Story from the Studio: An Inside Look at Environment as the Third Teacher

Magical. Whimsical. Serene. Nurturing. Comfortable. Homey. Art-filled. Inspiring. Beautiful. 
 
As atelierista, Italian for art director, of Preschool of the Arts for over a decade, these adjectives are all in the forefront of my mind during my weekly visits. It is my responsibility, as well as my passion, to ensure that all five of our locations stay true to our school’s Reggio inspired objective of creating and maintaining beautiful environments embodying all of these characteristics. You may find me perched high on a stool, hanging children’s artwork, arranging holiday displays, or carefully extending my measuring tape across a classroom wall to make way for a new piece of furniture. You may just as likely find me sitting in the art studio, happily working with a group of children who are painting colorful canvases. Reggio inspired schools are unique in a multitude of ways, but perhaps most compelling to me is the strong emphasis they place on the beauty of the school environment and in drawing out children’s innate desire and ability to create.

Children attending Reggio schools are said to have three teachers – their parents, their classroom teachers, and their school environment.  

Referring to the environment as the third teacher may not be as far-fetched as you think.  
 
Children thrive when they work and play in beautiful, serene, well-organized, magical environments, accessorized with the comforts of home. Beautifully designed furniture and the soft touches of home, such as cozy pillows, and comfortable sofas, help ease the transition between school and home. Toys and supplies, well organized and placed within reach of children, help promote their independence. Beautiful objects from naturedisplayed in pleasing ways, help inspire the children’s interest and curiosity about the world and their connection to nature. Additionally, they help stimulate the creative juices necessary for them to flourish in a fast-paced and dizzying world. Children’s artwork, beautifully displayed with the utmost care and dignity, imbues them with self-confidence and a sense of individuality.  

Our school boasts authentic-looking trees growing in the common spaces, an indoor living garden, classroom fireplaces, art studios, a huge indoor sandbox, comfortable parent lounges, kitchens in every classroom, light tables, a modern children’s library, and beautiful children’s art displays, to name a few of the most distinctive and special features. In addition to beautifying our school, these spaces are always very carefully planned with our educational objectives in mind. 

I absolutely relish the opportunity I have to work with our children in the art studio.  I love introducing them to a new art medium and watching their eyes light up in anticipation of trying it out.  Our children have created artwork with water, acrylic, and tempera paints, markers, crayons, colored pencils, oil and chalk pastels, clay, wire, and a wide assortment of collage materials.  Young children's work is bold, un-self-conscious, and full of joie de vivre. If their gusto and enthusiasm to create art is nurtured properly, as I strive continuously to do, it will develop into a lifelong passion for art.  Art will become a natural and pleasurable means of self expression for them. 

Leah Malka Weinstein
MS Early Childhood Education, Atelierista