The concept of aesthetics is often understood in the realm of art but we believe that aesthetics is a constant part of our lives and that human development is greatly influenced by aesthetic perceptions. Lella Gandini (US Liason from Reggio Children) reminds us, “Space when organized thoughtfully is a teacher” (Conversation with Lella Gandini at Bing Nursery School, 2007). Therefore, our staff applies several important principles of aesthetics when deciding how to setup our learning environment and activities for our students. These principles, derived from our educational goals for young children, are briefly outlined below.
Invitation to Empowerment
Children are immediately empowered to explore, experiment and create with materials at an aesthetically pleasing setup because with little to no instruction from an adult it has an implicit invitation signified in the setup.
Thoughtfulness and Responsiveness
Aesthetic setups, which may be quite simple or conscientiously more complex, provide natural opportunities for teachers to scaffold children’s physical, cognitive and social development because teachers can quickly assess how children engage the setup in light of teacher’s intent for the activity and respond to each child according to his or her specific level of development.
Quality and Repetition
Children have the developmental necessity of having repeated opportunities for hands-on experience with high-quality, open-ended materials, especially in a social setting where the number of decisions children must make are great.
Documentation and Connection
Effectively aesthetic setups support vital documentation and enrich child-teacher interactions because the children come to know that teachers are keenly interested in what they think. Through the process of documentation, a culture of careful listening and constant connection is nurtured.
Organization and Alignment
As we orchestrate a harmonious quality for the materials in our setups, and while we perpetually question whether our educational philosophy and goals directly map to our curriculum plans and setups in the classroom, we hope our attention to aesthetics will inspire others to aspire to strengthen their connection with the environments they occupy, with the materials they encounter, and with the people around them.
We are pleased and honored to develop an highly aesthetic environment that incites the curiosity of young children with open-ended materials.