At first, we want to mention that this study has enabled us a lot of opportunities and advantages in terms of improving our knowledge on early childhood development area. We have tried to find out the ways to make our brain storm while thinking about how a kindergarten & preschool class design should have been, which theories have been right for the ideas and opinions which were in our mind.
During this brain storm, we have used some theories and ideas which we have learned all of them by this class - Pred 211. Eventually, we have dreamed a preschool as if we have had no financial problems. After, we have named it as “The Flower Kindergarten”. The Flower Kindergarten has based on High Scope and Montessori education at the same time. With these theories, we have used some aspects of both Project Approach and Reggio Emilia. As it is well known fact that all these styles based on the constructivism.
Early education is one of the most important and formative times in a child's life. From birth to age 5, before they even enter kindergarten, children are exposed to a lot of new information and situations. Incorporating academic and social learning situations into a child's life at this stage means reaching them at a time when their minds are open to learning, which prepares them for life, productivity and academia. Like any other educational program, pre-school does not work the same way for every student. Some students are slower to develop than others and may experience social challenges in a pre-school situation. Students who are slower to develop mentally may be misdiagnosed at the pre-school level with learning disabilities, which later prove to be false. By the same token, there is no guarantee that students who show a particular aptitude in pre-school will maintain that talent for their entire lifetime, or this is not an absolute that students who seem to be challenged in pre-school will maintain a lower skill level once they enter mainstream education.
It is generally accepted in education that every child learns differently and achieves a unique level of learning based on the child's mental frame. These individual learning patterns are led by some important institutional guidelines and structures. We think programs for early childhood education should cover a few standard bases of academic and social child development: high-quality language, literacy, pre-reading, letter sounds (phonics) and basic science programs. We support that early childhood education should has the aim that children should be encouraged to play learning and social games and are exposed to music and sports. Children should also learn independence from their parents during early education by spending several hours away from home at a time.
Our philosophy is based on constructivism. It was influenced by Piaget’s genetic epistemology and Vygotsky’s social cultural developmental theory. However some of the ideas of constructivism reflect the values of progressive education including authentic learning, collaboration, child centeredness in curriculum and assessment. Constructivist learning theory suggests that knowledge is socially constructed and the child is active participant in meaning making.
In terms of instead of being passive learners children should actively involved in learning process through accommodating and assimilating new information into their existing knowledge structure. The theory advocates the idea that teachers should provide students with opportunities and incentives to construct knowledge. They are seen as a guide, a coordinator, a facilitator, a resource advisor, a tutor, a coach. According to high scope philosophy plan do review learning content the ideas that what we know, what we want to know, what we have learned. K-W-L model means self-regulated learning. Learners are expected to be able to self guide their learning process with highly organized meta cognitive skills.
In early childhood education seems to ignore the developmental constrains of this period. Simply keeping children busy behaviorally is better than meta cognitive learning strategies. Constructivist learning theory tends to compare school work with children’s effortless learning.
In our school (The Flower Kindergarten) we build 12 areas that meet children s developmental areas both physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. Children can reach variable materials in terms of their interests, capabilities and sensorial improvements. Besides this, there are rooms and activity tools that lead children to become social beings and foster feeling of a member of community. In our preschool which looks like a flower on the surface level, the rooms are designed closely to each other for passing easily from ones to another not only in activity times but also free times. Although we use High Scope and Project Approach methods dominantly, we create classrooms which reflect Montessorie and Reggio styles, too.
First of all, our preschool environment should be safe, comfortable, attractive, and well-designed because childhood is quite sensitive and active period. Due to being accustomed hardly to place outside home, younger should feel belongings and comforts. For that reason, there are cubbies for children’s personal belongings; child-sized clothes tree for objects that they want to hang up as smocks and utensils, also there is shoe cupboards. In high scope class there are blocks, library, science and technology, cooking, toys and games and feeling community areas. Library, cooking, science-technology areas are close to each other because they are quiet areas, on the other side, blocks, toys and games areas close to each other due to being noisy. In blocks area there is soft floor because children need to sit and work on knees. In science and technology area, there are some tips give messages that this area need to some protection because there are technological tools that are computers, microscopes, printers, recorders, magnifiers, videos, photographs, clocks. Also there is community area that includes children’s family members’ photo, personal pets and plants that lead children to feeling a member of class. These science, technology, and community areas are mostly used for Project activities. In these areas children work with small groups and sharing knowledge, personal and cultural values about each other.
