Environments and interactions in early childhood settings

In this assessment, you will explore environments and interactions in early childhood settings. Goals of this assessment include assessing your competencies in describing the characteristics and practices of culturally responsive, collaborative, supportive learning environments; identifying supportive practices and strategies within these environments; and creating and adapting environments that are responsive to external requirements and the unique development and learning needs of each and every child. You will complete this assessment three times- one paper for each center/setting in which you observe.

Your Assessment requires that you conduct three early childhood classroom observations of 5 hours each. You must complete 15 total hours of observations to pass the course. These observations should take place in DCFS licensed facilities; preferably, these will be NAEYC accredited centers. In Part 1 of your Assessment, you will develop an overview of legal mandates, standards, and ethical principles that are essential considerations in designing learning environments. In Part 2, you will conduct an Environmental Scan and write a summary of the information gathered. In Part 3, you will complete an Interaction Event Template and write a summary. Include a copy of your completed Interaction Event Template with your assignment. Finally you will analyze the data in your Post-Reflection (Part 4).

Prior to your observations:

  • Complete the background check process and WAIT for your instructor to tell you that you are cleared BEFORE you initiate observations.
  • Once your background check has cleared, call and schedule your classroom observations. All three observations should take place in different sites/program types. Types of programs include Montessori, private child care centers, public schools, Head Start programs, Preschool for All programs, etc. You will choose three of the following age groups:
    • infant/toddler
    • pre-k (3-5 year olds)
    • kindergarten
    • 1st or 2nd grade
  • You will spend 5 hours in each setting- you can do the five hours in one day or split it across two or more days. Set aside 30 minutes for the environmental scan and 60 minutes for interaction event sample.
  • When setting up your observation, explain to the teacher/ program administrator that you will be taking notes on the organization of the environment and then observing interactions in the classroom. Be sure to arrange a time when different interactions will be observable (i.e not nap time)

Remember: You will complete three papers with the following elements- one for each ECE setting in which you observe.

Part 1: Pre-Reflection

Part 1 of your assessment requires that you describe factors within the early childhood environment (such as space, materials, images, sounds, language, ideas) and adult behaviors and interactions) influence classroom community and childrens development and learning. With these factors in mind, provide a 1 to 2-page overview critical considerations for each of these factors when designing engaging environments for young children.

  • What is the name of the center/school? What age group will you be observing?
  • What do you know about the population of students at this school? Socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, languages spoken, etc.?
  • What do you know about the surrounding community? Socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, languages spoken?
  • What factors within the early childhood environment will you be looking for in the environmental scan? Be specific and tailor your response to this question to the specific age group and setting in which you are observing.
    • For example- in an infant toddler classroom, you would be looking for age appropriate toys and materials, opportunities for gross motor movement throughout the day (i.e. tummy time), routines specific to infancy/toddlerhood- use your book for reference

Part 2: Environmental Scan (30 Minutes)

  • Upon your arrival, introduce yourself to the teacher and work with her/him to choose a location to observe from where you will not hinder classroom activities.
  • Write down the details of the daily schedule .
  • During the 30-minute Environmental Scan, observe the classroom design. Take notes on features and aspects of the physical environment. Include in your notes the following:
    • Details on signage, labeling, and organizational strategies that are used within the environment to help children navigate and self-regulate. (i.e. how is the classroom organized? What furniture is in the classroom? What centers/areas are available for children to engage in? how are materials organized? Do children have easy access to materials meant for them? Are children able to easily identify where to place items when they are done playing? Are centers/classroom areas labeled?
    • Characteristics of the learning environment that support or impede collaboration (i.e. are there places for children to interact with each other easily- tables for manipulatives, areas to read together, etc.)
    • Characteristics of the learning environment that support or impede creativity and exploration (i.e. are there centers- science area? Nature area? Art center? If so, are they available for children to use? Are there interesting/engaging materials in these centers?
    • Ways in which the physical and social environment reflects cultural responsiveness (i.e. books in childrens home languages? Books that feature children of different ethnicities and abilities? Dolls that reflect different ethnicities and abilities? Classroom print/signs that reflect the home languages of the children in the classroom?)
  • Part 2 should be a summary of the information you gathered from your environmental scan, including a description of the daily schedule.

Part 3: Interaction Event Template Summary (60 Minutes)

  • prior to your visit to collect interaction samples and data for specific periods of time during the 60-minute period.
  • To begin your event sample, provide an overall description of the following:
    • Number of children in the room.
    • Number of staff in the room
    • Activities occurring during observation time period
    • Interaction strategies used, including verbal communication and guidance strategies
    • Other relevant information (whether families were in the room, how children responded to strangers, etc.)
  • For the 60 minute period focus specifically in on interactions collecting the following information:
  • A description of the interaction you observed (can include quotes)
  • The location of the interaction
  • Reason for the interaction
  • Duration of the interaction
  • Interaction type (Adult to child; Child to Adult; Child to child; Child to environment)
  • Part 3 should be a summary of the information you gathered on the interaction event template. Include a copy of your completed template separately.

Part 4: Post Reflection

Your Post-Reflection requires that you reflect on data collected in your observations, and suggest adaptations to the environments you observed within. For your Post-Reflection, respond to each of the following:

  • What was your overall assessment of the environment observed in terms of their ability to support positive behavioral and developmental outcomes? Identify specific environmental strengths and opportunities.
  • What strengths and opportunities did you observe within the environment related to fostering trusting relationships with children and their families?
  • Describe culturally and individually responsive strategies observed within each of the environments. In addition to strategies observed, identify opportunities, if applicable. How can strategies be adapted in ways that are respectful of personality and temperament?
  • Based on your responses to each of the questions above, how effective do you feel the environments you observed was in terms of supporting the healthy development and learning of young children, including
  • encouraging active, creative exploration,
  • promoting children’s positive interactions with others,
  • supporting self-regulation,
  • supporting health social and emotional development,
  • supporting access and participation;
  • and promoting positive behaviors.

What would you suggest in terms of environmental adaptations or changes to the learning environment overall to enhance the learning community and ensure that the diverse development and learning needs of each and every child is enhanced?

Your paper should be a minimum of 4 pages, including the summaries of the environmental scan and the summary of the event sample template. Include a copy of your completed event sample template as well (the completed template is NOT part of the 4 page minimum). Please label the sections for your paper (Part 1, Part 2, etc.). 12 point font and double spaced.


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