How is the Classroom Environment the Third Teacher?

The Classroom Environment

The Reggio Emilia classroom environment is unique among early childhood education approaches, and it plays one of the most important roles in the Reggio Approach. In the Reggio environment,  determining the way that children interact with the classroom is a crucial step to take in order to best implement a Reggio-inspired approach to education. Let’s explore what makes the Reggio Emilia approach unique, and how the role of the classroom is a pivotal aspect in Reggio Emilia.

Reggio-inspired programs in the U.S. are an adaptation of the original Reggio Emilia program based out of a region in Northern Italy. Recreating a similar Reggio style takes careful consideration in how both learning methods and environmental aspects are incorporated into the philosophy. Fundamental areas of focus also include relationships, community, documentation, and communication.

Reggio Emilia Classroom Environment

One of the most powerful components in a Reggio-inspired program is the classroom and school environment. Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, describes how educators view the school “as a living organism, a place of shared relationships among the children, the teachers, and the parents and a feeling of belonging in a world that is alive, welcoming and authentic”. The environment plays such a vital role in Reggio-inspired programs that it is oftentimes referred to as the “third teacher”.



An Atmosphere that Fosters Creative Exploration

Reggio-inspired learning environments are thoughtfully designed and arranged in a way that engages and informs students beyond the direction a teacher provides. The goal is to create an atmosphere that fosters creative exploration, demonstrates respect for children’s work, while encouraging encounters, communication, and relationships. Here’s a glimpse of what a Reggio-inspired environment looks like at The Compass School…

  • Open and inviting classrooms and common spaces are carefully integrated with one another, as well as with the outside community.
  • Use of natural furnishings encourage real-life interactions—think plants, mirrors, big windows, natural light and less of what we come to expect in a traditional child care facility.
  • Presentation of classroom materials and resources in a way that draws attention and curiosity without feeling institutional.
  • Display of project work, both completed and in-progress, is interspersed throughout the classrooms, to spark new creative ideas and engage students.
  • Design and layout of workspaces facilitate small and large group activities or independent work.


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The Compass School invites you to schedule a tour to see our exciting, enriching school environment for yourself! Most parents and students who visit our schools for the first time comment that the atmosphere is unlike any other preschool or child care center they’ve visited. Let us show you how we offer a uniquely warm, inviting and child-centered school environment in which students are driven to explore, discover, and grow!