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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Pa rt 1 The Importance of Childhood Environments: What Does the Research Say? Theory into Practice When considering the foundational educational approaches that one associates with early child- hood education, it’s easy to see the considerable role that environment plays within the practice of each approach. The physical characteristics of any classroom are an outward manifestation of its philosophy; consequently, the behaviors and educational programs are equally impacted (Horne Martin 2002). Conversely, if one’s philosophical approach to education is vague and undefined, the physical environment will lack focus and purpose. The teacher’s philosophi- cal beliefs about teaching and learning should be reflected in her pedagogical methods, sup- ported by the materials and arrangement of the classroom space. A harmony should exist between space and learning; form should fol- low function by adapting the classroom space to harmoniously support the approach to learning found within (Montgomery 2008). The impor- tance of childhood environments, as reflected by the practices of the constructivist educational approach, the Reggio Emilia approach, the Waldorf approach, and the Montessori approach, are explored below. Constructivist Educational Approach The theory of constructivism, which strives to explain how a child builds his understanding of the world, is fundamentally based on the importance of environment. A child’s construc- tion of knowledge does not result from concrete bits of information that are memorized; rather, knowledge construction is a dynamic experience that is continuously built through interactions with the world (Ackermann 2004). Children use their prior knowledge of the world, along with current experiences within the spaces they inhabit, to gain a greater understanding of life. Each new experience allows the child to build, modify, and reinterpret perceptions; children constantly alter their conceptual understand- ings, aided by environmental interactions COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL | 9 |