Updated: Nov 29, 2022
Best Learning Environment?
Dr. Joanne Foster – www.joannefoster.ca
When thinking about the best possible learning environment for your child, what matters most? The upcoming suggestions are broad-based, so consider them in relation to your own home dynamic.
Let’s start by looking at this image of a bald eagle and a juvenile, photographed by my friend and neighbor, nature photographer Garnet Rich. The picture is reflective of a very different environment than your home, but nevertheless, it’s about nurturing. The parent is teaching the child to go out on a limb and learn to soar. We can only guess what’s being communicated.
Every learning environment has its own unique features, whether it’s a forest, beach, backyard, park, concert venue, ice rink, or elsewhere. Keep in mind that when nurturing a child’s learning, what applies to one individual may not be quite right for another. Recognize your family’s priorities and opportunities!
FEATURES OF A NURTURING LEARNING ENVIRONMENT “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Safety – A safe environment is properly supervised and respectful of children’s needs to feel secure. They should be able to express fears, worries, or uncertainties and ask for help. Ideas are welcome, and kids know they can speak up if they feel sad, angry, frightened, stressed—or silly. (Learning and creativity can emerge from silliness, too!)
Appropriate Challenge – An appropriately challenging environment is flexibly responsive to children’s developmental levels and features the following: ~ Fair and realistic expectations—manageable and attainable in a timely manner ~ Suitable tasks—aligned with a child’s levels of readiness in different areas ~ Opportunities to stretch—inviting creative expression, exploration, and inquiry
Healthy Balance – Factors to consider for life balance include proper nutrition, exercise, and adequate rest. Play is also important for children’s well-being. Kids don’t learn as effectively if they’re hungry, unfit, tired, or lack social interaction.
Diversity – A diverse environment offers a range of possibilities for kids to make choices about what they need and want to learn and to engage in a variety of experiences. For example, enjoying nature and multisensory activities, reading, participating in sports (on land, in water, or on wheels), and being involved in music, drama, and the arts.
Encouragement – In an encouraging environment, adults help children see errors and obstacles as opportunities to learn, and everyone strives to maintain a positive outlook. Reinforce children’s efforts. Demonstrate how taking one step at a time can build momentum.
Independence and Collaboration – Children thrive when given ample freedom to reflect on their own and to grow autonomously—and also to connect with others and forge meaningful relationships. Environments that encourage connectivity teach children that networking can be fruitful and enjoyable.
Fun – Learning should be fun. Incorporate open-ended play, conversations, healthy motor development, inventing, hands-on activities, and exposure to many kinds of cognitive and sensory stimulation.
HELP YOUR CHILD SOAR…
The most favorable environments have an atmosphere of challenge and support, where adults reinforce children’s persistence and goal-directed activity, respect their interests, and foster their curiosity. You know your child best, so stay attuned to what will give them pleasure and confidence, and be available to provide encouragement as they take wing!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Joanne Foster is an award-winning author who writes about child development and gifted education. Her most recent book is Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews). For more information and for access to many articles and timely resources on children’s well-being, creativity, intelligence, productivity, and learning, go to www.joannefoster.ca.