The four guiding principles adopted to engage children in learning:
Play is actually a child’s work. The classroom curriculum for each child stems from their interests, their skills, and developmental needs. From what we learn through conversations with children along with what we know is of interest to them, curriculum topics are chosen. Through observation, documentation, and reflection, the learning goals and objectives are created. Teachers provide experiences and opportunities that are developmentally appropriate, reflective, engaging, and enjoyable, creating for each child the ability to obtain knowledge in a creative way.
Children engage in projects and studies of real-world topics. The length of a project may be anywhere from a week to a season to the entire school year. We believe children learn best when their interest is piqued, and they become fully engaged. Teachers play an integral role as advisors, co-learners, and collaborators while guiding and supporting each child’s desire to explore.
Our approach focuses on children learning through a variety of modalities. New ideas and concepts are introduced in multiple forms, such as print, art, music, and through nature. With these experiences, each child can subsequently understand and connect with the concepts being explored and the world around them.
Children are encouraged to be social and to interact with their peers, so invariably they will work together in small or large groups. They communicate and problem solve, as well as take on challenges using comparison and negotiation. Each child’s voice is heard, promoting a balance between a sense of belonging to the group and a sense of self. In collaboration, children also develop interpersonal skills relating to perspective and empathy.
There are three core elements of the Reggio Emilia philosophy: the child, the environment, and the teacher:
Children are born with the innate ability and desire to acquire knowledge. They are strong, competent, creative, and curious. This curiosity motivates them to experience and explores everything that surrounds them, their entire environment.
Children use countless ways to express themselves, both verbally and non-verbally. They have ‘100 languages’ and use each to create, explore, assemble, manipulate, research, learn, play, rejoice, feel, and communicate. Children begin communicating from the moment they are born, and it is up to us to listen to them and observe them to gain an understanding of what they are trying to communicate to us.
Children are capable of using a wide variety of skills and tools that will help them to explore and learn. It is our responsibility to create an accessible environment that nurtures those skills, and provides the necessary tools. In doing so, we express to children that we respect them as researchers, trust them as competent learners, and believe that the work they are doing is worthwhile and important.
Having personal confidence is key to successful learning. To begin with, in our preschool environment, children strive to secure relationships with others. In turn, the development of these relationships helps to instill confidence in the children. This confidence consequently strengthens the children’s ability to search for answers for themselves. Put simply and succinctly, a confident child is a child who is ready and better prepared to learn.
Here at Community Care Preschool, the classroom is referred to as ‘the third teacher‘ and sets the stage for learning in a space that is inviting, open, orderly, and aesthetically pleasing. It is important for children to be comfortable in the classroom; we want them to feel that this is their second home. Our classroom environment feels intimate, warm, and inviting, filled with everyday furniture. Every item has its place and role, and children can freely access all materials. Our classroom offers a blank slate for children to fill with their ideas and stories.
Our teaching/learning environment has been carefully set up to invite wonder, curiosity, and investigation, and includes:
– Group meeting areas for discussions, stories…
– Atelier (art studio) filled with paper, crayons, paint, glue, and scraps of natural materials
– Dramatic play area with rotating themes based on the children’s interests
– Sensory sand and water tables with frequently changing contents
– Reading nook with books frequently rotated to reflect the children’s current focus of attention
– Reflections area for individual children who need some time alone
– Manipulatives and blocks area for building and creating
– STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) area for exploration
Our teachers create environments that are aesthetically inviting, orderly, accessible to all children, and collaboratively reflective of their combined ideas. Teachers are investigators, experimenters, researchers, and co-learners. They plan along with the children by framing questions, collecting data, observing, and recording thoughts and actions, and analyzing and interpreting this information in a continuous cycle. As children increase their knowledge, teachers make that visible through documentation. The teachers focus on the process of learning through play, exploration, and discovery (and not on the product that results, the outcome.)