted to center participation, and the way to introduce
the process to children. Early childhood educators beginning to use centers should set up
the number and kinds of centers they think they can manage, choosing and maintaining
those that need the least direction and contact from the teacher, using familiar materials,
and having a clear purpose. Once begun, centers can be changed or elaborated on, or
new centers can be developed. Depending on the children's age, they require 2-4 weeks to
learn the routines and classroom expectations. Once children have been taught appropri-
ate interaction strategies, centers are fun, safe, and stimulating. Later, adults can add to or
expand established centers to be more responsive to the children's interests and needs and
an expanded curricular framework.

When children build with

Integrating Centers blocks, they are learning
Today, early childhood educators are taking a closer look at crearing activities that involve about what architects and
integration of the four disciplines of STEM education: science,technology, engmeermg, and engineers do.
mathematics. The acronym has also been renamed STEAM when relevant art and music
experiences are included. Much of children's play and mquuv
in the early years directly supports conceptual development
related to STEM and STEAM. For example, block building
encourages the early understanding of design, balance, sym-
metry, and the properties and effectsof materials.Children also
use one-to-one correspondence to build strUcturesof the same
height and experiment with geometrical conceptsand measure-
ment. Simple machines, such as pulleys, inclines,and wedges,
~an be incorporated in their play, furthering their understand-
mg of physics. They may also draw or use technology to take
pictures of neighborhood strUctures to replicate or preserve
photos of their own structures to share with others. When you
remind children that this is what architects and engineers do 1
and provide materials and learning experiencesthat are inter-
esting and meaningful, you are building a connectionto the real
world and a foundation for later application (Moomaw,2013).
162 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

Structuring Self-Sustaining Centers

Although the presence of aides and volunteers in an early childhood classroom can enhance
N learning-center activity, additional adult support is not always possible, particularly in the
primary grades. Many classroom teachers find themselves the only adult overseeing every-

thing that goes on in the classroom. When this is the case, teachers must become skillful at
setting up centers that are self-sustaining. The following five guidelines are for enhancing
learning-center activity that requires initial guidance only or that allows completely inde-
la. pendent action on rhe part of the children: De

lb. 1. Introduce the activity, explaining its purpose and demonstrating proper use of
mu the
the materials. Give children the opportunity to ask questions. Tell children where
Ic. and for how long materials will he available and give necessary reminders about
0<' using them cooperatively with others, such as keeping resources only in the
'110 for
learning center so that others can find them.
2. Introduce new centers and more complex activities only after general center
activity has begun, Work closely with an initial, smaller group of children who
can then assist other children who subsequently want to participate. Digi-
tal pictures of children going through each step in an acriviry can be taken,
with sequential steps numbered and labeled. Doing so contributes not only to
children's autonomy in the classroom, hut also to their understanding of the
sequential nature of activities. M
2:E In
Cor 3. Use a variety of direction-giving strategies, such as pictographs for very young
2a. children and written instructions or recorded oral instructions for older children. d.
dive For example, in Figure 5.8, you can see that children are reminded to put on a (e
paintapron and to fasten it (2), how to attach paper (3), wherelhow to.dry th~ b
.nd pamnng when finished (5), how to clean up the easel if needed (7), rerrunded II
remove and hang up the paint apron (8), and to wash hands before going on to
in tt
another activity (9). o
lear 4. Provide center activities that support the need to pracrice skills c
3:( previously taught. Such practice is particularly useful for youngsrers who have c
•nd ~ed school or fo: those who need more repetition to learn new skills .
3a. 5. cture acnvmes ill which children can complete a project independently. c
One teacher had planned to make fruit salad with her preschoolers and con-. I
par sidered elimmanng the activity after she learned that a parent volunteer was il
pro and would not be able to help. Instead, she altered her original plans slightly.
esse FIGURE 5.8 Painting-at-the-Easel Pictograph
2 3
pos 4 5

Ior ,

Sou=. O_ng by Ba!bara R~- Used ----_J ...

.... __.&.__ ...1 L.. I!!!
~..,. - permission.
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 163

She brought in only soft fruit, pur it all in the water table, and provided plastic
knives. She put footprints on the floor around the sides of rhe water table to
indicate how many children were allowed ro participate at any given time and
explained these guidelines to the children in large group before learning-center
activities were made available. Thus, she was able ro move ahead with the acriv-
iry with only periodic guidance required on her part.

Deciding How Many Centers to Make Available

The number of centers to operate at any particular time will depend on physical space and
the teacher's desire to limit or expand learning options for children. In general, at least 1.5
center activiry "slots" should be made available per child; for example, 18 children would
require about 27 activity spaces. Some state licensing regulations require two activiry slots
for each child so a group of 18 children would have 36. When there are four chairs at a
table and enough materials for four children ro work at a time, that activity has four slots.
Each puzzle provides one slot unless it is large; then two or three children may work on it at
the same time. Blocks usually provide four slots for younger children and six slots for older
youngsters if space is available. Teachers frequently use picrographs or nwnerals to indicate
the number of children who can successfully be accommodated at once in a learning center.

