Design and Nature: Considerations from the Curriculum Initiative

The World Forum’s upcoming Working Forum on Design and Nature will explore four universal principles in designing effective spaces for children: collaboration between architects and educators; respecting context; the connection between inside and outside spaces; and the intention for the space (the pedagogy). All these principles have implications for the design of early childhood curriculum, particularly the intention-for-the-space principle.

The World Forum Foundation’s Curriculum Initiative defines an early childhood curriculum as a guide to offering experiences that optimize children’s well-being, development, and learning. Recognizing the need for local adaptation and interpretation, members of the Curriculum Initiative have developed universal principles for designing a curriculum. The principles focus on relationships, environment, play as children’s work, respect, content, children’s role in the curriculum, outcomes, the inter-relatedness of development, early childhood assessment, families and teachers as partners, and professional development. All of these principles have implications for the design of early childhood settings, but particularly the principle addressing the environment:

Children learn from their interactions with people and their environment. The early care and education environment should be developmentally appropriate, allowing children to engage in positive and safe interactions. It may need to be adapted to ensure that children of all abilities can participate in experiences as fully as possible.

The design conference’s intention principle recognizes the role of an early childhood curriculum in defining an intentional program setting. The Curriculum Initiative’s environment principle recognizes how the design of an early childhood setting influences children’s learning and development. Both principles recognize that one of the first steps in defining the early childhood curriculum is intentionally designing the early childhood setting.

Early childhood teachers rarely have the opportunity to interact with the architects of the early childhood settings in which they work before these settings were designed. Typically, teachers make do with the setting available, while architects have the opportunity to make new early childhood settings. As the importance of early childhood programs become more widely recognized, opportunities for collaboration between early childhood teachers and architects will increase. Children and teachers will benefit immensely when program settings become more appropriate and engaging.