HQELE Online Tool Overview
This comprehensive panoramic virtual tour emphasizes principles of a quality classroom design and incorporates key strategies on how to replicate highlighted elements. This tool is intended to support self-evaluation and reflection to encourage increased consideration of the early childhood learning environment as an extension of teaching.
Early Childhood Special Education teachers, General Education teachers, administrators and others can use a desktop computer (Mac OS/Windows) or a mobile device (iPhone/iPad/Android) to take a self-guided panoramic virtual tour of the entire preschool classroom. There are five defined elements that make up this High Quality Early Learning Environment (HQELE) that visitors can choose to explore.
The Environment as Curriculum
Learning is integrated, multiple factors make up a high quality preschool classroom, i.e. a well-paid, well-trained workforce, positive adult-child/child-child interactions, class size/ratios, licensing, high standards of safety/child protection, etc. However, the focus of this project is mainly to consider a classroom’s indoor physical aspects such as aesthetics, set-up, interest areas, and materials while integrating other important elements that make it difficult to separate from a High Quality Learning Environment such as routines and documentation.
How to Use this Tool
There are several approaches that can be helpful to make your exploration of the panoramic virtual tour meaningful and productive as an individual or together as a staff. Take a look at the HQELE Suggestions for Exploration (101k PDF) document. In this document you will find a few suggestions for use, which include discussion/thought provoking questions. These ideas are designed to assist individuals/staff in reflection of the content on the related web pages, solidify key learning and make additions or enhancements to their classroom environment.
We want you to gain ideas, not make an exact copy. The idea is to think about what makes a classroom an inviting, engaging, and accessible learning environment for all learners. No classroom site is perfect, including this one! There are some basic principles to consider about the environment highlighted within this tool; this program’s philosophical inspiration comes from the Reggio-Emilia approach. However, it is important to recognize that the environmental principles apply whether you have a Montessori or Waldorf philosophy, whether you implement High Scope, Creative Curriculum, alternative educational curriculum, or use a school-based, project-based, or cooperative approach.
A thoughtful, intentional teacher will know what ideas to introduce into their classroom and what will benefit his/her students.
- Mark Whitney, Director
Five Key Elements of the Learning Environment
These elements are core components of the design of MiraCosta Child Development Center’s early learning environments and common to all classrooms at the center. For students with disabilities, individual considerations are made within each of the following elements through adaptations and modifications:
- Routines: A familiar sequence to the day that allows the child to predict events, anticipate transitions and develop a sense of trust.
- Furnishings: Durable wooden shelves, tables, chairs and dividers to define space and invite engagement across the content of our curriculum.
- Spaces: Interest Centers that include places for individual and group activities that incorporate variety and complexity, both indoors and outdoors.
- Materials: Real-life instruments and tools, genuine artifacts and natural materials that can be used in a variety of ways (including wood, stone, glass, fabric and wire).
- Documentation: A variety of means and methods to make learning visible to all involved; to display and interpret the processes and products of both child and adult learning.
In addition, MiraCosta Child Development Center believes certain “orientations” to the design of the learning environment should precede the identification of “elements” within the classrooms. Such orientations reflect their core values and the Reggio-Inspired philosophy that frames their intentions and efforts, these include:
- Ambiance: The feel and/or tone of the learning environment; influenced by the use of natural lighting, the softness, color and warmth of fabrics and the inclusion of natural materials.
- Relevance: The use of real-life tools and learning materials; the incorporation of cultural components that reflect the lives of the individuals comprising the community of learners.
- Open-Endedness: Intended to invite curiosity, imagination, hypotheses, proposals, problem solving, multiple perspectives and a range of possible solutions.
- Provocations: Designed to intentionally intrigue and deliberately test; to purposefully arouse different responses to problems by challenging current thinking and compelling one often to unlearn and rethink.
- Multisensory: Learning environments must engage the learner in multiple ways, at multiple levels and across multiple senses.
Additional Classroom Panoramas
- View from welcome/entry area
- View from science/art area
- View from center of classroom
- View from writing area
= Disability = Family Engagement
- Considering LRE in Placement Decisions
- NPR: What Exactly is High Quality Preschool? Porter Elementary, Tulsa
- California Preschool Learning Foundations Volumes 1-3
- California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volumes 1-3
- Alignment of Preschool Learning Foundations
- Growing Ideas - Increase Access: Universal Design in Early Care & Education
- Division for Early Childhood- DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education
- Meeting the Sensory Needs of Young Children (May 2013 - Young Children)
- Head Start Center for Inclusion
- Welcome Children and Families to Your Program TYC
- Think Inclusive Blog
- Creating High Quality Early Learning Environments For All Children (734k PDF)
- Quality Indicators of Inclusive Early Childhood Programs/Practices (1.87 MB PDF)
- What to Look for in a Quality Inclusive Prekindergarten (Pre-K) Classroom, Part 1 of 3 - Environment (335k PDF)
- Students with Special Needs in the Classroom - P. Satterfield (3.6 MB PDF)
- Universal Design for Early Learning (457k PDF)
- Assistive Technology: Supporting the Participation of Children with Disabilities (November 2003 Young Children) (126k PDF)
- Making the MOST of Creativity in Activities for Young Children with Disabilities (July 2004 Young Children) (1.64 MB PDF)
- Inclusion: The Role of the Program Administrator (525k PDF)
- Fathers and Father-Figures: Their Important Role in Children’s Social and Emotional Development (933k PDF)
- All About the ECERS-R by Deb Cryer & Thelma Harms
- Universal Design for Learning in Action by Whitney H Rapp Ph.D.
- Right from the Start: Universal Design for Preschool, Teaching Exceptional Children Journal Vol. 45
- YEC Monograph 16 Features Blended Practices for All Children (82k PDF)