The environment as the "third educator."

TASIS Portugal proudly implements the co-teaching method in all of its elementary classrooms. This methodology boasts two dedicated teachers who are constantly on the path of professional development. However, the truth is that in every teaching team there is the (less spoken about) “third educator.” In addition to the subjects involved in this dynamic educational process, the environment is also an educator as the teachers provide an idealized, welcoming, active, inclusive, and collaborative approach to the learning and teaching of young minds.

cork board, 1st grade classroom

The aesthetic and practical dimensions of the classroom should be taken into account. We wholeheartedly believe that we should prepare the school for the children as if we were preparing our own homes to receive the most important guests. Physical space is just a space, but it can be transformed into an environment when there are respectful areas that showcase the unedited work and ideas of the children.

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the educational philosophy known as the Reggio Emilia Approach, stated that “the development of children is dependent on the centrality of the interrelationship between children, teachers, families, the physical environment, and the working environment” (Hall. 2010).

We must establish a link with the space and relate intimately with it, transforming it into an ecosystem, so that we can have truly conceived interactive zones where real cooperative learning can take place.

science wall, 1st grade classroom

The third educator provides the space where children develop their ideas and display their visual learning and critical thinking. It should be ever-changing and growing as the child does. The classroom cannot do this alone; it needs the teachers to plan and organize its contents in order to create "the greatest possible number of learning opportunities through action and where they can have the maximum possible control over the environment" (Hohmann. 2002).

We thoughtfully planned out our classroom with all of this in mind. We created visible thinking wall displays that are clearly labeled for the different subjects covered by the students. At the start of a new unit, we begin by adding a title to our display and some examples of students' previous knowledge. A display shouldn’t be a finished work of art, but a continuation of the learning taking place in class.

This aspect of visible thinking creates a place where children can refer back to what they have learned and exercise their memory skills. This is particularly important for visual learners and gives an overall level of achievement to students as they track their learning journey. TASIS Portugal facilitates this practice by providing teachers with large teaching spaces filled with natural light, ergonomically designed children’s furniture that makes learning comfortable, an abundance of materials and resources, and cork walls that allow for ever-changing displays of work.

Biology wall, 1st grade classroom

The classroom, the playground, the common spaces, and all the areas with which the children interact are indirect agents of teaching and learning. For this reason, at TASIS Portugal, spaces are constantly being planned, structured, and restructured to continue to be stimulating, embracing, and welcoming. The school space is a mobilizing element of children's creativity and learning.

Bibliography

Hall, K (2010) Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia Experience. UK, London; Bloomsbury Publishing Group

Hohmann, M (2002) A Study Guide to Educating Young Children. USA, Michigan; High Scope Press

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