Learning Through Play
Curriculum Development & Child Assessment
The Child Development Center is strongly committed to a play-based approach to early learning (as outlined within the Preschool Learning Foundations and the Preschool Curriculum Framework published by the California State Department of Education). The framework for our curriculum development incorporates careful attention to design of the environment (with a focus on interest centers), developmentally appropriate practices (DAP), purposeful planning, and accurate assessment of learning outcomes. Teachers use a variety of ways to observe and document the interests and abilities of each and every child in their charge, and develop curriculum that is responsive to individual child interests. Teachers assess children's learning using a variety of tools (including the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP) designed to provide children with a seamless transition to kindergarten), incorporate this information in their planning for learning, and explicitly communicate the outcomes of such ongoing assessment with classroom families.
Elements of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning are incorporated within our program philosophy and these directly influence curriculum development and child assessment. Within this approach, there are a number of key areas that require careful consideration.
- The time needed to document children's work: Teachers need time to both observe and reflect. Our daily schedule has few transitions - children need time for uninterrupted work and extended time for involvement in purposeful activity. Teachers share equitably in planning, documentation, curriculum development, and parent contacts.
- The role of the teacher in the learning process: It is important to consider how each individual staff member approaches learning and necessary to re-examine our own assumptions about how children (and adults) learn. Within this approach, importance is placed on following the child's cues, listening to children, provoking thinking and documenting efforts, using the child's interests as a primary source for curriculum.
- The role of the child in the learning process: Teachers ask lots of open-ended questions, lots of "why's?" to provoke and extend children's thinking about a topic or subject. Children's work is valued and given worth by the teachers. Children are encouraged to "sketch" their ideas on paper as a way of expressing their thinking across mediums and to engage in curriculum projects that extend their understanding of concepts and ideas.
- The reverence for the physical environment: Our environment is "softened," with attention to indirect and natural lighting, use of creative materials, documentation boards, display boards, photographs of children at work, children's artwork, glass bottles with colored water, lamps and rugs, more muted use of colors, materials that were primarily "life skills" focused, glass plates, wood and metal (little plastic), mirrors, light tables, wooden chairs and tables, etc. Note the importance of the environment's messages to children and how we include children in set-up and preparation of the environment.
Understanding how children learn and documenting what children learn is our essential endeavor. All Center families are invited to be partners with us in this process!
Assumptions About Learning
- Children learn better through concrete, hands-on experience
- Children think learning is exciting and new when they can be involved
- Children learn by example through observation and modeling
- Children learn better when they can relate to the materials being presented
- Children are motivated to learn through their personal interests
- Teaching and learning are as much about the process as the product
- Learning is more than memorization; it implies understanding
- Children are learning most of the time, whether intended or unintended material
- The degree of learning is closely related to personal interest and motivation
- Hands-on activities are essentially the most beneficial method of learning
- All children have the capacity to learn
- Poor performance in school is assumed to be the fault of the learner
- If a child is labeled, eventually the child will conform to that label
- Spontaneous play promotes developmental skills for later in life
- Attitudes in the classroom will be influenced by situations in the home
- Preconceived notions by the self and others can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and can affect learning positively or negatively
- Children learn constantly throughout the day, through interactions with other children, teachers, and parents
- All children can learn; and teachers are responsible for finding the ways
- Teachers must challenge children's preconceived ideas about the world, but must also find ways to support children in their development of new understandings
- Anything can be interesting to learn
- Children learn in different ways, shapes, and forms
- Children learn better when they can relate the information to their life
- When children can relate information to their life, they enjoy learning more
- When a child is learning, she/he builds on previous experience and knowledge
- Children learn best at their own pace and learning style
- Children learn through peer interaction
- Children construct their own knowledge based on their individual perspective(s)