Recognizing that the long term impact of early education years on children and the promise of their future rests on what learning experiences are and how they are presented, Old South accepts that actions leading to bright outcomes require a particular focus. From our perspective, the dynamic combination of a positive climate, rich possibilities across developmental areas, and approaches that construct knowledge and reinforce dispositions for learning are keys to children’s well-rounded growth.
Theories and a growing body of research on what is fundamental to optimal learning and development identify children’s first five years as learning-to-learn years. We accept that during this period, strengthening dispositions increases the possibility of immediate achievement and supports expanding competency. Also, at this time, marking children's developmental milestones and meeting goals for becoming enthused learners are significant targets. Accordingly, as stewards of our early childhood program, we commit to advance children’s development and learning. We pledge dutifully to contribute to children’s lives in ways that are sound, respectful, and subsequently, beneficial.
The force of the Preschool’s structure arises from several theoretical sources: education theorist and practitioner, John Dewey; psychologist, Jean Piaget’s cognition and development process theories; Lev Vygotsky, scaffolding children’s learning; Elizabeth Jones and John Nimmo’s work on emergent curriculum concepts; and from Erik Erikson, psychosocial development and personality. Further informing the program are subsequent works of many authors who fine-tuned aids for understanding related theoretical tenets.
Acknowledging their innate curiosity and wondrous imagination, an experienced teacher declares, “Get ready! The children are coming!”
The environments presented at Old South drive children’s spontaneous involvement, encouraging them to think about things, interact—engage, inquire, experiment—and reflect. Children are urged to wonder, to identify problems, test theories, and pursue their ideas until gratified. With formulating thought as a prime goal for children, teachers help them to see their thinking materialize concretely and make sense of the inquiries they initiate. Children embrace provocations made by people, places, materials, ideas, and roles. There are chances to address tangible or abstract things in tried and true ways, and then shift to challenging their thoughts from new perspectives. With mind and body involved, teachers and children become questioners, investigators, and builders of knowledge as collaborators.
The desire to have the children’s interests power school day experiences calls for the use of emergence concepts. Curriculum development and implementation falls to teachers and children working collectively and in context. We view curriculum as what happens during the day, much of which is planned evolution enriched with numerous teachable moments. When seeking content and a balanced blend of what children need to learn to progress and discovering meaning in what they want to learn, we find that the emergent curriculum approach affords infinite experiential possibilities. Children’s interests with teacher injections make for a lively, stimulating time. Additionally, this method supports children’s creative facility as they propose ideas for examination, or stretch themselves when risking attachment to a specific initiative. It invokes their ingenuity and offers evidence of the transformative power of engaging in this manner.
Placing children at the center, the approaches Old South uses address what can best provide opportunities that support well-rounded growth in ways we value. The use of a focused question offers guidance: What is the fundamental activity of children? It takes little observation of children’s spontaneous ways to identify play as the answer. Then the task is to select specifically constructive play, planned to encourage and strengthen effort, determination and motivation. Old South chooses to support children through balanced, evolving learning strategies that include the many attributes of engaging play to promote development. We provide for Play! and lots of it, all types!
Old South honors Play! for its many qualities and invites its capacity to access all areas of children’s development. We utilize Play! to prompt progress that expands children’s interests, resolve and societal awareness. We organize opportunities for Play! that take advantage of children’s magical imagination and curiosity to induce engagement for learning. We treasure Play! for its compelling potential to extend competence through inquiry, experimentation and reflection. We employ Play! to construct points where parents and children connect. We respect Play! for its transforming possibilities. Play! settings are arranged to facilitate self control and positive interactions with others, helping children practice emerging skills. In Play! scenarios, content knowledge relevant to the level of growing children comes to life. Old South relies on Play! to reveal children’s individual differences and pace. Ultimately, Play! supports diverse learning schemes with a range of complexity that embody a fundamental consideration: respect for children as unique individuals.
Developing activities that resonate with children employs a varied collection of vehicles: print media, literature, dictation, writing, movement, reading, music, arts-making, cooking, materials exploration, excursions, socio-dramatic scenarios, group games, discussion, construction with blocks and manipulatives, representational expression and gatherings. When we use these vehicles, support emerges for growth and development of language and communication, for mathematical and scientific thinking, for the social-emotional domain and for the physical area.