First Advisor

Christine Chaille

Term of Graduation

Spring 2006

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Curriculum and Instruction


Educational Leadership




Elementary schools -- Pacific Northwest, Classroom environment -- Northwest, Classroom environment, Elementary schools, Psychology of Learning



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, x, 253 pages)


Primary grade children spend considerable time in elementary school classrooms. The learning environment can play a powerful role in the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development of a child (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). The aesthetic dimension is particularly intriguing. Studies positively link the condition of schools to student achievement and behavior (Earthman, Cash, & Van Berkum, 1995; Yarbrough, 2001). Educational literature often addresses the topic of learning environments; however, a key ingredient seems to be missing, the voices of children. If children are spending so much time in these settings, what do they notice? This study addresses the fundamental question, "What are children's perceptions of the learning environment and aesthetic qualities within their classroom?" The purpose is to listen to children and learn from their perspectives.

Over a four month period, 25 first grade children offered their thoughts and opinions as aesthetic elements such as plants, fish, textures, color, lighting, music, and artwork were introduced or removed from their classroom. Data were collected through observations, interviews, documents, and field notes as the following categories of inquiry were addressed: (a) what do children notice about their classroom environment, (b) what do children suggest for enhancing their learning environment, (c) how do children feel about particular aesthetic qualities in their classroom, (d) how do children believe aesthetic qualities in the classroom impact their emotional well-being, and (e) how do children feel aesthetic qualities in the learning environment help them learn? Children's responses were analyzed and organized into themes. Results are shared in a richly detailed chronological narrative.

Through children's voices, five themes emerged that address the fundamental question: (a) "I like it!" refers to children's appreciation for aesthetic qualities; (b) "I made it!" reveals the value children place on their work; (c) "It's mine!" examines the power of ownership; (d) "It's comfy!" explores the desire for comfort and relaxation; and, (e) "When are you going to interview me?" uncovers the significance of listening to children. In conclusion, implications are discussed in hopes that teachers will be inspired to listen to the voices of children within their own classrooms.


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