Monitoring Children's Use of Centers

In most early childhood programs, certain learning centers are available ro children every
day (e.g., blocks, pretend play, science center), and others are offered a little less frequently
(e.g., sand/water, woodworking). Teachers develop new centers and revise current ones
based on their observations of children in center activities and their assessment of how
well children are progressing in relation ro the educational goals they have established.
Some teachers treat center-based activiry rimes as wholly child-initiated. Children may
move from one activity to another at will. Other teachers designate some "have-to" centers that
children are expected ro complete within the day or week (see Table 5.2). Once the required
center activities are finished, children may move into other centers of their own choosing.
Adults supervise centers by moving about the room, checking in with children, and
offering instruction as appropriate. In team-teaching situations, one or more adults may
be stationed in a particular center or group of centers, carrying out given lessons for some
Or all of the session. In such circwnstances, another adult serves as the "center manager,"
moving from center ro center as needed. In each case, both teachers and children interact
with and learn from one another. This learning involves a constant exchange of thoughts
and ideas. Teachers observe, listen, instruct, guide, support, and encourage their students.
Likewise, children ask questions, suggest alternatives, express interests~ and develop plans
(Kostelnik & Grady, 2009). In addition, children reflect on their expenences through con-
versations with adults and peers. They may also keep track of their mvolvement III learrung
centers more formally using a simple checklist or chart. In Figure 5.9, during the week of
February 23-27 and between Monday through Wednesday, Denzel visited four different
centers. At the bottom of the form he circles the day before going home and evaluates how
the day went. Completing this form is something he needed help with at the beginning of
the school year but is now able to handle independently.

Evaluating Preschool and Kindergarten Children's Skill Development

During Center Time
To check on children's development of basic skills, some teachers select small groups of
chtldren with whom to work on specific tasks during learrung center tune. For example,
?ne teacher noticed that four children were having diffieulry leavmg spaces between words
ill their journal writing. During center activiry, she asked the four of them ro come together
to discuss th d f t help them remember and asked them what could be
e nee or a strategy 0 .'
done It . . th th hildren offered different sOlullons. One child suggested
. was mteresnng at e c
PUtting periods between each word to indicate a space. Another thought that hyphens
would be helpful until she remembered simply to leave a space. The unportant poinr IS that
164 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

FIGURE 5 9 Sample Activity Report

Week of
1: PI
Ia. '
~ ~

T cr X
2: E
~ rfJ/ X
1 2-
This is how 1 felt
2c about the day:
in t
Tellible s., OK Good Terrfficl



G Q a
Tuesday 4 5
1 2
3a 3 4 5
.n "', ,
~~ 1
Gl 5
lb Friday
4 5
pa 2 3 4 5
Source: From Donna Howe, Child Development Laboratories, Department of Human Develop ment and Family Studies,
College of Social Science, Michigan State University. Adapted with permission. d
the children were in~olved in solving the problem rather than re I'ymg on rhe four hchll
the reac er .todre~

so Or being told the 'correct" way to improve their wnnng. Before lon~ d devised-pen
began leaving spaces between their words, and the temporary aids they a
at ods and hyphens-soon disappeared. f he children
re Similarly, a teacher of a group of 3- and 4-year-olds noted that a few 0 hich strips of
in were having great difficulty using scissors. She invited them to a table on w 1 By observ'

. paper and quality . and showe d rh em how to
'. SCISSorswere lying eldcut.
the paper and
mg each child carefully, she could assist the child with the way he or she h

scissors as needed for the child to acquire the skill. eriviry in that
d The assessment done in a specific center is related to the teacher's planned a . the block
I. center. For example, a teacher might assess the ability of children to cooperate inn an
4- othet
area On h occasion and determine how well children understand symmerry 0 nter tiJJ1e,
II one
I, sua y t e teacherer mtroduces
i the goal Orthe ideas during a group session . before ce ne 51'd e is
. "'T' d
10 ay, Wark wi
With someone else to build ... " or "Symmetry IS show 0 me VIhen
. where
lust like the other Side [demonstrate]. Today, when you build in the blocks, d rake note
you have a symmetrical Structure." In either case the teacher will have planne toopriare.
of what children
Clearly aCCIVlUes
and can do and provide coaching and instruction as
may be designed so that children demons~ate target sen chi1
and V/. is:
the teacher records Individual performance. This is more easily done wh
----------------- Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 165

Games Math Journals Cooperative Project

Painting Listening Computer Reading

Leroy Anne Jerry Carol Alyss

Tara Megan David

Leslie Sam Ian Cal Sarah

Kung Soak TomN. Abdul

Mara Rashid Tara Leroy Ian

Viola Mark TomW.

