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Dartmouth Early Learning Center

284 Gulf Hill Road
South Dartmouth, MA 02748

(508) 992-1301


Philosophy & Approach

Day in the Life

General School Mission

"The mission of DELC is to support the essential nurturing and guidance that is
critical to healthy growth and development of young children by offering a rich
home-familiar learning environment where children's curiosity and hunger for
learning are nurtured through play, discovery, and the arts. Our programs are
designed to help children build positive self-images, develop competence and
positive dispositions toward learning and school, and to learn basic skills of
social living. The work we do at DELC is intimately related in aim, in method,
and in materials used to fundamental assumptions about how, what, and why
children learn. Our constructivist approach is child centered, hands-on and
humanistic and is aimed at the harmonious development of the whole child in
all areas. It is meant to reflect a variety of developmental levels among children
taking into account their many individual characteristics and special qualities.
Our emphasis is on helping children discover and work towards their own style
of learning, construct meanings, and use freedom in a carefully prepared
Our philosophy of education has developed over the twenty years that we have
been teaching young children. While we have integrated the ideas of many fine
educators, we have been most inspired by the Reggio Emilia preschools in Italy
whose aim is to "preserve the spell of the child unbroken." The basic
components of Reggio Emilia include viewing the child as powerful rather than
powerless; using an emergent curriculum that is based on the interests of
children; engaging in projects that are not limited in time or scope; and
documenting the child's progress with words and pictures.
While we design developmentally appropriate readiness activities for our
children to explore, we recognize the educational value of children finding and
solving self-defined problems that arise from child-initiated activity and choices.
Through shared activity and social exchange children co-construct their
knowledge of the world using one child's ideas to develop anothers or to
explore a path yet unexplored. The teacher does not direct children's learning
in lock step fashion, rather facilitates it through the selection of stimulating
materials, the arrangement of the environment, and our day to day interactions
with children. Our role as teachers is to set the stage for learning, to offer
encouragement, and to gently guide the learning and development of the
children in our care. We feel that what really matters in early childhood
education is the spirit of the young child that needs to be nurtured, the reason
he/she learns so well. As children become increasingly institutionalized, it helps
to keep in mind that what happens to this spirit has far more consequences
than any specific content in schooling. A program with this kind of focus sets
the stage for positive attitudes about one's self, about school, and learning is
likely to produce children who feel that learning is enjoyable, meaningful, and
It is our firm belief and guiding philosophy that children learn best through play,
and that play is their very significant form of work. Play puts learning in a
context and gives it a purpose. Through play children are given a chance to try
out options, to make meaningful personal choices, to explore solutions to
problems, and practice new skills without getting bored. Children need to play
in an environment rich in resources, to explore, to test, and to learn from
feedback on their own actions. We recognize the intrinsic worth of play and
provide ample opportunity, time, and materials for this purpose.
Our schedule has a built in, yet flexible structure that alternates between
periods of free play, small group activities and special projects, circle time,
snack, story, music, movement, and outdoor play. We strive to create a
balance between active and quiet times, and between self-selected and
teacher-directed activities. Children are encouraged to express their feelings,
to develop powers of concentration, to use their imaginations, to try new ideas,
to develop a sense of independence and responsibility for one's decisions, and
to accommodate other children's viewpoints.
In all of the children's daily activities emphasis is placed more on process
rather than production. Teachers acting as partners rather than as sole
imparters of knowledge, help children develop self esteem and visual
awareness as well as strong social, problem-solving and communication skills.
As fellow investigators, they help children explore and experiment in depth, and
express their ideas not just in words, but in many visual forms that may be
more understandable to them, such as drawing, painting, construction, and
creative dramatics.
These goals are best achieved in an educational setting that offers security as
well as challenge. We strive to create a sense of community by supporting the
bond between parent and child by including parents in program planning, by
inviting parents to participate in as many activities as their schedules allow, by
encouraging parents to participate as classroom volunteers, and by sharing
our special knowledge of children in frequent and supportive conferences and
group discussions. In addition to expanding our program offerings, such
cooperative efforts by staff and parents enriches our center and reinforces a
sense of community and an enriched family life."
Excerpted from the preschool's website

A Typical Day

"Daily Schedule :
7:30-8:30 Center opens. Arrival of children in accordance with their scheduled hours.
8:30-9:00 Arrival of children in morning program.
9:00-9:15 Children come together for small group "talk time" or circle or planning time.
9:15-9:45 Choice time

lay time continues.
9:45-10:00 Transition, clean-up, wash hands
10:00-10:20 Snack time, recall time
10:25-10:35 Group time. Music, story. Introduce activity choices.
10:35 10:55 Project time(small group table time).
10:55-11:00 Bathroom reminder, dress for outside time.
11:00-11:25 Outdoor play time(indoor gross motor activities during inclement weather).
11:30-11:55 Wash hands, lunch time.
12:00-1:00 p.m. Rest period, quiet mat time.
1:00-1:15 Children arrive for afternoon program, children get up from rest, planning time.
1:15-2:00 Outdoor play time.
2:00-2:15 Wash Hands, snack time.
2:15-3:45 Project time/small group work time.
3:45-4:00 Individual and small group activities. Story. Review/recall.
4:30-5:00 Preparation for going home. Center closes."
Excerpted from the preschool's website