An Environment That Supports Learning
Teachers in HighScope settings recognize that children's play items are the "raw materials" of learning. The space and materials in a HighScope setting are carefully chosen and arranged to appeal to children and promote the curriculum's content goals.
Although we do not endorse specific types or brands of toys and equipment, HighScope does provide general guidelines and recommendations for selecting materials that are meaningful and interesting to children.
Characteristics of the learning environment — The learning environment in HighScope programs has the following characteristics:
- Is welcoming to children
- Provides enough materials for all the children
- Allows children to find, use, and return materials independently
- Encourages different types of play
- Allows the children to see and easily move through all the areas of the classroom or center
- Is flexible so children can extend their play by bringing materials from one area to another
- Provides materials that reflect the diversity of children’s family lives
Interest areas typically seen in HighScope classrooms:
- block area
- house area
- art area
- toy area
- reading and writing area
- sand and water area
- woodworking area
- movement & music area
- computer area
- outdoor area
Dividing the classroom into interest areas — The space is divided into interest areas or learning centers equipped for distinct kinds of play. The areas are chosen to reflect children's natural interests.
How teachers select materials for the interest areas — The materials in each interest area are carefully selected to reflect children's interests and developmental levels. Teachers choose many open-ended materials — materials that can be used in a variety of ways, such as blocks in all sizes, art materials, and fabric pieces. Teachers seek out natural, found, and recycled materials, such as shells, twigs, rocks, carpet pieces, used containers, and old clothes.
Teachers consider it especially important to have plenty of real items that reflect children's lives, for example, cooking tools, small appliances that no longer work, dress-up clothes, and other objects and tools from children's houses and yards. These items reflect children's home cultures and allow children to imitate adults.
Storage and labeling — To help children find and put away materials themselves, materials are stored in consistent places in the classroom, on low shelves or on the floor, and in containers that children can see into and handle.
Shelves and containers have labels that make sense to children; for example, the labels might contain words, drawings, tracings of the object, photos, or an example of the actual object.
More information on the learning environment — Detailed lists of possible materials for each interest area and guidelines for using them with children to support learning in curriculum content areas are provided in HighScope publications and training.