Cal Carol Alyss Sam Kung Sook

Barry Sarah

Anne TomN. Abdul Leslie David

Jerry Alyss
Megan Viola Rashid Mara
Kung Soak
Mark Sarah

engaged in a variety of centers and the adult can focus on a few in a "have-to" center
(Table 5.2). Additional strategies for assessing children's learning, which could be imple-
mented during learning center time, are discussed in Chapter 7.

Structuring Learning Centers in the Primary Grades

The learning center concept is also highly useful in the primary years, and many educators
favor using centers for literacy, math, science, and social srudies. Because literacy and math-
ematics are more effectively taught in 60- to 90-minute blocks of time daily, many elementary
teachers choose to schedule one of these periods in the morning and another in the afternoon.
During these times, children rotate among a variety of learning centers that address different
skills within one particular area of the curriculum. For example, Ms. O'Neal has scheduled a
literacy center rotation in the morning and a math rotation in the afternoon. These include an
mtroductoty, large-group session in which new skills are introduced and modeled. Children are
reminded of former skills that serve as the foundation of the new conrent, and an explanation
IS provided about whar children may expect in each of the centers available to them. Specific
groups of children who will work together in each of the centers that day are identified, and
then the rotations begin. For 15-20 minutes, group A initially meets in center A; at the same
tune, group B meets in cenrer B; and group C meets with the teacher for direct instruction.
At the beginning of each IS-minute period, the teacher asks children in Cenrers A and B if
there are any questions about the goal of the activity or use of the materials. After children
have been working for the intended period of time, the teacher draws Cenrer C to a close and
reminds children to return materials and to rotate in a timely way to the next center. A time is
scheduled at the end of the entire rotation for debriefing with children in large group about the
activities, to assess understanding of concepts, and to discuss any misunderstandings or issues.

Assessment Related to the Use of Rotating Centers in the Primary Grades

Because teachers are working with three small groups of children in Center C during the
rOtation period, a variety of assessment strategies are useful, including observaoon and bnef
anecdotal notations, checklists and rating scales, individual responses to questions, and work
samples. Assessment in Centers A and B can involve children's work samples, completed self-
appraisal Or peer-appraisal checklists, questions and observations by the teacher during the
debnefing period and one-on-one mini-conferences With parncular children followmg the
rotation periods. '

Chec:k Your Understanding 5.2

Gauge your understanding of the concepts of this section .

166 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

Modifying the Physical Environment CI

Nt When the physical environment is managed so that children are receiving clear cues as to n

their expected behavior with materials or in a specific place, the teacher is providing an indi-

1: P
rect approach to guidance (Hearron & Hildebrand, 2013). The goals of this strategy are to:

• Stimulate learning possibilities

• Protect children e
chih • Protect equipment (
lb, • Structure a favorable learning climate
and Children respond in predictable ways to environmental changes. There are three funda·
mental ways of changing the environment: The teacher may (1) add something, (2) remOlt
• nd something, or (3) childproof it to make it safer and easier for children ro navigate correcdy.

Adding to the Environment

There are many ways you can add to the environment ro enhance children's learning. For
• Add a photograph of each child in his or her cubbie ro make it easier for children
to identify their own space.
2: 1
c.. • Add a picture of each kind of object kept in storage bins so children can get and
20, put materials away more easily,
• Add a sign to the snack basket depicting how many crackers or other items a f
child may have (use numerals, dots, or a hand with the appropnate number 0
• 11< fingers showing) .
• Add a sign to each learning center depicting how many children may work in the
int area at one tune.
lea • Add photographs of children working in a center ro the walls of that center to
3: depict what children might do there,
• Add placemars to the an or manipulative toy table to define each child's work space,
• Add an electric pencil sharpener so children don't grind their pencils ro nubs.
.n , meat trays or paper plates ro place co Iore d cu bes onith
• Give, children' inexpensive
3t ' a pattern so they do not 'I'
while they ate co nstrucnng
Pi madverrent y inre rfere WI
pr someone else's activity.
de • ~~t;ne Ortwo new props to pretend play or creative centers each day to help
as en enact their Ideas and to keep the play fresh.
Sometimes these ad' " " t to thicken
"I" it and " justmenn are simple: adding dererzent ro drippy paLO in
It an make It easier to h outnlaci 'an area
d grad-
which children b ,was Out, p acmg floor tape on the floor ro deSignate
4: n
A ers made th bmay ~ild with blocks, or adding flour to the play dough that seco fytheJll
a, as they hap~:n~came SuperSticky" help avoid problems before they occur or recu

