The Edlavitch DCJCC Preschool is proud of our commitment to a child-centered, emergent curriculum that promotes a collaborative learning environment. Our curriculum is inspired by several principles of the Reggio-Emilia inspired approach, including the following core concepts:
At the very core of our approach is the concept of wonder. Wonder is the act that begins the process of learning. Our teachers view children as natural scientists, driven by curiosity, with tremendous observational skills and an ability to form strong theories about the world around them. Children’s questions and interests become the foundation for learning experiences. Collaborative wonder and the sharing of ideas plant the seeds for the class curriculum.
When children share their wonder with other children, their parents, and their teachers, they engage in a richer and deeper learning process. Collaboration increases the children’s commitment to the topic and multiplies the learning opportunities by encompassing many points of view.
Children in a Reggio-inspired school learn there are multiple ways to express an idea— whether it be visual, verbal, written or through movement and music. Through the use of multiple mediums, children develop expressive competence. Teachers view children’s creative expression in all forms as their way of communicating what they understand about the world around them.
Throughout the learning process, teachers document the children’s experience through photographs, note-taking, video, and artifacts that the children make themselves. It is compiled and shared with the focus on process, rather than product.
Child-Centered Learning In Action
In a child-centered curriculum, learning begins with student interest. Explore the examples below to see how we put our pedagogical philosophy into practice.
In our Susim (Horses) class for 4- and 5-year-olds, teachers observed the children using match box cars in many ways during Intentional Play, including sorting and comparing the cars, making the cars race and do tricks, and building ramps and garages.
This led to an exploration around the themes of How Do Cars Work and What Makes Them Fast? Here are some highlights:
When a friend mentioned that her car was getting dirty, the children had the idea to build a car wash using cardboard, pipe cleaners, and other classroom materials. Through this fun construction project, the Susim practiced fine motor skills, logic, writing, counting, spatial awareness, and communication and planning skills.
The carwash project sparked interest in more construction, so with teacher encouragement, small groups of friends began to design their own vehicles. After trying one prototype, G suggested that rubber bands were not providing enough “power”. Using library books about cars, the class did research about what powers cars and learned that Tesla makes electric cars. The children then decided to ride the city bus to the Tesla Showroom on H Street to find out more.
Exploring what made the children so interested in cars, the teachers discovered a common theme – speed! The class began discussing the concept of speed and how to make things go fast.
At Morning Meeting, they performed a series of experiments on two identical cars, using variables like heavy rocks, sticks, and different strength pushes, to see what would make a car go down a ramp faster,. They worked on making smart guesses, or hypotheses, about what would happen under each condition, and then recorded their observations. The class concluded that many factors affect a toy car’s speed, including the height of the ramp, the shape and weight of the car, and the force pushing the car.
The exploration culminated with the Susim Races, for an invited audience of family and friends. Teams created their own cars and raced them down a variety of ramps and raceways, while learning about engineering, measurement, descriptive language, line recognition, and good sportsmanship.
In our Peelim (Elephants) class for 3-year-olds, the teachers noticed during Intentional Play that the children often lined up chairs to create a large vehicle, and then drove that vehicle off on a rescue adventure. Soon the children began to assign themselves distinct roles and created a consistent series of events to their emergency adventures: discovering the problem, calling for help, help arriving, solving the problem (usually by putting out the fire), and going back to the station.
This interest led to a multi-week class exploration of fire trucks and rescue vehicles that included imaginative play, fine motor skills practice, shape and color sorting, letter and number identification, research, categorization practice, applications to the children’s lives, field trip fun and a culminating event for our wider community.
Using supervised internet and book research, the Peelim made observations about the types of shapes that are found in rescue vehicles and tools, and then created their own individual artwork and a class cardboard model of a firetruck big enough to ride in.
The class also generated a list of “rescue words”, increasing their awareness of letters and expanding their vocabularies. After learning about dialing 9-1-1, they spent some time mastering the numbers in their adults’ phone numbers.
As the class battled fires in their command center and truck, they generated many questions about fire fighters and rescue workers, such as “how long does it take to put out a fire?” and “how do you get the water into the hose?”. They got those questions answered when the class got a visit from Firefighter John and when they took a field trip to nearby Engine Company 9.
As the Peelim learned more about how and when firefighters help people, they began to sort such situations into little emergencies (cat in a tree), big emergencies (a small fire) and enormous emergencies (whole cities in flames or a forest fire). This provided an opportunity to talk about how they respond to stressors in their own lives, such as a friend snatching a toy, getting a scraped knee, or being lost. The class sorted stressful events into three categories, using a wall chart:
- Little deal: Something you can handle yourself
- Big deal: A problem you need adult help with
- Emergency: Something you need to call professionals for right away
After this discussion, the chart stayed up on the wall and became a tool to help the children decide how and when to ask for help, and how they should react to the situation.
Photo Credits: Kimberly Goldwein Photography