Online professional learning opportunity for Summer 2023!

Course Overview 

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to basic concepts and findings relevant to theory and research in the Learning Sciences, with specific focus on how these concepts and findings apply to the design of learning environments across settings. Additionally, students will study the philosophical and pedagogical approaches to understanding the environment as the third teacher, as inspired by the schools in Reggio Emilia. Using insights from both the Learning Sciences and Reggio-inspired practices, students will develop commitments to the design of learning environments that they will critically examine in relation to their practice through several modes of action and reflection, and that they will use as a lens to carry forward into new spaces they will encounter in new contexts.


Course Objectives

  1. Articulate beliefs about how humans learn, taking into account cognitive, aesthetic, and sociocultural foundations of learning, and the impact of the digital languages on learning.
  2. Align beliefs about learning with the design and facilitation of learning environments and identify when this is not the case, making modifications and adjustments accordingly.
  3. Use beliefs about learning as a guide for designing learning environments.
  4. Design provocative, stimulating learning environments on both a macro and micro scale, grounded in theory and beliefs about learning.
  5. Through exposure, have an awareness of a wide spectrum of learning environments and learning materials.
  6. Understand basic concepts and findings relevant to theory and research in the Learning Sciences.
  7. Recognize and apply theories from the Learning Sciences to the design of learning environments.
  8. Generate learning intentions and theoretically grounded rationales that inspire the design of learning environments.

Course Organization

The Environment as the Third Teacher focuses on developing competencies in the design of rich learning environments that are grounded in observations of children and beliefs about learning. Specific attention is given to the study and personal articulation of such beliefs, aesthetic perception, and Design Thinking as a framework. Parts I and II are organized by readings/multimedia resources, invitations and submissions of individual and group work. Assignments invite participants to explore the potential of environments and the relationship between the environment and those coexisting with her. The course organization allows students to organize the course around work and other life commitments. The modules are geared towards educators and leaders working in schools. With instructor support, assignments can be altered for those not working in schools.

For more information, please contact Sara Van Dyke.

Course Options and Cost

Part I Professional Development: Uncovering Possibilities & Potentials

Part I is a non-credit, ungraded, professional learning experience that is rigorous and taught over 5 weeks in the Summer. The readings, media resources and assignments are self-guided and peer mediated with significant opportunities to socially construct understanding(s) in asynchronous small groups. Additionally, there will be full group synthesis by an instructor with extensive experience with the Reggio approach. With a certificate of completion of Part I, students can take Part II and convert the professional development into credit. You will be asked to demonstrate learning in an assessment that will be evaluated for credit.

Part II Credit Conversion: The Art of Design in Practice

Part II is taught over 3 weeks in the Summer and involves an opportunity to put all that you have learned in Part 1 into practice through design of a learning environment that you propose, implement and assess. Like Part I, Part II includes readings and media resources. The online format continues to offer a degree of self-pacing, submitting work complemented by significant opportunities to socially construct understanding(s) in synchronous and asynchronous small group interactions over the course of each week. These group and individual learning experiences/assignments are submitted for peer feedback and instructor mediation, as well as individual instructor coaching for designing plans for implementation. One Zoom session will be scheduled at a time that is convenient for you.

Summer 2023

Summer 2023

Course Dates


Registration Deadline

How to Register

Part I: Professional Development: Uncovering Possibilities & Potentials

June 5 – July 7, 2023


May 29, 2023

Register Here

Part II Credit Conversion: The Art of Design in Practice

*Completion of Part I required

*Articulates to MA programs

July 10 – 28, 2023


July 3, 2023

Must complete Part 1 to register

*This course, when taken for credit, articulates into two master’s programs in partnership with Boulder Journey School: (1) Innovative Early Childhood Education MA, Boulder Journey School Partnership as an online program or (2) Early Childhood Education MA, Boulder Journey School Teacher Education partnership, which is available at Boulder Journey School as a residency program.

About the Course Designer

About the Partnership

Boulder Journey School

Boulder Journey School is a full-day, full-year early childhood program located in Boulder, Colorado that welcomes over 200 children, ages 6 weeks to 5 years, and their families. We have a faculty of about 70 educators, that includes approximately 55 classroom teachers, both Resident and Mentor Teachers, as well as 15 administrators, directors and teacher educators.

reggio student inspecting blocks

Our school focuses on the education of young children, as well as the education of teachers. In 1999, Boulder Journey School entered into close partnership with the University of Colorado Denver and the Colorado Department of Education to create a residency-based Teacher Education Program within the school. Through this one year program, Graduate Student Teachers earn a Master’s Degree in Learning, Developmental and Family Sciences and a Birth - Third Grade Teaching license. These partnerships, created around teacher education, have resulted in two decades of experimentation and innovation that have affected all aspects of daily life at school, including our image of the child, relationships with families, teacher professional development, curriculum planning, collaboration among faculty, and our connection to the local, educational, global and political communities.

Resident Teachers enrolled in our program are teachers of record who team teach with Mentor Teachers. Mentor Teachers have already graduated from the Teacher Education Program. These teaching teams are charged with innovating new teaching practices as teacher researchers.

Our relationship with Reggio Emilia, Italy

Students paint at Boulder Journey School

Boulder Journey School and the University of Colorado Denver are promoting founders of the Fondazione Reggio Children - Centro Loris Malaguzzi, an international organization founded in 2011 with the mission to “promote solidarity through research.”

Additionally, Boulder Journey School and the University of Colorado Denver bring groups of educators to Reggio Emilia, Italy annually to participate in the Student Professor Study Group organized in collaboration with Reggio Children.

Choose CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development

The School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver is a statewide and national leader for educational quality, access and equity across the education lifespan, birth through higher education. Our undergraduate and graduate programs prepare and inspire education and mental health leaders to have a profound impact in fostering student opportunity, achievement and success in urban and diverse communities. We believe that all students, diverse in race, ethnicity, economic resources, language, fluency, abilities, geography, first-generation status, age, gender and sexual identities, deserve access to an excellent education. Our academic programs, our world-class faculty and our curriculum reflect this philosophy of inclusion and social justice. Through innovative research and partnerships, we strive to be passionate agents of change, inspiring upcoming generations to learn from the past and shape the future. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion works toward a more just and compassionate world.

We offer high quality Early Childhood Education in BA, BS, MA, EdD and PhD programs to prepare inclusive ECE teachers (with and without licensure), directors, leaders, researchers and policy makers. Our 20 plus year partnership with Boulder Journey School is a gem in our ECE program portfolio. We share deep interest and extensive experience with the innovative schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy and have successfully partnered in residency-based educator preparation for over two decades. Recently, we added an online MA rooted in the work of Boulder journey school and inspired by the acclaimed pedagogy known as the Reggio Emilia Approach.