4 Removing
, Things f rom t he Environment
e- olf
e Occasionaliy, simply takin ' h'ldren kn
that fewer than th I g away chalfs from an area is sufficient to let c 1 ""'e.1JJ
4 e usua numbe f hildr h same lJ.'O'
d a Head Stan classroom th roc en may work in that center at t e the scis-
sors basket because she e teacher removed 10 of the 16 pairs of sCIssors fr °[l1at once-
4 e was unable to assi ,,' d hil dren
P When several child
' 0 assist more than SIXmexpenence c I d~
f, through a kindergarn pelrslstentlybecame unruly as they drove their large-W~ee e rage at
en c assroom th h k in sro '.J
t h e end of the day In b ' e teac er temporarily placed the trUe s hildreDJW'
a u
brought Irom hom'eth sd urban school, a first-grade teacher removed toys c dJrdI
at Istracted th L, ' I di tract cJII"'"II

" ~~-.I ~
nom engaging in profi bl ,em rrorn thelf work. When matena s S
streamline centers to ta edexbePenences, when they pose hazards or when teachers
th at appropriate beh '. e h' I'd
aVlora cues, the teachers remove or re uee JI1lI
to mOblhty for youn.... hey to OCCur. In addition teachers remove
.,..ers w 0 d '
o not see well or who use wheelchairs.
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 167

Obviously, materials are added and removed regularly to support the changing learning
centers and children's interests. Every center needs to be changed, even in small ways, to
maintain children's interest and involvement on a regular basis.

Safeguarding Children from Hazards

Safeguarding children in the environment may require adding, subtracting, or altering the
environment in some way to promote the health and safety of children. Teachers remove
debris from the playground, shovel snow from the entry, or salt an icy sidewalk before
children arrive in the program, if necessary. Sometimes,they adjust a block in a tall tower
children are building so it is less likely to fall, add a mat to an area where children are
jumping, or move a table so that an electrical cord for a one-day activity does not cross
a pathway during the program. Basically adults must anticipate what might happen and
then act to prevent it if at all possible.
The U.S. Consumer Product Commission (2012) identifiesa number of safety hazards.
Keeping children safe requires checking for damaged toys, removing hazardous materials,
and practicing vigorous supervision. Some of the most common hazards are drowning
(even in a wading pool), poisoning, tipping over shelvesand heavy furniture, and choking
on objects between the size of a dime and a quarter. SeeTable 5.3.

Video Example 5.3

Watch this video ro learn more about safety. Where do most accidents occur in early child-
hood settings? How can teachers counteract these?

Accommodating Children with Special Needs

Adjustments ro the environment may be necessary to accommodate the special. needs of
some children. Of the two ways in which particular environmental needs of children are
accommodated, both are the result of a planning meetingthat includesparents, specialists
as needed, building representatives, and reachers. First, an lEP (mdlvldualized educat;on
plan), described in Chapter 1, may specifyenvironmentalaccommodations. Second, a )04
plan (Americans with Disabiliries Act) may describeways to reducethe obstacles for access

Safeguarding Checklist
Plan for in advance
Check for and remove
Install high-quality safety latches or .
./ Anything with a sharp edge including ./
replace them if they become ineftecnve.
broken toys
Label poisons and store them outside
./ Small parts that can be bitten off or other I
the classroom it pOSSibleor m locked
small parts that are a choking hazard

Do not provide darts, paint guns, or

./ Strings long enough to go around a I
other objects that are propelled.
child's neck
Use knob covers or other closures to
./ Small magnets a child might swallow I
keep doors and fence gates closed;
harder for children to open.

Provide helmets for trikes and other

./ Balloons, plastic wrap, plastic bags that I
vehicle riding.
- may lead to suffocation
Cut hot dogs and carrots lengthwise,
./ Small round batteries (choking hazard) I not in rounds to avoid choking hazard.
168 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