Labeling such as putting pictures and photos, and writing names over shelves are clear clues for children to associate materials and their functions and finding their places easily and take the message that all things have places. In the walls there are charts demonstrating feelings, sheets including months and seasons’ pictures and children’ displays what they did in their activities.
We have snack bar near the cooking area in High Scope classroom that children prepare and serve food to each other at lunches. With this way children learn collaboration and taking responsibility.
In High/Scope class, there is circle time area where whole group activities done like storytelling and group meetings includes big carpet and at the corner of the room.
There is another door open to Reggio class. We use the Reggio class for developing sense of aesthetic, and via establishing shadowing we want to show children different aspects of things that we use in classrooms. There is special art teacher in Reggio class. There is a big table where children work with group and individually. They can have chance to do painting, sculpturing and ceramics. In this class they experience the world with all their senses. Visually they can see all the colors and the materials features; they can touch different supplies feel is with their senses. In Reggio class’s goal is children to reach full potential without any limitation.
Another class is designed according to Montessorie theories. In this class there are didactic and sensorial learning materials that help children both cognitively and physically developing. Montessorie class mostly assist children gain high concentration and independence as they are working on matters because materials are auto educated. Materials levels are changing in terms of children’s developmental phase. Due to materials become complex step by step and practical life skills dressing, washing is promoted in class; children learn sense of order which would lay a foundation for later rational thought. Materials are related to literacy, language skills, math that will contribute children’s later academic life. The goal of this classroom is working individually and gain self-sufficiency.
Near the Montessorie class there is opening doors to outside plants area where children care with them learning how they grow and what their names and features are. They also farm vegetables and fruits for themselves in that area.
In our preschool there is special room for music, movement and drama activities near the Reggio class. There are instruments and equipments that children make and listen to music. It fosters the sense of rhythm in children. In the center of the room there are big scenes with surrounded microphones and loud speakers. There is cabinet near the scene which includes different costumes. Children may pretend as singers, pop groups or make theatres with together. By this way small group activity participation will be enhanced. During these free and creative activities, children exhibit their talents and show their inside world when they are selecting roles.
Also, we add cinema room next to music class because some fantastic animations and documentaries inform or inspire children to think about world, emotions, things, animals, and various cultures, visual and hearing contexts. Also it can be used in ceremonies at the end of the semester via showing long videos to families about what had been done during semester. It gives messages to children your work is valuable and also you are improving and growing gradually. By the way, children become aware of their learning process actively. They see what they Know, what they Want to know, How they investigate, what they have Learned. Apart from these, there are nap area, bathroom and medico. If children want to rest after lunch time they can go nap area.
In outdoor, we create picnic area so that children can come with their families and school-family relationships can be constructed and enhanced. Other function of this area is to use for field trips or learning something about small animals or plants by observing nature. There is play and gymnastic area in the outdoor that lead children to develop their gross motor skills and coordination of balance. Also they make friendships and when conflict arises in this noisy area because of being impatient for such as swing and slide, teacher can guide them what are the ways that play with each other peacefully. In addition to this, we put swimming pool to outside with covering their surround some walls due to provide safety. The reason of we put swimming pool as the other activity areas, phisical movement trigger the brain activity.
In the second floor there are teacher’s room, meeting room (with families) and pedagogist’s room. Parents have the right to interview and to speak about their children with pedagogist in meeting room. Also, this meeting room is used for the museum in which student’s workings are demonsrated.
As it is mentioned all above, environment is great impact on children and their ways of learning. It should be inviting, attracted, comfortable and safe.
Role of teacher
First of all, teachers should take departmental education as minimum lasts four years. They have vital duties when a preschool is created. Their roles are; preparing environment, guiding children through activities, showing the ways of how to use materials properly, observing, and assesting and establishing family-community and school relationships.
At the first glance, they should be careful about the preparing every details environmentally because environment seen as a third teacher in our philosophy. Also they should be models and directors at the same time by participating children’s activities.
