Learning is best done through play.
At Highwood Playschool, we cherish the belief that children learn best through play. Through exploration of their environments, of materials around them, and of increased social interactions, children naturally discover and develop. The role of the teacher is to provide a safe, rich and inspiring environment in which each child can move toward his/her unique potential, and to encourage play experiences which promote the child’s next steps in development. Play is a child’s work, and will be honoured and celebrated in our playschool. We respect the fact that each child is one of a kind, with a unique set of interests, strengths and rates of development.
Through observation and relationship, the teacher will endeavour to identify the personal skills and interests of each child, as well as the ways in which that child is ready to mature. Then the teacher will attempt to provide the necessary opportunities for each child to develop (cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional) naturally and positively, while maintaining and expressing their individuality. The teacher records her observations of each child’s interests, abilities, and next steps of development, and then designs the programming accordingly.
The "Project Approach":
Because learning happens most effectively within enjoyable and curiosity-driven experiences, the teacher uses the children’s current interests to create projects that evolve to last anywhere from a few hours to a number of weeks. The stages of each project are: initiation and planning, research and exploration, documentation, and celebration.
Example: In the case of a project on nature, the teacher would first have noted that there was a general interest in a topic. Then the teacher and children would document what the children know already and what questions or interests they have in the topic. The teacher then plans and provides a wide variety of activities and materials for the children to explore to satisfy their curiosity about the topic. Different experiences may be brought in by the teachers to engage the children. For instance, during our outdoor play the teachers may observe an interest in local bugs. Caterpillars may be brought into the classroom for the children to learn about their metamorphosis. Many activities are then planned to build on the topic such as: an outdoor bug hunt, planting native plants that the butterflies like, learning how important bees are to our planet and how they interact with plants compared to butterflies, drawing the stages of the butterflies life-cycle. These activities will deepen the children’s understanding of the topic, and in this case, their appreciation of nature.
Early concepts of math, science, and literature are included in every project, as well as activities that promote physical and social development. Together the children and teacher would document their learning about dinosaurs, through art, storytelling, photographs, sculpture, etc. The project usually concludes with a celebration of the learning, such as a dinosaur party or a gallery-display for the parents. Possible projects might be the typical:
insects, pets, transportation, doctors and hospitals, etc; or they may range to the unusual: building a house, robots, plumbing, or babies. It all depends on what excites the children’s interest, and what experiences they are having in their own lives. The subject is often a surprise to both parents and teachers! Though learning about certain topics, like dinosaurs, is beneficial, the greater gains are made in social, cognitive, and physical development, as the children eagerly participate in the wide variety of project activities. This educational approach is also known as “emergent curriculum” because themes are not planned ahead by the teacher, but rather emerge out of the interests and personalities of the children themselves.
Our program seeks to go beyond preparing children for kindergarten, rather our goal is to help prepare children for all aspects of life, by affirming in them their innate curiosity and desire to discover, imparting to them an appreciation of beauty and nature, building in them a healthy self-image, and encouraging altruistic attitudes toward others.
Believing children are capable of noticing and appreciating the subtle beauty of nature, and knowing that natural elements are both soothing and inspiring, we endeavour to include as much of the outdoor world in our class-room as possible: real wood, wicker baskets, plants and animals, natural light and colours. We try to provide the children with real objects
(ie: actual dishes, rather than only plastic ones), in order for them to better learn about their world. We reserve most of the wall-space for children’s own art-work, their interpretations of their world, and also for realistic and classic representations that will encourage creativity in children and adults alike. Documentation (complete with photographs, sculptures, and scribed stories) of the children’s learning, is often displayed on the walls of the room, as well.
As much as possible, play materials are well-organized and attractively displayed so that children feel invited to help themselves to anything around them, and can also easily put things away. A sense of ownership, pride in the space, and responsibility for it, is the goal.
Our philosophies and practices are informed by Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Piaget’s Cognitive Stages, Erikson’s Developmental Stages, and the Reggio Emilia Approach.
NAREA - North American Reggio Emilia Alliance
CRNA - Calgary Reggio Network Association
Our Program Endeavours to Support Child Development in 3 Ways
Increased language and communication skills (verbal and literal).
Increased creative problem-solving. Form and test hypotheses, make conclusions.
Increased flexibility and divergence in thinking (new ideas). Acquire new information about self, others and world.
Introduction to math (counting, shapes, sorting, comparing attributes, measuring) and science (observation, prediction, logic, cause and effect, nature).
Introduction to music, poetry and dance. Introduction to reading (letters, sounds, appreciation for printed materials such as books, signs, lists, etc) and writing (representation of own ideas on paper, through art and scribed story-telling, etc).
Increased body-awareness, over-all coordination, and strength.
Increased skill in large muscle movements (jumping, running, balance), and in small muscle precision (pencil hold, cutting, fine movement).
Increased self-care skills. Practice in healthy lifestyle, such as exercise and good food choices.
Use of all senses to build knowledge.
Therapeutic and pleasurable experiences. Positive first school experience. Eager curiosity, creativity, self-expression, investigation, experimentation, new ideas and questions.
Respect for nature and appreciation for beauty.
Independence and positive self-image (supported through child’s own success/ perseverance).
Pleasure at own accomplishments and effort.
Pro-social behaviours such as honesty, altruism, responsibility, courage, and acceptance of self and others. Increased skill in understanding and managing emotions.
Improved empathy and listening skills. Increased skill in social interactions and negotiation.
Use of imaginary play to make sense of own world and experiences.