and participation for a child who does not need additional spe-
cial intervention. Both types of documents are reviewed annu-
ally and updated to reflect the changing needs of the child.
A 504 was developed for Alyss because her accommodations
were all due ro her short stature.
1: P Alyss is a bright and competent 3-year-old who entered
a public school childcare program. Her parents informed
chlk the director that she has a genetic mutation that affects
lb. her size. She is approximately 25 inches tall and is not
likely to grow beyond 48 inches. This condition is officially
kl described as dwarfism. With a larger head than typical,
",a she also has greater risk of serious injury if she falls, as
her heavier head will hit first. With her longer torso, short
arms and legs, and other skeletal variations, Alyss is often
in pain if she has to sit with her back unsupported very
long. She is also at high risk for respiratory disease. Alyss
Alyss is able to use the drink-
ing fountain independently is so short that she rarelyfits the equipment and facilities provided by the program.
with the mobile stairs. The The following aresome of the adjustments that have been made in the environment.
bench facilitates other chil-
dren who are also too short et
• A wider toilet seat was exchanged for the regular one, making the hole small
2: B, to reach.
(so she would not fall in the toilet).
20. , • A platform was built around the toilet with about a 6-inch rise to make it pos-
dive! sible for her to access.
• A mobile stair was provided to help her reach the drinking fountain unassisted.
2b. ~
and, • Lightweight stools were added to the classroom near tables and shelves (so she
can reach materials).
2e. " e
in ttl. • A stadium seat (no legs, just padded seat and back) was added to the grouptiIn
learn area (so she could sit with the others at group time and also have proper back
3:01 support).
and I • A coat hook was lowered.
3a.l • A sandbox and a wheeled vehicle propelled by arm movements were added out-
and 1
doors (so she could play with the other children).
3b. ~
pam • Due to her short legs, Alyss tires easily when having to walk long distances. A
prafl wagon was added so she could participate in walking field trips.
• A cha~ was modified to support her back and legs.
esses • A special bus that has a 5-point seat restraint (baby seat) built in was used to
3d. I transport her on other field trips
'"'P< Alyss is able to sit at the table • The sink for wash'mg h an d s was '1owered and the position .. 0 f f aucets a nd soap
With other children and have
4: U, her back and feet supported moved forward (so that Alyss could reach them).
ApI" for comtort. adeir
and All ofthese modifications in the environment have.mlchil·
relati possiblefor Alyss to participate in the program with ryplca on) g
inter. dren, Some modifications were made immediately (the wnkaIn)
work hi st .
an d others took months (changing the handwas ing deli'
4b.K th . M of the a
effec e meannme, Alyss used hand sanitizer. ost ther
edue tions to the environment were also enjoyed and used by aard·
children in the program. For addirional information
mg dwarfism, go to the website of Little People of J\IJ1
prom bild¢1
for ei Most teachers must make accommodations for ~ cotJdt
who have temporary needs such as broken limbs. Eac
non and each child will need different, specific ac
llons ~o participate fully. Parents are a valuable res
plannmg to meet the needs of their children. Teachers
a.ssisttypically developing children to become aware
rial hazards to their peers with special needs and to
appropriate accommodations.
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 169

Check Your Understanding 5.3

Gauge your understanding of the concepts of this section.

Materials for Each Curricular Domain

Because hands-on learning is a fundamental premise of developmentally appropriate prac-
nee, variety in materials is necessary to provide a balanced program. Materials that support
literacy, numeric understanding, science, art, music, and other centers lasr much longer
than the workbooks often promoted by publishers. With continuous use, all materials
should be added to or replaced as they become lost or broken. In addition, nearly all
classrooms have insufficient storage space built in for these materials, so mobile storage;
additional shelving high in the room for long-term storage; and plastic containers, bins, or
baskets to contain multipiece manipulative items should be obtained early in the acquisi-
non plan.
Programs for 3- to 5-year-olds often begin with appropriate equipment but must include
plans for replacement and expansion of choices.Childcarecenters have the particularly chal-
lenging task of provicling interesting materials for the morning and different but appropriate
materials for the late afternoon so that children'sinterestismaintainedwhiletheir learning pro-
gresses. Fortunately, many excellentalternativesare availablethat addresssimilar competencies.
For example, the seriation task of stacking containerscan be met with stacking circular cups,
hexagon cups, octagon cups, kitty in the kegs,square boxes,and Russiannesting dolls. For the
preschool child, the perceptually new material is viewedas noveleventhough the task of order-
mg remains the same. Children approach and use suchplaythingswith interesrand enjoyment.
State licensing agencies have standards that relate to materials and equipment for child-
care centers. One example is presented in Figure 5.10 from the state of Michigan. Check the
standard where you are living as you are making decisionsabout materials. These standards
are set up for the administration of the program. Youwill nore that the program must have
more materials available to make additional play spaces than are required for a specific
classroom on anyone day. In addition, other aspects of the physical environment are also
regulated that correspond to the learning centers previouslydiscussed.
The National Association for the Education of YoungPeople ( and the
Association for Childhood Education International ( publications with
detailed lists of materials appropriate for young children. In addition, Clayton and Forton
(2001) have an excellent book derailing materials for centers for K-6 classrooms. These
resources are broader and more inclusive than state licensingsrandards that specify only
the minimum requirements.

General Guidelines for the Selection and Use of Materials

Teachers must provide materials that are developmentally appropriate and that support
hands-on experiences. For example, childten learn about plants by growmg them. They
learn about culture by sharing family traditions within the class. They learn about geog-
raphy by using a map to find something in the classroom.They learn about reading and
wnnng by participating in functional written commUnIcatlons,When a book su~h as this
one' di d "d e of ages-3-8 years-the specific selec-
IS irecte to programs servmg a WI e rang
tions are' h I el For example simple balance scales are adequate
Important at eac age ev . '
for 4-year-olds to understand the concepts of heavy and light, but a more accurate scale
with weights or a calibrated spring scale is more appropriate for 7- or 8-year-olds wh?
rnusr learn to add and subtract accurately by using It. Both scales provide direct e,xpen-
ence with h fie and weight. Regardless of the children sage,
t e concepts 0 mass, vo urn , ",
teachers h I f 'I'tate curricular learmng, to stlmulate mterest and
, ave common goa s: to aci I, '
cunosl'ty d f 'I' ' t socI'albehaVIOrSo that you can Implement these
, an to act nate appropna e .
goals, some general guides have been developed for your use.
170 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

