Altering the Environment to Respond to Children’s Interests

We have this wonderful area in the back of our classroom where there is a bench that covers the heater, and a ledge against the full wall window. It is a beautiful area and we have kept it for the most part cleared off for the children to sit on during transitions, or if I am being honest occasionally to store containers of toys that are out.

For a few weeks now I have noticed a couple of children using animals on the bench. Animals are a huge interest in our classroom – pretend play, art, sensory, gross motor – all types of play in our classroom are being explored through animals.

One child in particular, N, likes to line animals up. The bench is the perfect place for this type of play as both the ledge and the bench offer a long line to do this on. He has often moved animals from a set-up provocation or their home in blocks area to the bench. Rather than redirect the animal play to a table or the floor, I wondered if we could transform the bench into an animal small world exploration long term.

My co-teacher L had a great suggestion to also include the sensory table with sand, water, or some other kind of sensory material so they could use the animals in multiple ways in various mediums.

I also re-did our mini-atelier area. Many children are exploring cutting right now but one child in particular, M, spends the majority of his day cutting. Any material we put out he wants to cut. This inspired me to change out some of our drawing materials for cutting materials. I included various types of paper, recycled materials, scraps, yarn, coffee filter, scissors, glue, and tape.

While both of these interests are apparent in multiple students, the specific lining up of animals and cutting meticulously are really the primary interest of two children. In the past many of my projects, provocations, and environmental changes were designed to meet the needs of our classroom, not necessarily individual children. But after discussing schemas, and wondering how to represent and facilitate each child’s individual schemas and interests, I think this is my response to that.

Altering the environment to meet the needs of the few, allows me to also provide provocations that meet the needs of the rest. I can use the environment to respond to specific needs, rather than attempting to provide new provocations each day that facilitate each and every interest. 


The class has already been hard at work cutting ALL THE THINGS now available to them. M has cut paper, yarn, tape, crepe paper – anything he has been able to get his hands on. I plan on rotating in new materials to cut every now and then as well as exploring other fine motor materials in other areas of the room.

Today will be the first day the small world animal exploration in open and I can’t wait to see how N and the rest of the class respond to it. 

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