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Browsing Electronic Theses and Dissertations by Author "Abbasi, Sahand"
The built environment affects children’s behavior (Berris & Miller, 2011; Weinstein,
1977) and has an essential role in children’s socio-emotional development. However, providing
an outdoor learning environment that supports children’s socio-emotional development needs is
challenging because they perceive environmental factors differently than adults and to varying
degrees. Besides, there has been a general lack of understanding of how environmental design
features are essential in outdoor learning environments. This study aimed to investigate the
importance of physical design features in secret spaces as an indicator of socio-emotional
This descriptive, non-experimental study adopted the qualitative approach to determine
the importance of physical design features in the secret spaces’ functionality. The primary data
gathering techniques for this study were focus groups and a set of comprehensive design
analyses. A purposive sample of 8 early childhood educators and graduate students in childhood
education was selected for the focus groups, and 30 secret space settings studied and evaluated in
the design analyses.
The study’s finding illustrated that the most critical design features and functions of the
secret space are having control over the environment by children and feeling safe and private,
and supervision and access by the teachers and caregivers. The findings indicated that the
physical design features, which contribute to identifying and functionality of the secret space, are
flexibility, structure, and affordances. In conclusion, the study found a significant impact of the
design features on secret spaces.