FIGURE 5.10 Sample Michigan Standard That Applies to Furnishings,
and Materials
1: I
R 4000.5108 Equipment
Rule 108.
(1) The center shall provide an adequate and varied supply of play equipment,
materials, and furniture, which meet the followmg criterta:

chil a. Appropriate to the developmental needs and interests of children.
lb. b. Safe, clean and in good repair.
an<: c. Child-sized or appropriately adapted for a child's use.
tc. d. Easily accessible to the children.
an<: (2) The center shall have sufficient materials and equipment to provide a
minimumof 3 play spaces per child in the licensed capacity.
(3) A minimumof 2 play spaces shall be available and accessible per child in
attendance on any given day during child-initiated activity time.
(4) Children shall have access to equipment and materials in the following areas
on a daily basis:
a. Large and small muscle actiVity.
b. Sensory exploration.

c. Social interaction and dramatic play.
Cor d. Discovery and exploration.
e. Early math and science experiences.
cha 1. Creative experiences through art, music, and literature.
2~ Source: Retrieved trom, p. 10.
in tl
3: t Provide for Firsthand Experiences with Real Things re
and .
Based on the developmental principle that says children's learning progresses
from concre
dI bsuaet
and to a b stracr, you can expect that children will vary greacly in their. a biliti
I rues to han e ar mare-
concepts. Begm .. mstrucnon
. b y using concrete marerials, then use mcreaslll.
. . glyabsrrac
. Table 5.4
par nals to encourage children to reconstruct their experiences. The presentatlonUl h t caO
pro '11 . ".
I ustrares concrete materials, bndgmg materials, and more abstract ma I
tena s r a
3c. s,
doc b e use d for t hi·s purpose. Children ages 3-6 and younger need most Iy co ncrete rna ter
w h ereas 6- to 8-year-olds may use a mixture of concrete and a few more a bstract rna .
as a b asis
. fl"
or earnmg. All children, regardless of age, profit. from h. an d s-o nlearnlDg·

Provide Complete, Safe, and Usable Materials tools

Puzzles w: h '. . .
uzz es wit rrussmg pieces, dull scissors unstable climbing eqUIpment, an d broken rk do
4a. . , . dnm~
rei. or equipmcnr should be removed repaired or replaced Materials that a . ss For
. ." . . d distre .
lnte not contnbute to the learning experience but instead engender frustration an h manY
woo mst. ace,
n commefCla . I or homemade learning-cemer props should be srur dy so t e atthat are
effe children can profit from using them. Laminating the pieces to a matching gam easily,
ede constructed
. . .. of oak t ag or poster b oard rather than construction. paper, \"hich tears be uSC"
de, ISinitially more expensive,but the material lasts throughout the activiry and m;~n.
lear m subsequent years. Additionally, materials must be usable for indiVidual chil
for Provide Literacy-Related Materials in All Centers ail bJe:
Children of all ages'll fun" . . tl'f they are av a ...r
k WI use ctlonalliteracy materials consisten y I _...;"" par<:
coo books and pape t k' . t r, draw .....
r 0 rna e grocery lists for the housekeeping cen e L:ld¢!
an d pens to record pIa t
h d .
n growr ,an markers and mUSfc-score paper
trymg out. Instruments. Books may go anywhere. Children try to use books
ten matenals regardless f
0 age. As
kin .
g questions and seeking infonnanon,
when CPU
d th
0 :il
teac h a bl e moments that 'deal L' .
are 1 lor mstrucnon.
Chapter 5 ~ Organizing Space and Materials 171

Examples of Materials Varying from Concrete to Abstract

Increasingly Abstract Abstract

Photographs of bulb growth Discussion or graph of plant
Bulb planted in soil for
Parquetry blocks and Parquetry blocks and pat-
Parquetry blocks and
black-and-white pattern cards tern cards outlining a general
corresponding colored pat-
outlining each shape shape rather than individual
tern cards outlining each

Graph paper Numerals

Unit blocks

Film or pictures Letters or words

Field trip
Pretend-play kitchen Picture-book recipe
Cooking activity

Provide Materials Representing National and Local Diversity

Music, art, games, play materials, and photos are available that do the following:

• Depict men and women in a variety of work roles as well as in traditional roles
• Illustrate families of various compositions and ages
• Show workers in agriculture, business, education, health, and service occupations
• Portray all races, abilities, and religions of the world respectfully
• Represent the variety of lifestyles and family incomes honorably
• Display images and objects that allow all children to feel welcome in rhe class-
room community
. When positive images and experiences are included in the day-to-day classroom prac-
tices, teachers can help enrich children's understandings of diverse populations (Gonzalez-
Mena & Eyer, 2012). Materials should represent people in the classroom, local community,
and the country in general. One instructor, Ms. Twichell, deliberarely chose to have a picrure
of older adults with young children among other depictions of families with other compos i-
~Ions on the bulletin board. One of her students, Nancy, lives with her grandparents and
inds It upsetting when other children ask her why.

