The Child Learning Center uses The Creative Curriculum by Diane Trister Dodge, Laura J. Colker and Cate Heroman as a resource for planning developmentally appropriate activities in the classroom. It is a comprehensive, child development-based curriculum that helps us create an effective learning environment. It organizes the classroom into interest areas and provides guidance on the underlying rationale as well as goals and learning objectives for children, teachers and parents.
Each of our preschool classrooms are separated into learning centers. The children spend the majority of their day working in these centers. Find out more about what goes on in our classrooms below.
Art teaches a child that his creativity is limited only by his own imagination. The process, not the product, is the most important element of preschool art. Art develops a child’s fine-motor skills. It takes small-muscle control in order to manipulate clay, cut with scissors, paint with a brush, and color with markers or crayons. As these skills are practiced, they help a child gain mastery to cut with a knife, button his own shirt and print his name. Art projects also build a child’s self-esteem. It’s another opportunity for a child to say “I can do it!
Blocks help children learn scientific, mathematical, art, social studies, and language concepts; use small-motor skills; and foster competence and self esteem. A child learns about depth, width, height, length, measurement, volume, area, classification, shape, symmetry, mapping, equality (same as) and inequality (more than, less than) – all from building with blocks. It’s not just building with blocks that are educational—so is cleanup. Sorting and storing blocks teaches classification and one-to-one correspondence, which are important math skills.
Playing make-believe lets a child bring the complicated grown-up world down to size. Imaginative play helps children to concentrate, to be attentive and to use self control. When they pretend they also learn to be flexible, substituting objects for those they do not have. Children learn empathy for others. They will often act out a whole range of emotions when playing pretend, offering sympathy for a doll that fell off a chair to scolding a puppet for being naughty. Dramatic play encourages children to think abstractly, which is an important pre-reading skill. Children come to understand that words represent ideas.
When children play with puzzles or lacing beads they are developing fine-motor skills, which is a precursor to being able to write. They practice self control and cooperation as they wait their turn to play a game. As they build with table blocks or design with pattern blocks, they experiment with invention and use creative problem solving skills. They also are expanding their emerging math skills such as counting, sequencing, seriating and classifying.
A child has a practical math lesson in fractions when she pours a cup full of sand or water into a two cup container. It explains the concept faster and more clearly than a detailed discussion or drawing. Fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination are being developed. There is no right or wrong way to play with sand and water (except to throw it out of the basin), so each child experiences success.
Listening to music teaches important reading skills. As children play small instruments they can play rhythmic patterns of words. They learn to hear the differences between fast and slow, loud and soft, one at a time and together, etc. Finger plays promote language development, fine motor skills, coordination as well as self-esteem. Creative movement expands a child’s imagination. It is also a fun method of physical fitness—an important goal of child development.
"Becoming literate doesn't just happen. Teachers thoughtfully and purposefully interact with children and plan experiences that support emerging literacy. A print-rich environment that allows children to practice literacy skills in real-life experiences, combined with explicitly teaching of key concepts, is the foundation of literacy learning in preschool. As children's excitement about their newfound ability to read and write increases, teachers create multiple opportunities for continued literacy learning."
When children work with computers they learn to work cooperatively with others, develop perseverance, and take pride in their work. They learn to identify and sort objects by attributes such as color, shape and size. They learn sequencing and order as well as develop early reading skills. They are developing small muscles, refining eye-hand coordination and improving their visual skills.
"Science content is more than isolated facts such as the stages in the life of a butterfly. Scientific facts are important, but how they are put together into meaningful ideas is more significant. For example, learning about the development of a butterfly should lead to the big idea that all living things develop in a series of states called a life cycle. Preschool children learn science by exploring the world around them. When you provide an environment with many varied materials, they try out things to see how they work, they experiment, they manipulate, they are curious, and they ask questions. As they seek answers to their questions, they learn to enjoy and appreciate their surroundings. These activities are science."
Outdoor play refines a child’s gross-motor (large-muscle) skills. The cross-lateral movement (right arm/left leg and visa versa) involved is critical to a child’s later success in reading and writing. Playground time is also an opportunity to explore and manipulate a different environment. Outdoor play also allows children to let loose their imaginations. They can turn the jungle gym into a rocket ship, a castle, a firehouse –anything they choose.
"Just as preschool teachers cultivate literacy in children, they use multiple opportunities during the day to help children build competence in math. When children give each person at the table a cracker, pour water from one container to another, put all the big buttons in one pile and smaller ones in another, or clap a rhythmic pattern - they are learning math. Everyday experiences such as these provide the context for preschool children to progress in math. In addition, teachers' knowledge of the substance of math content provides facts and concepts needed to promote and extend children's mathematical thinking."
Mealtimes are an opportunity for a child to learn social skills. Passing out snack and distributing a napkin and cup to each child teaches one-to-one correspondence and counting skills. Pouring the juice from a small pitcher to an individual cup requires small-motor control. Mealtimes also provide an opportunity for a child to associate mealtime with pleasant feelings and reinforce a child’s sense of competence and independence.
When children clean up they are learning to sort, classify, match and organize as they put toys back on the shelf. They learn that helping behaviors and orderliness are valued. Cleaning up teaches self discipline and children learn how to follow simple directions. They also enjoy the feeling of being competent, independent and responsible.