"The Child Development Center is based on the belief that learning results from the dynamic interaction between children's emerging cognitive and affective systems and their environments.
In practice, we provide children with an environment that is responsive to their developmental levels and abilities and supports their continual growth.
The Center's curriculum consists of all the experiences that children participate in throughout the day. It is based on an understanding of children's individual interests and developmental needs. Teachers observe children and plan "hands on" experiences, which allow children to explore their environment and engage in problem-solving activities. Process is emphasized instead of the product or outcome of the activity.
The Child Development Center has seven classrooms: Two Infants, two Toddlers & Twos, and three Preschool classrooms.
The model used to promote the philosophy of the Child Development Center includes the following components:
1. Linkages between the child care center and the family and community;
2. A child-centered and culturally pluralistic curriculum; and
3. A flexible and responsive environment.
LINKAGES BETWEEN CENTER, HOME AND COMMUNITY
Linkages are the interactions between the home, community and Center. These linkages occur through ongoing interactions between the home and Center, and connections between the community and Center. Frequent and continuous interactions between the home and Center are important if children are to have successful experiences at the Center. Parents and teachers share experiences about the child during transition times, parent-teacher conferences, and home visits. Parents need to feel that the teachers value their input and teachers need to know that parents are listening to them. Sharing information occurs during the daily arrival and departure times and through the use of daily information sheets.
By developing and maintaining positive interactions with parents, through parent-teacher conferences and home visits, the teacher acquires information about the child's siblings, interests, likes, dislikes, fears and coping behaviors. This personal information helps the teacher to engage in more meaningful conversations with the child. The teacher also learns what the parent does with the child at home, which helps the teacher to better understand the socialization patterns of the home. As a result, teachers learn how parents deal with aggression, discipline, sex roles, eating, and sleeping patterns, therefore, enabling them to deal with the child in a similar manner. Through continuous parent-teacher interactions there is increased continuity between the two settings for the child.
The Center also promotes the development of connections between the Center and the outside world so that the community becomes an extension of the Center. Children are provided the opportunity to have concrete experiences with people and materials outside of the classroom. These connections are made by taking children, preferably in small groups, on trips throughout the community. Taking two or three children to the neighborhood supermarket to buy fruit for a fruit salad or to a hardware store to buy nails for the woodworking area are excellent ways for them to learn about services within the community. Trips to a parent's workplace or to a senior citizen home are ways to help children to learn about different types of people.
CHILD-CENTER AND CULTURALLY PLURALISTIC CURRICULUM
The curriculum at the Center encompasses the total experiences that the child encounters during the course of the day. Arrival time and separating from a parent are as important as learning to write one's name. Holding and comforting a sad child is as important as setting up the art table for the next activity. Listening and talking to an individual child is equivalent to reading a book to a group of children. Outdoor activities are as important as indoor activities; consequently both are planned and executed with skill. Everything that happens during the day is considered an important part of the learning environment.
The child is the starting point; therefore, the curriculum presented is age-appropriate and individual-appropriate. Experiences within the classroom reflect an understanding of normative data as well as an understanding of individual children's interests, abilities, coping style, temperament, and cultural background. Children's interests and abilities may vary within a group of children of the same age; therefore, understanding the individual child's interests and abilities is critical. Some children may enter a program with many experiences while others may have virtually none. Some children may have an interest in animals while another may have an interest in hockey. Some children will be able to cut with scissors while others will not. Likewise, careful attention to children's routines can assist teachers in responding effectively to transitions within the classroom such as eating, sleeping, arrival and departure. For example, some children have a set routine for arrival, and, if that routine is disturbed, the child may have a difficult time entering the classroom and functioning throughout the day. Other children may have a special way of getting to sleep. Some children like to have their backs rubbed while others would just like to have an adult sit with them for a few minutes. Some children may have a special way of dealing with stressful situations. Some may exhibit aggressive behavior, while others may cling to their attachment object. An awareness of these and other variations in children's needs interests and abilities means that choices are provided for children, which support their individuality. Consequently, our curriculum is adjusted to reflect the teacher's knowledge of the children in the program.
