Beautiful Beginnings adopts the Creative Curriculum to create our framework to set forth our program’s philosophy, objectives and goals for children in the classroom, as well as guidelines for teaching that address a child’s development: social-emotional, cognitive, and physical. Additionally the Creative Curriculum is linked to The Creative Curriculum® Developmental Continuum for Ages 3-5, a valid and reliable assessment instrument that allows teachers to assess child progress and plan responsively.
In conjunction with the Creative Curriculum, Beautiful Beginnings adopts The RI Early Learning Standards (RIELS) to develop our framework for implementing a high quality early childhood education experience for our families and students. We use authentic child assessment aligned with the Standards, differentiate teaching and learning, and engage families in meaningful ways, and as a result are well-positioned to improve outcomes for the children enrolled in our center.
What Children Should Know, Understand, and Be Able to Do (Content)
The curriculum framework is intended to guide teaching staff as they develop quality level classroom experiences for children. Within our curriculum we address the eight areas of learning as outlined in RIELS:
- Approaches to Learning: Children demonstrate positive attitudes habits and learning styles
- Social and Emotional Development: Children demonstrate a strong and positive self-concept, appropriate self-control and growth in their awareness of their responsibilities when interacting with others
- Language Development and Communication: Children develop skills in listening and expressing their thoughts and ideas
- Literacy: Children develop skills in writing and reading while exploring print in books and in the environment
- Mathematics: Children develop ways to solve problems and to think about math
- Science: Children understand and use the scientific method of asking questions, observing and recording their findings and discussing their conclusions.
- Creativity: Children enjoy, express themselves, create and learn about the arts through experiences with a variety of art forms and media.
- Physical and Health Development: Young children’s future health and well-being are directly related to strengthening their large and small muscles, using their sensory experiences and practicing healthy behavior.
Children develop and grow at different rates within each learning area during their early childhood experience. Therefore, we use the Creative Curriculum’s “Alignment of the Rhode Island’s Early Learning Standards with the goals and objectives of the Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum for ages 3-5” to document and assess each child’s development as they grow. Using this information in conjunction with information obtained from families including their personal history, reviewing existing IEP’s (individual education plans) and ensuring a culturally sensitive and relevant experience for that child, teachers are able to plan appropriate experiences within the classroom that promote child development growth.
How Children Learn (Process)
As an NAEYC accredited program we provide our students with Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP). DAP was defined by an NAEYC position paper, stating that children experience optimal learning when teaching occurs to match the different ways children learn and develop. According to NAEYC, DAP provides children with opportunities to learn and practice new skills.
Our curriculum foundation is based on research and theory. All of which informs decision-making in the early childhood field, specifically the work of
Piaget: His research indicated that as a child matured they increased capacity to understand their world: they cannot undertake certain tasks until they are psychologically mature enough to do so. He proposed that children's thinking does not develop entirely smoothly: instead, there are certain points at which it "takes off" and moves into completely new areas and capabilities. In other words, children are not capable (no matter how bright) of understanding things in certain ways at certain times in their development. He identified two stages relevant to early childhood development: sensorimotor (babies learn by reacting to what they experience through their senses) and preoperational (children begin to notice properties in the objects they explore).
Smilansky: Her research outlines the importance of play in children’s learning. She outlines the four types of play including Functional Play: where children use their senses and muscles to experiment with materials and learn how things go together, Constructive play: where children’s actions are purposeful and directed toward a goal, Dramatic or Pretend Play: where children typically take on “person-oriented roles and use real or pretend objects to play out the role, and Games with Rules: where children control their behavior through rules both physically and verbally.
Maslow: His research described a hierarchy of needs common to all human beings. The hierarchy is based on meeting basic needs first before children can move to the next level of learning. The hierarchy starting from the basic needs and moving up includes: Physiological (hunger, thirst…), Safety (feeling secure and safe, out of danger), Belongingness and Love (to affiliate with others to be accepted and belong), Esteem (to achieve, be competent and gain approval), Cognitive (to know, understand and explore), Aesthetic (symmetry, order and beauty), and lastly Self Actualization (to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential),
Vygotsky: Vygotsky stated that every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people and then inside the child. According to him children can do better with the assistance of others (adults or more advanced children) at first and then can internalize the skill or practice to do on their own. According to Vygotsky cognitive development depends upon the "zone of proximal development" (ZPD): a level of development attained when children engage in social behavior. The lower limit of the “zone” represents when a child works independently while the upper limit of the “zone” represents what a child can learn by watching and talking to peers and teachers. As a result a child performs at a higher level with others than by himself in the beginning. This process is called scaffolding.
