At the Piedmont Progressive Preschool we believe that children are innately curious and are capable of making meaningful discoveries when they are given opportunities to explore, play and experience. The classroom is carefully prepared so that it invites children into active play and hands-on learning through a variety of sensory experiences. We use natural materials (wood, fabrics) in the classroom, that are gratifying to a child's sight and touch. Through keen observation of the child's needs, interests, and readiness, materials will be introduced sequentially throughout the year, gradually adding in more complicated materials as the children master simpler ones. For instance, we will start with very basic unit blocks, giving the children the opportunity to think creatively as they devise ways to manipulate the blocks to suit their purposes. Later, they will have a chance to play with more advanced blocks to enable them to build even more complex creations! Sequential planning helps children to build on their previous experiences and has been found to be a very effective learning tool.
At PPP, communicating with children is very important. Teachers will listen attentively and think before they speak. Your child will receive specifically directed encouragement rather than blanket praise -- this feels more genuine to the child and truly fosters self-motivation and positive self-regard. Teachers will acknowledge feelings of frustration or disappointment and act as facilitators while children work through their emotions to solve problems.
We are also committed to diversity and believe that children learn about the "real world" when they are with a variety of individuals from all cultures and races. This creates an enriching environment where children can develop their budding social skills.
Philosophy Questions and Answers
The following are questions and answers that have appeared in various PPP newsletters.
Why do you ask that I not talk with the teacher about my child in the child's presence?
One aspect of our philosophy is that we try never to talk about children in their presence. We feel that it is disrespectful to the child to behave as if they are not present while discussing them. If you would like to discuss issues about your child, please feel free to call a teacher or choose a moment when your child is otherwise engaged.
Why didn’t children exchange Valentines on Feb. 14th? Why weren’t there Christmas decorations in December?
We believe holidays are best celebrated within the context of family, homes and places of worship where they can be honored with the respect they so richly deserve. Our classrooms are places where children of all beliefs, cultures, and traditions come together to grow and learn while experiencing traditions common to all (i.e. “The Candle Song” at lunchtime). In a society where holidays are surrounded by commercialism, let the PPP be a respite for children (and adults!) from a frantic world that overwhelms us all. We are a place where children are encouraged to express themselves using an array of colors and materials rather than colors and decorations dictated by the traditions of each holiday. We are a place where children can sing, tell stories, dress up, build blocks, and cook without being confined to songs, stories, and recipes of the “season.” We are a place where the stories your children tell and the conversations they have about their own traditions and celebrations will be listened to by caring and nurturing adults.
Why do students start with only one color of paint?
When we at the PPP first introduce children to paint, we start with only one color and stick with it for awhile before introducing new colors. The thinking is this: some young children have had very little opportunity to experience painting, and we want the to explore the process of applying paint to the paper without being distracted by making choices about which color to use. We see the amazement in their eyes as they take the brush, dip it into the paint, and actually make color appear on the paper. Some have learned already that the use of paint is followed by the very popular washing of hands. They are learning that an adult will write their name on the paper, and that they can take the wet painted picture to the hall to dry. They have learned to make strokes with the brush, or to dip with a sponge or another object. They are learning the difference between painting on paper and painting on the table. They are learning to sponge off the table/floor/hands when they too become painted. This is a lot for them, and for now, it is enough. Other colors will come along as they mature. Right now, they are simply into painting for painting’s sake. Learning is process, not a product.
What should I tell my child about the world events going on right now?
Routine, stability, consistency, trust, calmness, nurturance. These are all components that are vital to the safe and healthy development of children. In these trying times it becomes more important than ever to provide an atmosphere in which children can feel safe and secure. We have our work cut out for us!
As teachers, we will focus our efforts on creating an environment where children can attend to accomplishing their work through play. We will be consistent with daily routines, allowing children to feel secure in knowing what will happen next. Children can feel confident that school is a place where they will be listened to and cared for by adults they trust.
As parents or guardians, our task is especially challenging. Keeping the outside world at bay during difficult times is of particular importance. Be mindful of adult conversations taking place in the presence of children. Imagine how these events that are confusing and frightening to us as adults can sound to children. Their ability to process this information is limited at best. While the world seems as if it’s spinning out of control, it’s up to us, as adults, to control what we can for our children’s sake. While they are in the room or in the car, turn off the TV or radio. Save the discussion of world events for after their bedtime. Older children may have questions about what’s happening. Be honest with your replies. It’s OK to not have all the answers. Children can sense your sincerity and will appreciate your honesty. Let’s all take a deep breath and do the best we can. While we may not be able to create peace all over the world, we can create peace in our little corner of it.
Why do the teachers not plan out the curriculum in advance?
In Early Childhood Education (birth to age 8), curriculum shouldn’t be the primary focus, the children should be the focus. Curriculum is what happens in the educational environment - not what is rationally planned to happen, but what actually takes place.
Each day we set out pre-planned activities in the art area (table and easel), sensory table, and fine motor/writing center table. We choose activities that are interesting, inviting, age and developmentally appropriate, open-ended and process oriented. If a particular activity is popular we may choose to repeat it often (with slight variations) until the intense interest passes.
There are no adult made models to follow, no particular way to use the materials available and (within reason) the children are able to easily modify or add to the materials to suit their own interests and needs. This freedom to act upon their own interests in their own way is a critical factor in the successful development of children’s self esteem. This is why the PPP follows an emergent, play based curriculum based on forever emerging and changing open-ended activities and events rather than a pre-prescribed (same every year, monthly themes never change), or “canned” curriculum, which fits some children but not all, and not meant to be changed by the teacher or children. We find that “flying by the seat of our pants” works very well. (April 2003 PPP newsletter)
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