The Early Childhood program provides a nurturing environment that inspires delight in learning and develops social-emotional competencies essential to further success in school. The Early Childhood program is designed from a developmental perspective, which means that teachers meet children where they are as individuals. As psychologist Dan Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness, “People are happiest when they’re appropriately challenged to achieve difficult but attainable goals.” The curriculum and approach to instruction are informed by NAEYC, the National Association for The Education of Young Children. Academic success in later years is based on the foundation of an Early Childhood program that recognizes the equal importance of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Physical Development This is an age when much learning is transmitted through large muscles; when learning goes from hand to the head, not the other way around. In the early years paper and pencil activities are far less useful teaching tools, on the whole, than hands-on activities such as dramatizing fairy tales, squeezing clay into animal shapes, hanging from a jungle gym, building block castles, or getting messy with paint. Teachers make sure that children have plenty of opportunities to use large muscles in balancing, running, jumping, climbing, and other vigorous movements .
Social and Emotional Development Positive social and emotional development in the early years provides an essential foundation for cognitive and academic competence in later years. The preschool years are seen as a key period for establishing enthusiasm for learning, as well as engagement in learning – the ability to focus attention, persist, be flexible, and regulate thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Through a variety of activities and practices – some purposeful and planned such as morning meeting, and others naturally occurring- preschool teachers promote essential social and emotional learning competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
Cognitive Development lessons and activities in language, math, science, and social studies are intentionally designed by teachers to be open ended to allow children to ask and answer questions in different ways and solve problems with multiple strategies and solutions. Individual differences and cultural experiences are celebrated.
The Role of Play Studies of children around the world show that when preschool experiences include lots of child-initiated, free-choice activities, supported by a variety of equipment and materials- these children had better cognitive performance at age 7 than their peers. Pretend play strengthens cognitive capacity, including sustained attention, memory, logical reasoning, literacy skills, imagination, and creativity. Play also supports the understanding of emotions, as well as the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking, inhibit impulses, control one’s behavior, and take another person’s perspective
Curriculum and practices in each content area are informed by the National Association for the Teachers of Math (NCTM), The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the International Reading Association (IRA).
To promote math skills, teachers create learning environments and plan hands-on activities to ensure that children “bump into interesting math at every turn.” Investigating with children, teachers closely observe what they do and say, answer children’s questions, pose interesting questions and ideas for them to think about, encourage children to pose questions to each other, and introduce the language of math into everyday situations.
To promote science learning teachers build on children’s questions, eagerness and enthusiasm by thoughtfully preparing rich environments, indoors and out; by introducing a scientific vocabulary during engaging hands on activities and long-term studies or themes; and by providing many opportunities to problem solve and investigate, using a wide range of tools and materials.
To enrich and extend children’s inherent interest in language, develop phonemic awareness to develop pre-literacy skills, teachers listen attentively to children, purposefully extend conversations, help children take role playing to a higher level, read aloud and discuss books, build awareness of the sounds of language through rhyme and songs, and help children understand that print performs a variety of functions.