The educational philosophy at the Campus Children’s Center is child centered and developmentally based. It is based on the knowledge that young children learn through their direct interactions with their environment and the people within it.
While children do go through specific stages of development, each child grows and learns at a pace that is individually specific. Age is not necessarily an accurate indicator of development. Infants and toddlers are typically in the stage that Jean Piaget described as Sensorimotor and the stages that Erik Erikson described as developing Trust (0-1 year olds) and Autonomy (2-3 year olds). Characteristics of these stages include learning through responsive, nurturing caregivers who provide positive interpersonal interactions, opportunities for the use of senses, reflexes, and learning through manipulating materials. In the development of autonomy, it is important that children have the characteristics listed above as well as opportunities that allow children simple choices, the setting of clear, consistent and reasonable limits, and acceptance of children’s fluctuations in their need for independence and dependence. Please see the Infant Toddler Handbook for additional information about how curriculum is planned based upon children’s development at these ages.
Preschool children are in the stage that Jean Piaget described as preoperational. Characteristics of this stage include egocentricity, concrete thinking and the explosion of language. The preoperational stage lasts until approximately age eight.
Children in the preoperational stage learn best through their own initiated activities rather than by direct instruction by an adult. Extensive research shows that young children learn through their play and through their active exploration of their environment. They construct their knowledge through the manipulation of concrete materials and the stimulation of their five senses. Children gain ownership of their learning in a child centered environment through their choices. Our classrooms are arranged into learning centers to encourage the children to make choices. These centers include but not limited to art, science, writing, books, woodworking, sand and water, dramatic play, manipulatives, music, blocks and the outdoor learning environment.
The teacher’s role in a child centered learning environment is that of a collaborative learner and a facilitator and extender of the children’s learning. The primary role of the teacher is to arrange the learning environment to encourage choices and to allow the children to work independently. In addition, the teacher interacts with the children while encouraging problem solving and language experiences through the use of open ended language and questions. The teacher also spends a great deal of time observing the children during their play and can then plan activities that extend the interests of the children. Such planning is flexible and short term to meet the needs of the learning group.
The development of literacy is encouraged through a whole language approach where the children experience the various aspects of language through all sign systems such as music, science, math, art, drama, dance, reading and writing. We refrain from use of formal reading and writing instruction as these methods emphasize isolated skill development. Instead we encourage and accept the child’s best attempt at reading and writing. In this way we encourage the children to take risks in their learning knowing that their work will be accepted and valued.
The curriculum that results from this philosophy is open-ended and based on the children’s choices. The curriculum is dynamic in that it changes with the interests and needs of the children. A large part of the day is comprised of free choice time where the children explore the classroom and the materials within it.