College of Liberal Arts
Psychology and Child Development Department
BS in Child Development
Creating a learning environment that enchants children’s curiosity and sparks exploration, discovery, and thought does not require a great amount of financial resources. Rather, one must concentrate on observation and focus on building on children’s existing interests in the natural world. The research and theories of Swiss psychologist and philosopher, Jean Piaget, and Russian Psychologist, Lev Vygotsky provide a concrete look into a child’s cognitive and social development and can be informative in creating such environments. Using the developmental knowledge presented in these theories, programs such as the Reggio Emilia program, the Preschool Pathways to Science program (PrePS), and the Big Ideas Constructivist approach were created. These perspectives share a view of the importance of an active inquiry-based learning environment focusing on the whole child. However, they also make unique contributions to understandings of young children’s learning processes, such as placing particular emphasis on the role of others, the importance of coherency in the curriculum, and the value of quality materials. The strong theoretical groundwork in developmentally appropriate activities and social interactions that each of these programs has benefits and enhances the quality of the educational environment they provide for children. For our project, we modified the patio environment of the Cal Poly Preschool Lab in light of best practices suggested by these theories and pedagogical approaches. The goal of our design was to provide the preschool students with a space where they could actively and freely explore a science-oriented curriculum with strategic guidance from their teachers. This was achieved by paying attention to Piaget’s view of the child as an active constructor of his or her own understandings.