Secondly, they should be provocateurs about children’s developing of thinking on issues and creating new ideas and questions in their minds. They can do list of questions and prepare a map related to topic which leads access to new topics. Also in plan-do-review part they direct children to become aware of their learning process. For example: “What are you going to do today? What did you do? Do you want share your ideas with us?” Teacher provide children to manage their choices, develop their language skills by speaking, and gain independence and control on their plans and choices. Also they provoke children to small and whole group activities. Children need to develop socially and emotionally by these activity periods. Teacher should talk about classroom duties and protection of their living area, and materials.
Thirdly, teachers another important duty is to observe children carefully and create documentation about their development unfold. They prepare portfolios about children; also they can take photos of their works and hang on the walls. Therefore parents can see easily what are their children doing and are they progressing? Observation contributes to assessments of not only children’s developmental rates but also curriculum and plans that done for children. Teachers can gain knowledge about whether daily, weekly and yearly programming are functional, materials are effective and age appropriate and teaching strategies are right, or not. By observing and documentation, they can gather knowledge about children individually, their interests, characteristic features, and learning ways. It helps children develop in a fast way. Fostering sense of community and establishing strong relationships between school and family is the last responsibilities of teacher. They can make meetings with parents, also invite branches and picnic areas to construct social bonds between whole school members. They can make home visits to see children’s home environment closely and participate parents to school activities.
08:30 am : Arrival, greeting
08:40 -09:10 am : Attendance, breakfast
09:10-09:30 am : Group meeting and story time
09:30-10:45 am : Choice time and small groups
10:45-11:00 am : Clean up
11:00-11:10 am : Group meeting (reflection time)
11:10-11:40 am : Outdoor activity
12:30-14:00 pm : Rest time
14:00-14:10 pm : Group meeting (plan times)
14:10-15:30pm : Choice time
15:30-16.00 : Group meetings closing (reflection time)
16:00-17:00 : Outdoor activity
17:00-17:30 : Prepare for Home
In our daily schedule, there are whole group and small group activities, also children have chances to work individually. In the morning, greeting with a smile and taken attendance with songs and different transitions make children great welcome and provide adaptation to school area. After that period in High Scope class we make group meeting include story times and talking about their real life experiences related to issue. If topics are meaningful and interesting for children they highly engaged in activities. Teacher asks children which area or room they want to work in whether regarding of topic that we spoke, or not. Also they foster curiosity between children which is natural inquisitive behavior. Through inquiry-based Project activities children’s positive dispositions and feelings are promoted and strengthened. Also, they can go Reggio, drama class or stay in science and technology or any area they choose. Belief that education in hundred languages is beneficial, we provide a great deal of opportunities to children. More choice means that more freedom and exploring their selves contribute to their social and emotional development. Also when they are doing these activities such as painting and sculpturing they develop their fine motor skills. In terms of Project Approach in the choice time children work in small groups as part of whole group they are dealing with issues that teacher create map via questioning. After choice time, there is group meeting for reflection time. Volunteer children start to talk about what they have done. Clean up time as a transition period remind children to pass one activity to another. After that period children need to go play and outside, because they become bored staying indoors for long hours. It is optional to go nap area but children need some rest after these active periods.
Lunch comes after rest time because it is some slow activity and whole group members are collected. At lunch times children serve prepared meal to each other that foster sharing and collaboration.
In the afternoon, children enter to Montessorie class; they mostly work individually in terms of their own level. Due to their energies start to decrease in the afternoon, we choose Montesorrie class for afternoon activities.
In our weekly plan, every Friday there is movie hour instead of being in Montesorrie class. We made monthly plans about issues that we talk. However; catalytic event among children promoted highly. Meaningfulness is hold children engage in activities.
Dodge, DT, Colker, LJ, & Heroman, C. (2002). The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, 4th Ed. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies.
Follari, L.M. (2007). Foundations and best practices in early childhood education: History, theories, and approaches to learning. Columbus, OH: Pearson Merrill, Prentice Hall.
Zhenlin, W. (2009). To teach or not to teach: Controversy surrounding constructivism in early childhood education. Vol. 8, No.1