Sunday, September 16, 2007

Early Child Development - A First Design

Our curriculum is both emergent and constructive. This means that classroom themes and projects often emerge from the children's interests or from events in the daily life of the classroom community. For example, a focus on babies might be prompted by the birth of new siblings and the discussion and play themes the children share through this real-life experience. We believe that children construct their own knowledge rather than simply receiving it from adults. They construct their own ideas and theories about their world through play and social interaction, and experimentation. For example, children might explore the properties of weight and motion by constructing ramps and rolling various objects; they learn much more through this hands-on experience than they would from an adult's verbal explanation or demonstration of these principles. Teachers observe and plan carefully to provoke, enhance and extend children's learning.

The teachers will share classroom activities and emergent themes with you through their curriculum plans and documentation—pictures and words—that will allow you to follow the classroom events as well as the learning process of both individual children and the group as a whole. Through our rich curriculum and stimulating classroom environments, children gain the skills needed for more formal learning in first grade and beyond. Throughout the curriculum, children's emerging interests in writing, reading and number are strongly supported and encouraged.

The classroom environment plays a crucial role in the learning/teaching process. The classrooms are thoughtfully designed and prepared by the teachers in collaboration with others in the Center to optimize small and larger group interaction, social learning and constructive play. The space is well defined for children to guide their exploration and invite social and cognitive experiences. Specific aspects of the classroom environment may include: a meeting space for group gathering and reading, a message/writing center, a construction areas for blocks and other building materials, a mini-art studio space and dramatic play area. The classrooms are organized with materials clearly labeled with pictures and words stored at the child's level to encourage maximum independence. The daily classroom schedules include large blocks of time in which children, with support from teachers, make their own choices about how to use their time. We also have specialized spaces throughout our building that are shared by all the classrooms. The rainbow room provides a space for indoor, active play, our two large art studios provide an aesthetically pleasing space for focused art experiences and extended projects, and our children's theatre offers a special place for music, dance, and drama. Our children's library stores our shared special books and offers a cozy space for reading together.

A daily schedule, curriculum plans and on-going documentation of the children's experiences are displayed in each classroom as well as our common areas. Parents are strongly encouraged to pay attention to the changing displays as they provide a glimpse into the inner life of the classroom community. As well, newsletters are distributed regularly with information concerning classroom events and reminders for parents.

Anti-Bias Curriculum

The core values in our program are grounded in shared respect for human diversity and commitment to social justice. These values are reflected in our curriculum, environment, programming and interactions with families and the larger community. We hope that you will see these values reflected in our classrooms and in our relationship with you as a family. We are fortunate to have a diverse community of families in our Center, which allow all children to experience a range of different cultures, appearances, languages, family forms, and ways of life in a positive, affirming environment. We firmly believe children's early experiences with diverse communities and playmates will ultimately lead to the development of cohesive, non-violent and accepting communities in our future.

We incorporate non-sexist, multi-cultural, and anti-bias learning experiences into our daily classroom life and curriculum. We continually strive to provide materials, activities and an environment that reflect a respect for, and celebration of, diversity in race and ethnicity, physical appearance and ability, and family composition and lifestyle. Our goal is to have every child and family welcomed, reflected and supported in our program.

In developing a framework for anti-bias curriculum at the Center we have relied heavily on the work of Louise Derman-Sparks of Pacific Oaks College . Derman-Sparks defines broad goals of an anti-bias curriculum:

  • Fosters each child's sense of self-identity
  • Fosters acceptance of diversity among people by allowing children to ask about and explore the differences
  • Encourages critical thinking about bias by helping children to identify acts of discrimination and stereotypic images in their world
  • Encourages empathy towards others
  • Fosters each child's ability to stand up for her/himself and others in the face of bias

Our anti-bias curriculum is supported by a wide variety of multi-cultural and bias-free books, dolls and other learning materials as well as specific teacher-directed activities and experiences that are a regular part of each classroom. We strongly encourage your support, involvement and feedback regarding our efforts.

In summary, based on the philosophy and goals of the Center, our curriculum:

  • Is developmentally based
  • Is concerned with the process of learning and having the child be an active participant in this process
  • Allows the child to set his/her own learning pace
  • Builds on the child's interests and abilities and
  • Encourages the child to solve problems, question, hypothesize, experiment, and develop her/his cognitive processes.


In working with infants and toddlers we have come to understand that there are many adventures and possibilities for learning and growing together. It is our goal to provide a nurturing, stimulating and supportive environment in which they can do this. Children are born with an innate drive to learn and explore and it becomes our responsibility to build on that natural curiosity and give them tools for learning that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Our youngest children are welcomed into an environment that is their own; offering choices of materials, tactile experiences to explore, a wide range of developmental opportunities, active and quiet areas, and caring adults supporting their daily play. Curriculum is spontaneous and child directed, growing as the child grows. Teachers enhance the curriculum based on careful observations and paying close attention to individual needs. There is reciprocity of respect among children and caregivers. Learning occurs by providing an atmosphere of respect for infants and toddlers as they are and supporting them as they move naturally through their days. Routines are also a part of the learning experience to encourage children with opportunities for independence, socialization and self-assurance. Consistent predictable days contribute to infants and toddlers becoming confident, eager, lifelong learners. Nurturing care-giving opportunities present enriching moments for children and adults to connect, grow and understand each other.

