Early Years Humanist / Constructivist Educational Philosophy
We believe that:
- Children have an inherent tendency to learn.
- Children can learn to make good choices and take responsibility for them.
- Promoting the growth of the whole person is one of the school’s primary goals.
- Emphasis should be on personal growth through solving real life problems.
- Teachers facilitate and design instructional activities that allow children to construct their own understandings.
- Curriculum content and instruction should take into consideration the developmental level of children.
- Children should be active participants in the learning process.
- The process of learning involves relating new learning to past experiences and assimilation of new information through application, retention and transfer of knowledge.
- Teachers help children continuously assess their progress and consider feedback as part of the learning process.
- Children should assume responsibilities for themselves and others in the school and larger community.
Research in early childhood education indicates:
- Young children learn through active involvement and choice.
- Young children learn by building on what they know to build to new knowledge, working alone and with others – social constructivism.
- Young children naturally try to make sense of the world around them.
- Young children progress through a series of developmental milestones within a time frame that allows for developmental differences. Young children need educational activities that correspond to their stage of development which is not always the same within any given classroom.
- Young children learn best when they can make connections between the various strands of learning development.
- Young children’s early learning forms the foundation for later learning. It builds dispositions for creative problem solving, group learning and interaction and a sense of wonder about the world around him.
When implementing curriculum, this body of research is used to inform the practices of the teachers working with the children. Young children are capable and competent and naturally try to make sense of the world around them. When they see something new they make a theory, test that theory and then build knowledge much like scientists and in fact all of us. All of us build on what we know in order to get to what we don’t know. For example, when a child is building a tower with blocks, he/she will build it higher and higher until eventually it falls over. Through repeated trial and error the child learns that at a certain height the blocks will fall. Based on this knowledge children play with support structures such as a wider base going to smaller blocks on top like an inverted pyramid. So, from previous knowledge they experiment and make theories to move to new knowledge. This is called constructivism. The educational philosophy of ACS is a holistic/constructivist philosophy.
Relationships are a huge factor in early childhood development and affect learning in the cognitive, social/emotional, physical and aesthetic domains. As children build knowledge they form relationships with objects and people. The contact with people whether young or old leads to social constructivism which enables us to build knowledge by watching, talking, working and playing with others. Continuing with the blocks example, if a child is working in a group and he/she sees a classmate use 3 pillars to support a large block rather than one he/she can learn from this experiment and build new knowledge. Through dialogue and interaction, the child uses language skills and problem solving skills. The block work involves fine and gross motor skills as well as science (balance) and mathematical skills. A drawing of the structure brings in the aesthetic and the use of marks on paper to communicate, which is the first stage of writing.
The environment is a crucial factor in the development of the young child. Comfort and safety, both physically and emotionally, and materials that allow for choice, a sense of wonder, and the various developmental levels of the children are a necessity. The teachers construct the classroom environment to function as an ongoing partner in the teaching-learning process. The environment is not static but develops and changes as learning leads in new directions. Each classroom has centers with materials that change during the course of the year. Common centers that will be present in the classroom are reading, writing, blocks, mathematics/small manipulatives, art, water, sensory table, drama, and music/listening center. Throughout the year not only will materials change but new centers can be added and present ones removed or changed into something else. The environment is dynamic rather than static.
Curriculum is implemented in an integrated manner through projects/emergent curriculum, play, exploration and free choice activities that allow for individual or group work. Projects/emergent curriculum involves extended learning processes that are driven by the children’s interests and ideas. Teachers determine topics for these projects by observing, photographing, listening to and speaking with children as they go through their day. Once an interest has been chosen, students in small groups or whole class groups participate in activities and provocations related to the interest that allows them to work on their theories and build upon them as they learn new knowledge. As activities proceed, teachers design and implement further provocations or offer new materials that will extend the theories. Thus the activities become extended dialogues between children and teachers that enable in depth learning to take place over extended periods of time.
Sometimes several projects could be ongoing with small groups or a project could involve the whole class. It is through these in-depth studies and centers throughout the room that the curriculum is implemented. In this way children make connections between the various strands of the curriculum and realize that all of the curriculum areas are a part of everyday life. For example, shopping for groceries involves reading, writing, fine and gross motor skills, math, science, social interaction and in Lebanon some Arabic language and culture. Life and learning involve integration more than compartmentalization.
Research has proven that young children who work/play this way learn to be creative thinkers, problem solvers, group members and most importantly life-long learners who engage eagerly in new learning. They develop the dispositions that are needed to learn.
The Art Program for the Early Years Division is reflected in this poem written by the father of the Reggio Emilia approach, Loris Malaguzzi. We foster children’s creativity using a large variety of media. We believe it is the right of each child to imagine and to express themselves in any of the 100 languages.
“Inside all of us are memories associated with place. They touch the core of who we are and inspire us beyond childhood, into adulthood.”
A unique feature of the EY program is the Outdoor Education
“The young children leave the school building, and wait, pressing up against the playground gate. When I open the gate, they take off like horses let out of a stable where they have been shut in too long.”
Learning should not be restricted to the boundaries of a modern city and buildings. Classrooms should not be all that a child experience in his everyday life. Teaching young children is giving them the freedom to move and explore, all with a sense of wonder and the joy of discovery.
Children need to move freely, crawl, jump, fall … they need to watch the sky while laying on green grass, feel the san between their toes, the water on their faces, mix colors and recreate landscapes with their bare hands. When children play in natural spaces they learn about nature, face and overcome challenges and learn more about themselves. They use their imaginations as they hide behind a tree so the monster won’t see them or pretend they are scientists looking for insects. They smell, hear, touch and see the natural elements around them and build connections.
In EY at ACS we believe that a child needs to connect with the natural environment. We create an opportunity for young children to explore, to use all their senses, to discover the joys of being in natural surroundings, to enhance their ability to know and find out more about the world in a way that excites a joy in learning for them that can last for a lifetime.