Learning environment

classroom design

The classroom learning environment is the physical space that supports and shapes the curriculum. It can have a profound effect on individual children and the group. Our classrooms are designed to be safe, warm, and inviting to help children engage in learning activities and to support their development.


The classroom should be divided into different areas to give children opportunities to explore, make things, experiment, and pursue their interests. There should be spaces for large and small-group activities. Science and art activities should take place in specific areas set up for wet and messy play. Other areas should include dramatic play, block building, large-muscle activities, and a quiet area that is inviting to the children, visible to staff, and easily accessible to a child who seeks or needs time alone.

Designing effective classroom environments includes arranging the physical structure of the classroom to increase appropriate behaviors, such as engagement, and decrease the probability of challenging behaviors. Strategies for structuring the classroom include:

Universal design

Universal Design is an approach to creating environments that are usable and accessible to the widest possible range of people, including those with disabilities. In an early childhood classroom, Universal Design can be used to ensure all children have equal access to learning opportunities and resources. Here are some ways you can use Universal Design:

Learning centers

Learning centers are interest-based areas within the classroom where children learn by playing and engaging in activities. Subdividing the classroom into spaces that accommodate a few children at a time addresses some children’s preference for small-group settings.

Children need time to think and to manipulate materials for deep learning to occur. Every classroom schedule should include time at learning centers, with open-ended activities and hands-on materials that promote the development of emerging skills for each child.


Learning centers should include:


When designing learning centers:

equipment + materials

Toys help children learn by challenging them to figure out how things work, testing new thoughts and ideas, using their imaginations, and developing problem-solving skills. To ensure an environment conducive to learning, all the equipment and materials at First Circle must:


Pay attention to the materials and activities in each center. Learning centers need to be meaningful, engaging, and interesting to children. Materials in the classroom should be:

outdoor learning

Outdoors children play, practice, and master emerging physical skills. First Circle has expansive playgrounds divided by age range. Children can run, leap, jump, swing, climb, ride, push or pull moving toys, throw, kick, and catch balls.

By committing to learning inside and outside the classroom, we are teaching children that learning occurs everywhere. As much as possible, we should bring learning outdoors, and help children experience elements of nature hands-on. Natural environments allow children to explore and learn in ways not possible indoors. The outdoors offers diverse learning opportunities, increases health and well-being, and allows children to experience active physical play they need to grow and develop. Outdoor play and learning also help children:


Outdoor activities you can do with children:

Remember to prioritize safety when planning and conducting outdoor activities, and to supervise and support the children in your care.