We encourage parents to contribute to our understanding of their child. We invite this process in our initial family visits prior to enrollment and work to sustain our relationship as the year progresses. We will share the children's days through daily charts, which inform parents about eating, sleeping and other routine patterns in the day. We will highlight and share special moments in the life of our classroom through our daily pages featuring photographs and mini-stories of the children. In turn, we hope parents will enhance the school to home relationship by sharing observations and insights about their child's experience with us. We look to parents as partners in this shared effort of helping children understand and thrive in the social community of the classroom. Parents are welcome at anytime during the day and we invite you to fully participate in our program while your child is with us. Throughout the year there will be multiple opportunities and invitations for you to join our community.


Our preschool program is made up of several full-day three to four-year-old classrooms, four to five-year-old classrooms, and a half-day morning preschool. We are inspired by several approaches to early learning. We are firmly rooted in the anti-bias curriculum goals for children and hope to connect with children's understandings of difference and similarities in the human experience. Difference is explored and celebrated and not feared or hidden in our program. We spend a lot of time in communication with children about whom and what is important in their world around them. We find that social and emotional development is critical at this stage of life. Our primary aim is to help children develop into communicative beings. Children who are able to express and stay in touch with their inner selves and how they interact with others and the world around them.

We are also deeply connected to the ideas coming forth from the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy . We say that we are Reggio-inspired because we see our roots of creative research developing from the study of their schools and other schools inspired by their approach. We seek to capture children's learning experiences and describe our teaching and learning process within the framework of our children's documentation. This shows up in our daily pages and other documentation, where some aspect of the children's day is captured in pictures, photocopied from children's work-samples, dictated as a story by the children, or displayed from their many classroom "languages" they use to express their meaning-making and learning. Parents, visitors, and other teachers can see these displays of children's expressions throughout our school, in the hallways, in the classrooms, and in our shared living spaces--our central piazza, re-use center, library, children's theater, lobby, art studios, and gallery.

We have two ateliers (art studios) with two studio teachers who are integral in the daily curriculum and planning of children's experiences with the classroom teachers. In the studios and classrooms, children have the opportunity to explore their learning and develop a deeper understanding through long-term project work. A project may start as a seed of an idea, brought to the school by a parent, birthed or developed in a classroom, or generated through the ongoing studio work. For instance, a child becomes interested in bird nests and begins to tell stories of their experiences of birds in their nests. Then, the teachers share this discovery with the studio teacher and both in the classroom and the studio, a project is developed around birds, nests, eggs, mud, and sticks. Materials are explored and small groups of children decide how they want to proceed with studying, making, and remaking what they know and are learning about birds nests. Instead of knowing all of the answers from the beginning, teachers research the topic and bring in more research materials so that children can develop theories, test their ideas, and inquire more about the study. Parents are invited to join the study of nests and the community of learners imagine, create, and develop their study. All the while, children still play on the playground, scrape their knees, play with play dough, get angry with their friends, make-up and give hugs, say the most amazing things, become more of themselves as they interact with and see themselves in others, walk away with characteristics of others in them, and grow as competent learners.


Our kindergarten program builds upon and expands the strengths of our preschool curriculum. Five to six year-olds are deeply interested in writing and reading, they have a great capacity for artistic expression and an ability to engage in extended inquiry on topics of interest. In our kindergarten curriculum evolves through integrated research projects in which children engage in individual and group inquiry with subjects of interest. Research projects may be brief or extended. Teachers may offer initial research provocations, extend and support children's engagement, and follow and document the children's learning process. It is through these captivating research projects that children will experience (a) a rich and contextualized literacy curriculum emphasizing the reading and writing processes and engagement with literature; (b) mathematical and logical reasoning; (c) the arts (visual, dance, drama); (d) purposeful cross-age engagement within our program; (e) parent involvement and exploration in the community.

In our kindergarten children will:

  • Develop meaningful relationships which extend from within the classroom
  • Express the joy and wonder of learning.
  • Collaborate with others to construct ideas and create new knowledge
  • Use the “languages” of the arts and sciences as tools for communication, research, and the expression of ideas
  • Understand there are multiple points of view and listen and inquire into perspectives that differ from one's own
  • Use mathematics and logical reasoning to figure things out that can be quantified and measured
  • Take risks, accept failures and celebrate accomplishments
  • Delight in nature's wonder and pay attention to it as a mindful steward of the planet
  • Utilize written and spoken word to explore and communicate ideas, relationships and understandings.
The kindergarten program hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30AM to 2:30PM . There are 21 to 24 children in our kindergarten with a state-certified teacher and a classroom assistant. Families needing extended care can opt for a full-day schedule, 7:30AM to 5:30PM . An afternoon Lead Teacher and student assistant provide an extended day program from 2:30 to 5:30PM , which balances the rigor of the kindergarten day with time for active social play, group games, and art.



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