While children do go through specific developmental stages, each child grows and learns at a pace that is uniquely their own. Age is not an accurate indicator of development. Children from 0-24 months take in their information by use of their bodies and exploring the world through their senses. Jean Piaget called this the Sensory Motor stage of development.
Two year old children begin to enter a stage that Piaget described as preoperational. Characteristics include egocentricity, concrete thinking, the explosion of language, and the inability of the child to focus on more than one aspect of a relationship at a time. 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 play and through active exploration of their environment. They construct their knowledge through manipulation of concrete materials and stimulation of their five senses.
As 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. Learning centers include, but are not limited to, art, science, writing, books, woodworking, sand and water, dramatic play, manipulative materials, music, blocks and the outdoor learning environment.
The teacher’s role
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.
The development of literacy is encouraged through experiences with the various aspects of language through books, music, science, math, art, drama, dance, reading and writing. We do not use formal reading and writing instruction that emphasizes isolated skill development. Instead we encourage children to explore their environment by touching and manipulating real objects and by experimenting with new ways of doing things. We believe that active engagement is more meaningful for children and has a greater impact on acquiring life-long learning skills, as opposed to doing activities that are traditionally believed to promote academic success.
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, needs and development of the children. The Campus View Child Care Center has a written curriculum plan that describes our educational philosophy, goals and objectives for the children, the classroom arrangement, and the teacher’s role.