Young children are encouraged to explore their environment and express themselves through "languages," or modes of expression, including words, movement, drawing, painting, sculpture, shadow play, collage, and music. One of our primary goals is to try to create learning conditions that help the children to develop these abilities through the exposure to all matter of expressive, communicative, and cognitive experiences. There are four guiding principles which we often use that work together so we can meet our objectives:
(-Richard Jetter, Early Childhood Today)
1. Emergent curriculum: Topics for study are built on the interests of the children, determined by discussions with the class and their families, and by areas that fascinate many children, such as puddles and dinosaurs. Teachers use their observations to decide what projects are best suited to the interests of the class, what materials will be needed, and how they can possibly get parents involved.
2. Projects: Children participate in in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests. Such projects are often explained to the children as adventures, and can vary in duration from a week or two to the entire school year. Teachers stand my as advisors to the group, helping them decide what directions they should take their research in, how they should represent what they learn, and what materials would be best suited for this representation.
3. Representational development: Teachers present new ideas and concepts in multiple forms, such as print, art, drama, music, puppetry, etc. This variation is considered essential in making sure that all children (who have many different styles of learning) have the chance to understand what is being taught to them.
4. Collaboration: Groups both large and small are encouraged to work together to solve problems using dialogue, comparisons, negotiations, and other important interpersonal skills. Each child's voice should be heard within the group to promote the balance between a sense of belonging and a sense of self.
Teachers play a dual role as researchers in the classroom. One of their primary purposes is to learn alongside the children, being involved in the children's group learning experiences as a guide and resource. A teacher must always carefully observe and track the growth of the children and the community within the classroom, and also spend time reflecting on what they have learned about themselves and their teachings as well.
The documentation of these observations on the growth of both teacher and children is another facet of the approach that we sometimes take. Pictures of the children at work and play, dictations of their words, and their interpretations of their experiences help both teachers and parent learn more about what does and does not work for their young ones. This allows for the dynamic of the classroom to be adjusted in whatever way best helps the learning process. These pictures can also be seen on our Website in the "Picture Gallery."
The classroom itself is sometimes also referred to as the "third teacher." Great care is taken in constructing an environment that allows for explorations of various interests with ease. Interesting items, plants, and animals are not uncommon either. The documentation mentioned above is sometimes kept at children's eye level so that they, too, can see how they are progressing as the year goes along.