Aesthetic Learning Environment1 Aug 2012
Little Charlie looks at the Lego brick in his hands—it is yellow. He remembers seeing the same colour on lemons in a basket in the kitchen. Little Charlie makes for the firetruck across the room—it is red.
He remembers pricking his finger on wild thorns out in the garden and the tiny drop of red blood. But he’s a brave boy and didn’t cry. The firetruck rolls and lands on his quilt—it is blue. It’s the same colour as the sky, he thinks.
How alike they both are, both so large and enveloping, and… blue. Charlie giggles. His quilt has a huge bump. He lifts it and there’s his green beach ball. Green like the grass, green like the traffic light, green like money bills, in fact, green like grouchy Oscar on Sesame Street. Little Charlie is learning.
The third teacher
Let’s face it—dismal classrooms are the reality of uninspiring performance of a child’s left and right brain. The fact of the matter is children are tremendously sensitive to their surroundings, drinking it in like a sponge.
At a different time, say six decades ago, aesthetic dimension never made the high priority list when it came to building a school, much less past a grown-up’s apathy. The construction and subsequent furnishing certainly did not venture beyond the white picket fence of functional and financial considerations.
Today, thankfully for the population of little people, we are inundated with the significance of aesthetics for a favourable early childhood environment— through practice, in pedagogy, on the lips of every parent and teacher, etc.
But it isn’t simply about the way a preschool classroom “looks pretty”, rather the nuance is a concept about how aesthetics appeal to the senses of the body (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling) and human emotions. It’s about oiling cognitive development through positive architectural experiences for the senses in colours, light, material, proportions, space, rhythm, odours and others. Aesthetics after all comes from the Greek term aistehesis, which means ‘recognition via senses’.
An environment that nurtures the learning process of a young child is one that provides the required resources for investigative play and experimentation. It enables kids to free their minds and be motivated to explore and make choices, thus improving their critical thinking skills. This environment plays the role of a third teacher.
With flying colours
A classroom’s colour scheme demands proper thought because it forms the first of several layers of the “onion” upon which posters, charts, notice board, toys, desks and chairs follow. Wall colours should complement the colour of the floor and take note that primary colours are to be used cautiously. Red, blue and yellow are immensely strong, and bright hues which may distract toddlers and either agitate them or cause their senses to shut down.
Colour consultants can be roped in to assist with deciding on what shade works for a preschool setting. If a classroom has a neutral colour, it is easier to incorporate more vibrant curtains, paintings, or cupboards. Murals are a particular favourite of the little ones as imagery stimulates a sense of intrigue and imagination. Colours and pictures are for a toddler, like happy juice to kick in cognitive development.
Let there be light
Natural lighting should be used in a classroom whenever possible as it is healthier with varying qualities of illumination throughout the day. Large windows will allow in ample sunlight to banish darkness that hinders students from reading and concentrating. The presence of roof windows and corridor windows help save energy at the same time.
Fluorescent lights can be somewhat harsh on the eyes and set off irritability in a child. Use full spectrum lamps with a CRI of 85 to 9026 which are available as fluorescent bulbs. Consider a range of different light sources, for instance, lights with dimmers in sleep rooms, upward facing light tubes so that it is not too glaring, and small halogens for notice boards or art work.
For viewing pleasure
Walking into a pre-school is like taking a trip to the museum or art gallery. Scores of items are on display on the walls, on shelves—items like the children’s finger paintings, art pieces, a globe, the times tables. Pre-schools display objects that arouse curiosity and wonder in tots which makes want to discover and find answers, ultimately enabling them to learn.
Materials need to be presented in an orderly way so as not to look too cluttered and confusing. A cluttered classroom has negative impact on a child’s psyche as it causes them to be disoriented, unfocused and in fact could result in spills and injury. Reorganising or adding in new materials to retain its allure is a good idea too, seeing as a toddler tires of routine so quickly.
It is best to avoid presenting cute, commercialised images to children because it does little to encourage the imagination and discussion. Kids need to be exposed to a diverse range of styles and pictures that challenge them to think about myriad ways subjects can be portrayed.
Perhaps articles representing different cultures and countries through various mediums, for example sculpture, pottery, weaving, art prints, dolls and the like. Such materials educate children’s attention to detail and design, contributing to active and alert responses to the world around them.
His or her own handiworks are something fiercely gratifying to a four-year-old and should be displayed in a careful and respectful manner, at a place where the rest of the class and share and admire. This is one way to reward a pre-schooler for a job well done. Placing it at a child’s level is preferable, so that they won’t have to tiptoe or crane their necks uncomfortably to look. That goes for notice boards as well.
Notice boards are another thing in the class that needs to be minded. Ensure that the board is not a litter of notices, but arranged neatly and attractively. Notice boards can actually teach kids to be independent because it encourages them to read the announcements to keep abreast of happenings in school, instead of constantly relying on teachers to tell them things.