What Inspires Our Approach?
Our philosophy is shaped by the influences of Early Childhood pioneers’, namely, Froebel, Reggio and the more contemporary Highscope research. Their work continues to resonate within current times and inspires within us a confidence on which to shape our guiding principles. These serve to orientate and connect our approach with more recent thinking, understandings and research.
It is important to acknowledge from the outset, that who we are, what we have become, what we think now and how we will think in the future has been shaped and influenced by a variety of factors, e.g. the people we engage in dialogue with; what we read; the environment. These linger on in our minds, helping us to create new thoughts and form new ideas and theories which will influence our lives. Consequently, as educators we have a very privileged role within communities, in partnership with children and families.
The approach which guides and informs our practice is rooted within a modified High Scope framework, , blended with strong Froebelian and Reggio- inspired influences. While fully complementing the guidance set out within Curriculum for Excellence, we are confident that this blended approach will best meet the needs of the children and families within our community.
The framework of our blended approach is based on the following important features of practice-
Core layout of environment- prepared environment that affords freedom with guidance- environment as ‘third educator’ which includes core objects for learning- ‘forms of beauty’; ‘forms of knowledge’; ‘forms of life’.
The important work of Play and creativity as integrating elements…the engine that drives true learning
Learning inside- outside…unity, wholeness, connectedness.
Consistent daily routine that can be anticipated- plan, do, review/ concept of ‘predictabubble’.
Supporting children to modify behaviours
Multiple perspectives leading to shared understanding of children
Central role of the family
Image of the child as unique, rich in potential, competent, capable, active agents in own learning and learning only what they are ready to learn; childhood as a time in its own right.
Learning within community and across generations –children visible within community
Listening/ voices through representation/ opportunities to revisit and rework previous thinking
Professional dialogue and educators as learners- ‘Progettazione’
Importance placed on real objects/ loose parts
The strong parallels which are visible between Curriculum for Excellence and High Scope Curriculum are evident in the image below.
The Highscope Preschool ‘Wheel of Learning’
The environment as the ‘Third Educator.’
It is well documented in theory that the medium through which young children learn best is play. This requires the environment to be ‘enabling’, which amongst other things, includes careful consideration to be given to the flow and layout of the playroom environment, ensuring that the individual spaces for learning which are available to children, jigsaw well together and are effective in inspiring curiosity.
This environment should be –
- filled with interesting objects which provoke their curiosity and support the development of their talking and thinking skills;
- educative and interesting, rich with open ended, materials which inspire their creative thinking;
- filled with real and natural materials and calming colours,
- well considered flow and positioning of furniture
- differentiated play experiences within individual learning spaces i.e. what does support and challenge look like for individual children within each learning space?
- emphasising the importance of children’s experiences, talk and reflection.
- emphasising the ‘processes within’ learning/ development – skills, knowledge and understanding slowly being built up, -rather than simply on the immediacy of the ‘end products’ of’ learning for children.
- allowing children the opportunity to make choices from within carefully considered and well presented, high quality learning spaces that supports development of their self -help skills and collaboration with peers.
- allowing children support in their interests and learning from adults who want to spend time with them and are genuinely interested in what they have to say, who are interested in trying to capture traces of their talking and thinking in order to revisit and reflect upon it.
- allowing opportunities for skilled and informed observation to support effective development and learning.
The playroom environment is a canvas for children on which to lay down their ‘threads of thinking’ during play. Through skilful observation by educators will support them in beginning to make connections in and across their learning,- strengthening threads, revisiting learning and transferring previous learning into new contexts.
Our core playroom environment comprises of three distinct, yet interconnected Learning Zones, which blend and flow to create ‘a whole’. In time, this will be extended to include the outdoor learning environment, which will be developed using a similar framework and structure. This will ensure a seamless and continuous chain of learning invitations across both internal and external environments.
- Learning Zone One – The Discovery Zone
(which includes opportunities to learn outdoors)
- Learning Zone Two – The Investigation Zone
- Learning Zone Three – The Creative Zone.
Each of the learning spaces is supported by high quality books and appropriate provocations displayed to draw children’s interest and challenge their thinking.
Rich environments are to Early learning and childcare what high quality schemes of work are to Primary and Secondary schools.
In terms of our learning environment supporting the principles of curriculum design- depth, breadth, personalisation and choice, coherence, relevance, progression, challenge and enjoyment-the experiences we offer children within our core environment are available at all times.
The experiences and opportunities inspire and promote deep level, higher order thinking. Children are able to revisit these experiences time and again, supported by educators who observe, support and enhance children’s learning.
This environment enables children to develop important life skills of concentration, trial and error, perseverance and engaging with the skills of their peers. In addition to this, the children will have planned learning opportunities which will enable them to benefit from adult directed learning which stems from educator observations. This forms an additional layer which further enhances the core learning environment.
The skillful observations of educators highlight the progress of children’s learning through play over time. They note the increasing sophisticated or innovating and creative use that children make of resources available to them, their levels of curiosity; the complexity of language used; their identification of possibilities within play situations, their independent access of learning spaces; their support of others as ‘more able peer’; their ability to record and reflect on their learning; their increasing ability to use assessment tools to engage in dialogue with educator and peers about their learning.
The development of these high quality learning spaces has required educators to spend considerable time in working closely with children in a training capacity, in order that children understand the context in which these opportunities and experiences come to them-. This is rooted in our community Value of Respect for self and others, where every member recognises the importance demonstrating respect for the learning environment. This time is well spent as it then enables educators to support and extend children’s learning while at the same time empowering children to take responsibility for caring for their working environment, enabling them to become increasingly independent learners.
As each child begins to grow and develop into a confident individual, a successful learner, a responsible citizen and an effective contributor within the nursery environment and across the home / nursery environment, this is reflected within the individual learning spaces, where they begin to tailor the environment to meet their individual learning needs.
For example, this is when the educator may begin to see the child creating cages of different sizes within the Block Area, before collecting different sizes of animals from the Small World Area to add to the cages. The child may then go to the Computer Area to research the foods eaten by the different animals before creating a food chart on a clip board- taking the Literacy/ Numeracy Toolbox into the Block Area to support this, successfully making connections across many aspects of play.
In this way we see the development of a positive learning story for this child. This will then be shared with their peers and recorded within the Learning Journal with the support of the educator. This experience elaborates on the specific thinking and learning which took place for this child, as opposed to simply documenting what the child did.