Demonstrate Proper Use of Materials and Equipment

A simple, direct demonstration of materials and equipment at the time of first use increases
the probability of safety and materials conservation. Avoid assuming that children know
how to use materials properly. Because the children who come into the learning envi-
ronment are diverse in their experiences and family resources, such assumptions are not
practical. For example, the 5-year-old who may know how to use cellophane tape may
not understand the use and function of paste and may have never seen glue. Rarely do
young children know how to conserve these products. In addition, the appropriate use
of a material such as blocks changes as children learn and mature. Three-year-olds need
much space because they generate horizontal strUctures such as roads orsprawlmg build-
Ings that are simple enclosures. Seven-year-olds may build successfully in smaller spaces
that are abour 3 feet square because rheir constructions are often vertical. Children of all
ages need stimulation for rheir ideas and direction in appropnate behaVior while using the
center independently or with other children-

Purchase Sturdy, High-Quality Equipment and Materials

A set of hardwood blocks is expensive as an initial purchase, but because they are almost
Indestructible, they can be used for decades. Housekeepmg furrushings made of hardwood
and carefully crafted last more than a decade, in contrast with products designed for home
use, which last only 3 or 4 years. High-quality materials are also necessary for effective
~nstruction. For example, a toy xylophone, compared WIth a quality mstrument, rs lacking
In tone and is often off pitch. A tricycle constructed for family use may last only 1 year m
172 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage for Learning

a childcare center whereas one made for group use may last 5-10 years. Administrators

and teachers who make long-range plans and purchase high-quality equipment find that
N durability offsets the inirial cost.

Demonstrate Proper Care and Storage of Materials and •

Supervise Children as They Take on Organizational Tasks
1: I
lei Show children how to wash brushes, wipe tables, roll dough inro balls and place it into
containers, sort small items into appropriate storage containers, dust if necessary, and
wash and wax blocks occasionally, Label shelves or containers with words, symbols, or
pictures, depending on the children's age, so that children may put items away. C1~an~p
mu 1
an< and maintenance work is worthy of respect, and children can be caught ro take pride 18 [
ere the care and maintenance of their workspace. t
an, (

Incorporate "Loose Parts" from the Natural Environment

and from Discards
Sticks, stones, soil, feathers, seeds and seedpods, industrial discards, pulleys, ropes, buckets,
and boxes are just some of the very large variety of materials rhar can be incorporated moo
center work. Add materials for water and sand exploration; objects to explore nature; things
to throw, kick, jump, and bar' things to fly' ride and pull' tools' and all kinds of matenals
) " " . are
to build with, If gathered and organized these materials enrich centers that otherwIse
2: I
entirely of predictable-use materials. Children generally see potentials even when adults do
20, not. Children use materials that are movable or that have loose parts more than any others
both indoors and outdoors, and research indicares that these items add flexibiliry, increase
creativity, and enhance and extend children's play (Bullard, 2017; Daly & Beloglovsky, 2015),
2c. Ensure a Variety of Materials to Support Each Domain
in t
Engage children's interest by changing marerials in centers regularly and by offering a
I" es
3: I
vanery of materials at any point in time, For example there are numerous memory gam f,
As! b oar d games, an d counri
counnng games, Selecting a variety , and rorating them III , an d out 0
centers w ill' increase use, Balls come in a variety of sizes' percussion instruments ~- I
3a. , I ' " d Afipe
an, commercia and homemade work well and provide greater vananon of soun s. ,
3b, books that are informational and narrative fiction appeal to different children over tune.
3c Use the Same Materials for Many Purposes ,
ess Some " materials (e' g " block s, san d , water, clay, and computers Wit ' h so frw are ) are extremell
, In
3d, fleXIble III their use. Th e same .Items may be used to meet goals III , diff erent domalOs, i-
the developm en til' a Yappropriate classroom children are often free ro use su ch materof
a Is to ,meet their persona IneedO' s. n other occasions, the teacher gUlid es c h'ldren's
I , huse
di , to address paruc' u1'ar curncular goals. For example
matenals ' collage rna ten 'Ia s, whic , as
tra mcnally been associate ' d Wit ' h aesthetics can be adapted" for use In 0rher domains b 'Ing
we II b ecause rh ' I" . 1 are e
rel, e marena ISContent free, Naturally when the collage matena s alOh , '""
inti use d for one domai ' ,, , , f he rem ",
wo dornai , n, acnvines With other materials must be planned or t id net
omams, alice that th diff ' , nd gUl a
4b id d b e erence in domains is apparent in the strategies a ide!
eff ProVI e y the teacher Thi dul to conS
edr materials fl 'bl d . s example demonstrates the potential for a ts
eXI y an broadly.
You're the Observer 5.1
Watch the video b
watch, notice thea
opmental d
0:~I .
c assroom study of birds and then answer the quesoon~e
. typ f matenals and centers the children are using as well as
As yq\!

