At the heart of the Reggio philosophy is the belief that children are strong, competent and born ready to learn. They are full of emerging ideas and creativity; they are not empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge. For all children, especially the youngest ones, this process begins by developing trusting relationships. Teachers and children then begin to understand each other’s expressions of wonder, excitement, confusion and joy. Often, one child’s excitement is spread to others in the room.
Our Reggio-inspired curriculum is flexible and emerges from children’s ideas, thoughts and observations. Children identify what they want to learn more about: airplanes, worms, emotions, construction, reptiles, rainbows or anything else that captures their interest and imagination.
Children form their own hypotheses and try to answer their own questions. Caring, respectful teachers help them learn to ask good questions and guide them toward answers, rather than answering their questions for them. Teachers also use the classroom and outdoor environments to provoke new experiences and inspire learning. Parents are encouraged to continue these conversations with their children at home or to participate in the classrooms as volunteers.
Children learn more about the topics they have chosen by exploring the world. Sometimes this involves bringing the world into the classroom. Classes invite guests such as firefighters and scuba divers to talk with them. They create worm bins and animal habitats. Outdoors, children observe plants, animals, trees, the weather and hundreds of other things that capture their interests. Field trips to locations such as the Deanna Rose Farmstead, the super market, fire station, Union Station and zoo are planned to help the children pursue their ideas. They also explore their interests in the art and music studios. Teachers observe, participate in, and document children’s experiences in order to make thoughtful decisions about how to develop curriculum.
As children engage in topics that interest them, they learn to work together collaboratively and respectfully. Education is based on relationships, exchange and communication. Our preschool and prekindergarten classes have continuity of education. Our children and teachers stay together for more than one year to build meaningful deep relationships and to participate in more indepth project work.
Children express their thoughts and feelings about what they have learned through a variety of means such as art, music, language, dance and play. For example, a classroom studying animals might sketch the animal they are interest in, move in the way an animal moves, make a clay model of the animal, design a face mask or a paper mache animal and take a field trip to the nature center or the zoo.
Teachers share the children’s learning and insights with parents and the entire Pembroke Hill School community through detailed documentation. As the school year progresses, the walls are covered not only with the children’s work, but their teachers’ documentation of the children’s thoughts, ideas and growth through their projects. Teachers provide parents with e-mailed or written documentation of daily life in the classroom.
The mission of the early childhood school is to provide developmentally appropriate opportunities for children to grow cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically, to their maximum potential, in an intentionally-planned environment that fosters a sense of community and a life-long love of learning.