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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET | The Importance of Childhood Environments: What Does the Research Say? | $127 billion would be needed to bring all of the nation’s schools into good condition (U.S. Department of Education 2000). If a growing number of American schools are aging and/or dilapidated, what message does that send regarding the importance of a child’s education? The way in which a school building is designed and maintained sends a clear message to the children, staff, and community about the value placed on the activities occurring within (Uline, Tschannen-Moran, and DeVere Wolsey 2009). Students subjected to school buildings with chipped and peeling paint, leaking roofs, and boarded windows could naturally conclude that education is not valued by their community—and the unfortunate addendum to that message is that they are not valued. Many students are resilient and do not allow such barriers to stand in the way of their education, but such subliminal messages can only lead to long-term harm within a com- munity. Conversely, time spent on making practi- cal and artful changes to a school’s environment increases the complexity of meaning and purpose that teachers and students assign to their educa- tional experiences. A Systemic View of the Environment A classroom is more than a collection of items found within a space; it is a complex system of relationships. One finds an intricate inter- relationship between the physical structure of the room, the arrangement and distribution of space, and the individuals (teachers and stu- dents) who share the space. When time is spent improving the physical environment, the class- room system and its relationships are likewise significantly improved (Horne Martin 2002). For true integrity to be present within the space, the classroom environment should be a direct reflec- tion of the educators’ philosophical approach. The school must also be viewed as a series of interconnected systems of communications and relationships (Rinaldi 1998). These relationship- oriented systems must include all stakeholders, including teachers, children, and parents. Such a systems focus will naturally extend to the spaces within the school. The architecture should sup- port both the pedagogy and the relational systems that are undertaken at the school (Rinaldi 1998). Ideally, classrooms should open to shared spaces where relationships among groups of children and adults can be fostered throughout the day. Classroom physical environments should also be systems that support emotional growth and well-being. Space can be structured to reflect a welcoming and caring tone to all who enter. Children who are intellectually and emotion- ally engaged are more likely to express feelings of support and security. As discovered by one research study, when asked to describe favorite COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL | 15 |