in the video. How do you think the materials enhaIl

children's ndrams redinpresented
un erstan g of birds?
Chapter 5 • OrganizingSpace and Materials 173

Check Your Understanding 5.4

Gauge your understanding of the concepts of this section.

environment so that opportunities exist for learning and

The organizational responsibilities of the teacher using
growth-producing interaction among the people in this
DAP are considerable. Classrooms must be arranged so
context. In addition, it should minimize interpersonal con-
that children are safe and comfortable and to facilitate
flict and promore cooperation. Boundaries and pathways
quiet movement while helping children maintain a focus
clearly define centers and facilitate independent behavior
on their work. Learning centers must be carefully designed,
of the children. If you regularly scan the environment, you
indoors and outdoors, to meet a variety of goals. Key learn-
will notice where modifications might be necessary on the
ing centers are language arts, creative arts and construction, spot or for the following days. Childproofing to ensure
science and collections, math and manipulatives, blocks,
safety and adding to and removing materials from the envi-
pretend play, large group, sand and water, and nature ronment are strategies that work well for children with
study. All centers may be indoors or outdoors. Equipment special needs as well as for rypically developing children.
and materials must be chosen to meet the specific curricu- Fortunately, once the basic plans are made and imple-
lar goals, stored conveniently for child access, and arrrac- mented, teachers can concentrate on fine-tuning them to
tively displayed. The purpose of all organizational work suit particular children and to meet individual needs.
IS to prepare the physical, cognitive, aesthetic, and social

c. Using your observations from b., list the modifications

1. Discuss that might be necessary if a child were blind or were in
a. What are the advanrages and disadvantages of learn- a wheelchair.
ing centers as an important part of the early childhood
classroom? 3. Carry out an activity
b. Discuss the role of outdoor activities in the healthy a. While you are participating as a volunteer or a student
in a particular setting, alter the structure of materials
development of children.
c. You have just been employed as a kindergarten teacher. at furnishings in some way to influence the children's
You decide to visit the classroom where you Willteach behavior. Review this chapter to help you decide what
before school starts. When you enter the room, you you might do.
note the shining floors first and then all of the fur- b. Carry out the classroom assessment given in Figure 5.3.
nishings and equipment piled high on one side of the c. Using what you have learned about safety and child-
room. Cupboards are on one wall and windows a~eon proofing, carefully examine the outdoor and indoor
another. A toilet and lavatory open off the wall With play areas. Identify what the host teachers have done
cupboards and there is a sink in the countettop. You to promote safety and any actions you think might be
can see electrical outlets on the wall with no windows needed.
or cupboard. Identify five principles you will use in d. Use the floor plan provided in this text or that of the
classroom where you have had experience. Rearrange
organizing this space. the furnishings and explain how this rearrangement
d. Describe the teacher's role in keeping children safe and
would affect the children's behavior. Then rry rearrang-
healthy by means of the physical environment. .
e. Identify at least two of Gardner's eight intelligencesdis- ing furnishings to achieve one of the following potential
cussed in Chapter 2 that are the most obviouslysupported goals:
in each of the learning centers describedin rhis chapter- • More cooperative behavior
• More helping and sharing
2. Observe • A quieter environment
a. Scan a playground in a city park or a schoolyard. • More creativity
Identify features that provide safe activity and features
that might pose a hazard. List what should be done to
4. Create something for your portfolio
eliminate hazards. . n a. Develop at least one pictograph to use with young
b. Observe empty classrooms at more than one locano .
s children for a basic routine that you would expect
Sketch sample layouts of furnishings and matenal and
describe how you think the experiences in the vanous them to implement independently after some initial
elassrooms would differ for the children therem. DISCUSS guidance.
your observations with others.
174 Part 2 ~ Setting the Stage lor Learning

6. Consult the standards

b. Photograph an area of the room you were able to a. Some stares have lists of equipment and materials
change to improve the qualiry and effectivenessof rhe process for derermining if there ate sufficient rna
N space. in a childcare setting. Check your state or an adja
srare to determine what these standards are and h
5. Add to your journal
a. Reflect on the experience l'OU have had in organizing they are assessed.
b. Whar procedures does your state (or city) use to p
for learning and compare ir wirh whar you read in this
1: 1 for the safery of children in primary grades, on pia
lee chaprer. gtounds, or in childcare sertings? Such standatds
b. Write a short description of how l'OU or a teacher you
la. usually found in licensing regulations or ate pub'
chD observed modified rhe environment to meet the special
on websites from the Stare Department of Educa'
lb. needs of one or more children.