The Design and Evaluation of the Physical Environment of Young Children’s Learning Settings

Abstract

The impacts of high-quality early childhood education on children’s health and development are legion and far-reaching. Historically, efforts to improve quality have targeted the social and curricular aspects of early childhood programs. The physical setting of schools has received less attention, despite the vast body of research over the past several decades which has revealed the numerous ways that the built environment shapes young children’s educational experiences. In this paper we review the extant literature on the connections between physical environment and children’s learning and development, and present evidence-based design and assessment principles for these educational settings, with practical applications for educators. We argue that discussions of educational quality are incomplete without addressing the built aspects of learning centres and provide practical guidance for evidence-based design of these environments.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Research done in French and Hungarian preschools suggests that larger classrooms of 5 square meters per child are associated with a decrease in children’s cortisol levels (Legendre 2003).

  2. 2.

    The cost for a 100 K square foot school is approximately $8 K (U.S. Green Building Council).

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Matthews, E., Lippman, P.C. The Design and Evaluation of the Physical Environment of Young Children’s Learning Settings. Early Childhood Educ J 48, 171–180 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-019-00993-x

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Keywords

  • Early childhood learning environments
  • Spatial design
  • Physical environment
  • Design
  • School architecture