In addition to being child-centered, the curriculum must also be culturally pluralistic. The environment must reflect a recognition and acceptance of the cultural diversity of children in the program and the larger society. Building a sense of self-worth is important and can only be achieved when the child's language and culture are accepted. For example, children are allowed to use their own dialect or native language until they choose to speak the dominant language of the classroom.
Both males and females are encouraged to participate in all types of activities. Opportunities within the classroom allow for girls to play in the block area and for boys to engage in housekeeping tasks. Adults use nonsexist language and nurture both boys and girls.
Children at the Center experience cultural diversity through concrete experiences and through materials such as books, dolls, and posters. They have an opportunity to enjoy the art, music, food, dance, and celebrate special cultural events that are a part of their immediate culture. Parents of children from different ethnic backgrounds visit the classroom and may prepare a snack or teach folk songs of their heritage. Children talk about differences about themselves such as differences in hair or eye color. Likewise, they are provided with experiences, which acknowledge and support the cultural pluralism of the larger society.
FLEXIBLE AND RESPONSIVE ENVIRONMENT
Since the child is the central focus, the environment of the Center is malleable and adjustable to the changing needs and interests of children. Flexibility and responsiveness are demonstrated through a flexible daily schedule and routines, varied arrival and departure times, open visitation by parents, and providing opportunities for children to make choices. The schedule of the day at the Center reflects the rhythms of the children. The schedule of the day allows for indoor and outdoor experiences as well as eating, sleeping, and individual and small group activities. Children are not expected to participate in each activity during a certain activity period during the day. Teachers do not insist that children participate in each teacher directed or large group activity. Instead, activities are presented often and throughout the day. For example, materials such as sand, water, paints, blocks, and dress-up clothing and props are available throughout the day every day, instead of just at nine on Wednesdays. Children are given choices and an opportunity to make decisions about which activities they want to participate in. Flexible scheduling allows children to work on tasks until they have decided that the task is complete. The schedule allows for extended periods of activity rather than brief periods of 15 or 20 minutes so that children can decide how long they want to participate in the activity. Extended blocks of time allow for choice and sustained participation in activities, and children spend less time waiting for a turn. The materials and experiences become a part of their daily lives and children begin to develop an ongoing interest in what they are doing. The child may return to the activity or material several times until he or she feels comfortable using it. Once the comfort level is reached, the child begins to use the material in new and different ways.
Routines such as naps, snacks, and toileting are flexible. Some children may need to nap for an hour while others may need less or more time. By providing the opportunity for children to have self-initiated snack time, it allows the child to eat when he or she is hungry rather than when the group is ready. Likewise, freedom to go to the bathroom on demand rather than when it is on the schedule allows children more control over their bodily functions. Flexibility in routines allows children to operate as individuals within a group setting.
Varied arrival and departure times and open parent visitation makes the Center more responsive to family needs. A varied arrival and departure time allows the parent to choose when the child enters and leaves the Center and fosters a feeling among parents that they have more control over the time they have with their children. Flexible parental visitation also allows parents the opportunity to spend time with their child. A parent may choose to visit the child's classroom for lunch or take the child out for lunch.
The physical environment also provides opportunities for privacy. Children who are in group care for long periods of the day need to have time away from the group to relax and engage in uninterrupted solitary play. Young children clearly need to learn to live with others and share materials and space; however, they also need time to be alone and not have to share space or materials. Privacy is achieved by providing enclosed spaces with pillows, large comfortable chairs, and lofts. Teachers are aware of children's need for privacy and alone time within the Center.
In addition to privacy, children are given soft spaces to make the environment more comfortable. Soft spaces in the Center are an easy chair, carpet on the floor, and curtains at the window; or silly putty, playdough, and other play materials that are soothing. Soft spaces are important because they provide a sense of security for the child and can serve as tension releasers. The key to providing a flexible and responsive environment is the ability to provide choices for children based on an understanding of their individual needs.
Excerpted from the preschool's website