"This expanded explanation of our philosophy is provided so that parents and interested people will understand how we teach, why we teach in such a fashion, and why we feel that our methods are appropriate for the way young children learn.
At Sunflower Preschool, our classroom is child-directed in order to stimulate development through creative play choices. "Teachers prepare the environment for children to learn through exploration, and interaction with adults, other children, and materials."1 The environment is structured with hands-on learning centers to facilitate small, informal group learning as well as children working individually. In addition, group time activities are offered several times a day to help foster large group skills and a sense of community. We feel that children learn by making their own choices, rather than by teachers dominating the environment by talking to the whole group most of the time, and telling children what to do.
In conjunction with the multiple learning centers in the indoor classroom, we offer outdoor classroom as part of the learning environment. We feel that young children need unstructured, outdoor play periods in a rich, nature-based setting to encourage their understanding of and respect for the natural world. The outdoor classroom is loosely structured to provide areas for hands-on exploration and discovery, physical activity, dramatic play, and gardening.
The teacher's role is to be a resource for the children by introducing new materials, inviting the children to 'play', and encouraging them to make choices throughout the classroom. The teacher facilitates learning as a 'cheerleader' for the child's ideas and accomplishments. Early childhood teachers need to have a strong understanding of how children learn so that they can create an environment where children enjoy learning. Rote training, constant teacher direction or impatience with children's choices discourages young children from being mentally active. Current research continues to demonstrate that children learn best through creative play choices. Organizations such as The National Academy of Early Childhood Programs (NAEYC) have consistently published studies to demonstrate these ideas. The last 20 years have been rich in the research and findings of early brain development. (Birth to age 3) The age-old Nature vs. Nurture discussion has become even more interesting - for parents and teachers. However, the current research continues to verify what Early Childhood Education (ECE) professionals have known all along - Children learn best through play in a hands-on environment.
Our educational philosophies are based primarily upon these NAEYC findings as well as a respect for the Montessori approach, and a desire to introduce children to science and the natural world.
Excerpted from the preschool's website