The physical environment in NEU schools supports participatory learning in many ways. Most importantly, classrooms are structured so that students can easily work cooperatively in small groups dispersed around the room, or even the hallway, porch or schoolyard. The teacher can use available spaces to structure diverse learning experiences rather than standing in front of a blackboard facing rows of desks.
NEU processes are based first on active community involvement. Teachers receive training in community development and learn to guide children through learning projects that involve their parents, relatives and other people in their lives. Parents contribute in many ways to the effective functioning of schools, from serving on nutrition committees that prepare and distribute snacks to maintaining facilities and building playgrounds. Parents and other community members are included as schools are established, and this active, voluntary participation translates into support for learning.