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As the flagship classroom for the MU Early Education STEAM Center, this location on the campus of Marshall University opened its doors in the fall of 2010. The site is nationally accredited by NAEYC and is a collaborative pre-k classroom with Cabell County schools, serving 3, 4 and 5 year old children. Also in partnership with Marshall University’s College of Education and Professional Development, the classroom provides pre-service practicum and observation students a place for high-quality clinical experiences.

The philosophy for the program is influenced by the Reggio Emilia Method. The co-constructivist theory promotes an exchange between teacher and child in which both explore, experiment, and solve problems and questions relevant to daily life. The program exists to promote a child-initiated, teacher supported curriculum in which children’s curiosities about the environment are supported, encouraged and explored.

Furniture for the Marshall University Early Education STEAM Center was provided our team at Natural Pod. We spoke with Annette Brumfield, the Coordinator for Early Education STEAM Center at Marshall University who shared some of her insights with us about the creation of their learning space.

1. Why did you choose to make such a sustainable choice in furnishing your learning spaces?

Our classrooms at the MUEE STEAM Center are influenced by the Reggio Emilia philosophy and we understand the importance of natural materials as well as the sustainability of the materials we utilize. We want our children to respect and take care of the world in which they live. The environment is considered the “Third Teacher “in our classrooms and we strive to create an atmosphere which is child friendly, calm, inviting and feels like home. These Natural Pod products do this.

2. How do you see the product affecting curriculum delivery?

All the products we have purchased from Natural Pod have been inspirational in creating our environment to reflect the Reggio Emilia philosophy we are influenced by. The products are very versatile and can be used with many different types of provocations. They are well-built and our staff has developed a wide-range of uses. Light tables are used for literacy and numeracy activities as well as various opportunities for STEAM focuses to name one.

3. What sort of impact have you seen over the years having open, flexible, sustainable learning environments?

The children take ownership of the classrooms and become leaders of their own learning. They are more comfortable and have a sense of belonging. They are encouraged to explore and create models focusing on their own interests and developmentally appropriate activities. Every year a new group of children enters the classroom. Having a flexible learning environment is essential to meet the needs of the children. The classroom set-up is ever changing, so having open and flexible products are very beneficial to the children.

4. What kind of feedback have you received/seen in the children?

The children love the products. They are very creative in developing different uses for different types of furniture. They have also developed an attitude of appreciation for the materials and their uses and help in the upkeep. They love and respect their classroom and feel very safe and happy in it. The children’s overall temperament is more calm and relaxed when entering the learning environment. They love having furniture at their level and easy access to materials.