Quality Area 3 – Physical environment
Reflection helps us understand where we are, where we've come from and helps us clarify where we'd like to go...
The aim of Quality Area 3 under the National Quality Standard is to ensure that the physical environment is safe, suitable and provides a rich and diverse range of experiences that promote children’s learning and development.
The way that the environment is designed, equipped and organised determines the way that the space and resources are used and has the potential to maximise children’s engagement and level of positive experience and inclusive relationships.
Standard 3.1 - Design: The design of the facilities is appropriate for the operation of a service.
- Element 3.1.1 - Fit for purpose: Outdoor and indoor spaces, buildings, fixtures and fittings are suitable for their purpose, including supporting the access of every child.
- Element 3.1.2 - Upkeep: Premises, furniture and equipment are safe, clean and well maintained.
Questions to help guide reflective practice for National Quality Standard 3.1:
• How does the environment support children’s learning? What barriers do we need to overcome?
• What processes are in place to monitor the cleanliness and safety of the premises, furniture and equipment?
• How does the design of the environment promote and foster children’s learning, development and well-being?
• How do we ensure that children are safe entering and leaving the service?
• How does the environment support the access of all children and families enrolled at the service and children who may enrol in the future?
• How do we ensure the environment is organised to meet supervision requirements, and also provide appropriate spaces and activities for children’s need for privacy and autonomy?
• How are FDC educators supported and encouraged to maintain the upkeep of their residence’s environment to ensure children’s safety and wellbeing?
Standard 3.2 - Use: The service environment is inclusive, promotes competence and supports exploration and play-based learning.
- Element 3.2.1 - Inclusive environment: Outdoor and indoor spaces are organised and adapted to support every child's participation and to engage every child in quality experiences in both built and natural environments.
- Element 3.2.2 - Resources support play-based learning: Resources, materials and equipment allow for multiple uses, are sufficient in number, and enable every child to engage in play-based learning.
- Element 3.2.3 - Environmentally responsible: The service cares for the environment and supports children to become environmentally responsible.
Questions to help guide reflective practice for National Quality Standard 3.2:
• Is the environment welcoming, home-like and inviting for children and families (within the constraints of our setting)?
• What opportunities do we provide for children to be involved in planning, setting up and modifying the environment?
• How is the environment equipped and organised to cater for all ages and levels of capabilities?
• How are the backgrounds and cultures of families and the broader community reflected in the environment?
• How can the physical environment be adapted to include all children and provide for their needs and interests?
• How can we create a physical environment that welcomes and respects all children and families, and encourages their participation in learning experiences?
• How can we organise environments and spaces to provide children with opportunities to play independently as well as promote small and large group interactions, engage in unstructured play?
• How do we plan to use the physical space to support children in building relationships?
• How do we support children’s interaction between the indoor and outdoor environments?
• How does the organisation of the indoor and outdoor environment allow for a variety of uses by children and educators?
• How do we arrange indoor and outdoor spaces that support children’s access to materials and equipment?
• What adaptions can be made to the environment or additional resources introduced to provoke interest, creativity, sustained shared thinking and collaborative learning?
• How do we provide spaces that promote safe exploration, learning through play and interaction with the environment for children of all ages?
• What equipment do we provide that allows for multiple uses?
• How does the physical environment contribute positively to children’s developing autonomy and independence?
• What features in the physical environment encourage open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature?
• How do we regularly evaluate the effectiveness of learning environments and draw links to the intended learning outcomes?
• What messages are given to children about how the service cares for the environment?
• What strategies can we implement to support educators to model environmentally responsible practices, and foster children’s capacity to value and respect the broader environment?
• How can we access additional information, ideas and strategies to support children to take an active role in caring for the environment and contribute to a sustainable future?
• How do we foster children’s capacity to understand, care for and respect the natural environment and the interdependence between people, plants, animals and the land?
• What strategies are in place to provide appropriate levels of challenge to children while ensuring that younger children are safe?
• How do we ensure the environment provides a diverse range of meaningful learning experiences while maintaining a warm, homely environment for children?
References for Quality Area 3: Physical Environment + Further Reading
The Guide to the NQS chapter, within the Guide to the NQF, draws from a number of useful resources and publications. These are listed below for further reading.
- Alexander, S. (2012). Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids (2nd ed.), Penguin, Sydney, Australia.
- Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (2011). National Quality Standard Resource List, retrieved 14 September 2017 from http://www.acecqa.gov.au/nqf/national-quality-standard/quality-area-3-p…, last updated 2016.
- Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (2016). Occasional Paper 4, retrieved 19 September 2017 from http://www.acecqa.gov.au/resources/research#OP, last updated 2017.
- Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.
- Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2010). Educators Belonging, Being and Becoming: Educators’ Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.
- Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2011). My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia.
- Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2012). Educators My Time, Our Place: Educators’ Guide to the Framework for School Age Care in Australia.
- Cool Australia (2008). Learn for Life, retrieved 19 September from https://www.coolaustralia.org/
- Cummins, E. & Reedy, A. (2015). Getting the Balance Right: Risk Management for Play, Play Australia, Melbourne, Australia.
- Curtis, D. & Carter, M. (2014). Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments (2nd ed.), Redleaf Press, St. Paul, MN.
- Davis, J. (Ed.) (2015). Young Children and the Environment: Early Education for Sustainability (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, London, England.
- Early Childhood Australia (2011). Spaces for Children, Early Years Learning Framework Professional Learning Program, (25).
- Early Childhood Australia (2016). Statement on the Inclusion of Every Child in Early Childhood Education and Care, retrieved 19 September 2017 from http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/St…
- Early Childhood Australia (2017). A Voice for Young Children, retrieved on 14 September 2017 from http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au
- Elliott, S. (2014). Sustainability and the Early Years Learning Framework, Pademelon Press, Kiama, Australia.
- Gill, T. (2016). Balancing Risks and Benefits in Outdoor Learning and Play: A Briefing for Teachers and Practitioners Working with Children, retrieved 14 September 2017 from https://outdoorclassroomday.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/OCDay-Balanc…
- Hughes, M. (2007). Climbing the Little Green Steps: How to Promote Sustainability in Early Childhood Services in your Local Area, Gosford City Council and Wyong Shire Council, Central Coast, Australia.
- Louv, R. (2016). Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC.
- McCrea, N. (2015). Leading and Managing Early Childhood Settings: Inspiring People, Places and Practices, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, Australia.
- Network of Community Activities (2014). ECO OOSH in Action: A Whole-of-Centre Approach to Sustainable Living: A manual for Out of School Hours Centres, retrieved 19 September 2017 from http://networkofcommunityactivities.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/s…
- Pelo, A. (2013). The Goodness of Rain: Developing an Ecological Identity in Young Children, Pademelon Press, Kiama, Australia.
- Walsh, P (2016). Early Childhood Playgrounds: Planning an Outside Learning Environment, Pademelon Press, Kiama, Australia.
Want to learn more? Head over to our next blog: Reflection Questions for Quality Area 4