I am one of an increasingly rare breed. I say that because I am able to get up every morning and thank God that I love my job. It’s this love that has motivated me to work with young children for over 25 years, and each day as I enter the building I am still amazed as I watch the children learning. I am equally amazed that after all of these years society still struggles to see the reality that young children learn best by doing.
As children appear to be just “playing” in a classroom, they are actually engaged in essential learning. They are developing the cognitive, social-emotional and physical skills (curiosity, problem solving, intentionality, flexibility, verbal and non-verbal skills) they need to take them successfully into adulthood.
As you walk into a classroom at Glory Be Learning Center, (something we encourage!) your initial reaction may be to question how much is learned through the simple act of play. Scientific research has found that children are multi-sensory learners and play is the easiest way to engage all of their senses. As early childhood educators, our teachers are here to organize the classroom, ensure safety, teach through mentoring and coaching, and to facilitate activities. The see themselves not as dictators of education but rather as facilitators to learning.
Organized play in a preschool setting develops children in four specific ways
- Physical development: strong, healthy bodies, coordination, stress management, physical confidence, fine and large motor skills, and agility.
- Cognitive development: scientific and mathematical thinking, language skills, literacy skills, research and inquiry skills, and independent thinking.
- Social development: cooperation, negotiation, collaboration, socialization, rules formation, and conflict resolution.
- Emotional development: empathy, impulse control, self-regulation, persistence, resilience self-confidence, joy.
So if children learn best through play how do we teach them?
At Glory Be Learning Center we teach children through emergent curriculum. In emergent curriculum learning is framed by the teacher but inspired by the children – building upon their existing interests and relevant circumstances. This allows for collaboration between the children and their teachers in a way that allows everyone to have a voice. Because the activities are responsive to the child, they are able to discover more, dig deeper, and construct further knowledge through play.
Let’s look at an example: during the fall, apples are in abundance, and the children are interested in all aspects of them. The teacher will help the children to compare how various apples taste, their colors, and their shapes. Then they might chart how many apples it takes to measure how tall they are. Then they might paint with apples, cook with apples or see what sinks and floats in comparison to an apple.
This way the children are not only learning apple starts with “A” but they are learning about their five senses, color, shapes, numbers, etc. As well as creating self-esteem, self-expression, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. This is so much more powerful than a teacher holding up a card with the letter “A” and a red apple on it and saying, “repeat after me…”
Emergent curriculum is also flexible and responsive to situations. Curriculum planning, rather than all being done well in advance, is constantly developing. Curriculum is dynamic, neither stagnant nor repetitive. It enables children’s learning and teacher’s thinking to be made visible through varied forms of documentation.
Beyond the “academics” learned in a classroom like ours, children develop and are allowed to practice their social-emotional intelligence, confidence, cooperation, negotiation, sharing, empathy and communication skills while concurrently developing the fine and gross motor skills necessary for success in Elementary School
A child’s delight and spontaneous wonder should always be our first priority and with emergent curriculum the goal is to do just that – to inspire delight, curiosity, celebration and inquiry. This builds a long-term love of learning in children. It helps them to craft an internal compass to guide them as a learner, rather than relying on instruction and direction from others. It inspires children to be authors, inventors, illustrators, designers, dancers, singers, actors, etc. and to celebrating their unique talents, gifts and abilities. It allows the natural pace of individual and group learning to emerge, and not be guided exclusively by the clock. It gives children an organized environment in which to use all of their senses and faculties to learn. It recognizes that critical learning takes place during conflict, negotiation, brainstorming and resolution. It provide adequate outside time daily. It supports the varied learning styles (visual, auditory, sensory, verbal, etc.) in ways that are also aware of gender differences. It practices supportive social learning rather than punishment. It creates cooperation, partnership, resource-sharing and amiability between staff, students, parents and the community.
At Glory Be Learning Center our motto is “Early Education Matters” and we take that seriously. Our brains don’t wait until we’re three years old to start learning, so why should we make our children wait? Start early. Start now. Let’s play!!!
Susie Freligh, Glory Be Director