Gardner: Gardner suggests that children can be intelligent in many different ways vs. through traditional concepts. He breaks down intelligence into many different types: Linguistic/Verbal Intelligence where children like to play with words and sounds of language; are good at telling stories; love looking at and hearing books read; and experiment with writing. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence where children like to reason and solve problems; explore patterns and categorize objects; ask questions and experiment; and count and understand one-to-one correspondence. Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence where children see patterns in music and nature; be sensitive to environmental sounds and the human voice; and respond to music emotionally, these kids sing, hum or whistle to themselves. Spatial/Visual Intelligence where children think in images; know where everything in the classroom is located; be fascinated with the way things work/ and take toys apart to see how they work. Bodily/kinesthetic Intelligence is where children have good fine motor skills and coordination; learn by moving, not by sitting; feel things in their gut; be athletic or good dancers; and physically mimic others. Interpersonal Intelligence is where children have several best friends; be good at resolving conflicts; be leaders and group organizers; and “read” other people’s feelings accurately.
Intrapersonal Intelligence is where children may be aware of their emotions; express their feelings well; require private space and time; and have realistic knowledge of their own strengths and challenges.
Erickson: His theory of “Eight Stages of Man” identifies issues someone should resolve for healthy development to occur. The stages a child passes through during their younger years include Trust vs. Mistrust (trust meaning that the world around you is safe and mistrust meaning that basic needs are not met), Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (autonomy meaning independence or acting willingly by free choice) and Initiative vs. Guilt (Initiative meaning an interest in making things, tackling tasks and being okay to fail vs. guilt where children are made to feel bad about their failures and belittled).
Research indicates that children’s brains are actively growing at a rapid pace during their early years. Optimal periods of opportunity or “prime times” during which the brain is more susceptible for learning new skills occur during this time. Children need to be exposed to new experiences to foster the growth of healthy brain development.
Beautiful Beginnings take all of the above research and theories to develop our curriculum. As stated in our program philosophy we believe children learn through play. Our students participate in play with a purpose, having clear expectations around the type of play provided throughout their classroom experience. Play allows children to actively participate in their learning experience, having hands on opportunities to explore. Having an appropriate environment where children can actively investigate is critical in their learning. We offer children a safe learning space where they can easily access materials and participate in specific types of play. Teachers take into consideration where all children are developmentally, including special needs, when deciding what opportunities to present the classroom. Additionally teachers approach teaching opportunities through supportive interactions, providing assistance when needed and recognizing and valuing the talents our students bring the center.
The Teacher’s Role (Teaching and Facilitating)
The teacher’s role is all encompassing including, teaching strategies, curriculum development, classroom set-up, child assessment, developmentally appropriate practice and supportive interactions. Our teachers recognize that children’s learning styles, interests and developmental levels are unique and as a result provide experiences with provisions for these differences. In the field of early education, teaching strategies are ever changing. Our teachers continually expand their professional development to ensure that they are implementing the most efficient teaching methods within their work. When teachers provide opportunities within their classrooms, they ensure that those activities are developmentally appropriate and that there is a balance between quiet and active activities and individual, small and large group activities. Our teachers use supportive interactions to respond to children, guide appropriate behavior, encourage exploration, and promote social development.
Beautiful Beginnings teachers are responsible for submitting lesson plans that indicate the change in environment within each learning center, objective or goal for each area that is aligned with the RI Early Learning Standards, a weekly outdoor activity, an authentic type of assessment to focus on for that week, daily readings, activities and songs for group activities, special small group activities, and parent participation activity that will occur throughout that week.
Materials and Learning Environments (Context)
Beautiful Beginnings creates a safe learning environment where children can actively explore and discover their surroundings. Our preschool classroom has a daily schedule posted for children and parents to outline the daily activities. Shelves and learning areas are clearly marked and defined with pictures and words for children. Our classroom set-up includes over 10 learning centers: Art Area, Book Nook, Sensory Table, Block Area, Manipulatives, Science/Nature, Writing Center, Dramatic Play, Math Area, and Music and Movement. Teachers make changes to their environment to reflect the objectives and goals outlined in their planning. Our well planned space encourages children to perform tasks appropriately, show positive behavior, and nurture their development. Materials, chosen specifically to meet the needs of our children, are easily accessible to our students to ensure appropriate exploration. The room is designed to have quiet and noisy areas, messy and neat areas, and individual or group areas, to provide appropriate and diverse types of play. Daily, children have opportunity to play outdoors for 30-60 minutes. The outdoor area provides varied types of play including a climbing structure, trikes and trike path, sandbox and see-saws. Weekly teachers plan for outdoor activities to occur to encourage outdoor physical activity.