Early Childhood

A prekindergarten student smiles as she greets her teacher

The mission of the Pembroke Hill 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.

We believe that every part of a child’s day at Pembroke Hill early childhood school is a learning opportunity. The Pembroke Hill school day is filled with opportunities for our young students to construct knowledge through exploring, investigating, questioning, experimenting, reflecting, representing and interacting. Learning happens while children are

  • Playing in our developmentally appropriate classrooms,
  • Exploring nature outside,
  • Engaged in the carefully planned routines,
  • Interacting in small group experiences,
  • Taking part in large group experiences,
  • Participating in rich child centered activities, and
  • Interacting with their families, teachers, friends and environment.

The Pembroke Hill early childhood school is influenced by the world-renowned Reggio Emilia philosophy of education. At the heart of this philosophy is the image of each child as a competent, capable and curious individual full of potential. Our teachers honor this curiosity and natural desire to learn by encouraging their students to wonder, ask questions, create hypotheses and search for answers.

Educational research backs the Reggio Emilia Approach belief that strong relationships are critical to a child’s brain development and learning. At Pembroke Hill we know the safety and comfort of warm and receptive student-teacher and student-student relationships are important for learning. In every classroom teachers create a strong sense of community that includes children, families, teachers and campus staff.

The Reggio Emilia approach has a saying, "the environment is the third teacher." The Pembroke Hill early childhood school has embraced this belief by planning our environment with intent. All materials, routines and activities in each classroom have been purposefully selected to provide opportunities for children to grow, learn and develop.

Professional Development

In keeping with the Reggio Emilia emphasis on lifelong learning, Pembroke Hill early childhood teachers enjoy many opportunities for professional development. These include: job imbedded development, opportunities to mentor student teachers, tour schools, and attend national and international conferences. Over the past year, we have worked with a math consultant in a school wide effort to align our mathematics curriculum, attended workshops at the Nelson Atkins Museum to bring depth to our arts program, visited a science lab and traveled to Tulsa to participate in a Reggio Emilia inspired conference. This summer, teachers will be attending a Reggio Emilia conference in Colorado and the Summer Institute on the Project Approach both led by internationally recognized educators.

Over the past ten years, early childhood teachers have traveled together to Reggio-inspired schools in Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota and Oklahoma, where they tour, attend conferences and collaborate. Teachers have individually attended Reggio conferences throughout the United States. Last summer, two of our teachers traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy, to participate in a week-long international study session.

Weekly meetings provide time for teachers to collaborate and learn from one another. All staff meetings include a professional development component, with a focus of study selected for the year. Furthermore we have had the opportunity for nationally-recognized early childhood professionals on the project approach, Reggio approach, 21st Century Education and mathematics serve as consultants to our school.

The Reggio Emilia Approach

At the heart of the Reggio philosophy is the belief that children are strong, competent and born ready to learn. The fundamental principles of the Reggio Emilia approach include:

The Child as an Active Participant

The Reggio Emilia approach sees a child as a competent protagonist. Children are naturally curious, they are searching for meaning as they make connections from what they know and have experienced to the new and yet unexplored. Recognizing and following the children's interests allows classroom learning to become intrinsic. For example, when a preschool class showed interest in a particular tree at Loose Park the teachers took them to the tree throughout the school year. While visiting the tree, the children observed firsthand how it changed from summer, to fall, to winter, to spring. In the classroom and at the park, the children were given many opportunities to question and search for answers about the tree. The investigation included experiences which reinforced math skills, problem-solving and emergency literacy - all in relationship to their hands-on investigation of the tree.

The Teacher, Parent and Child as Collaborators

The Reggio Emilia approach views parent participation as essential for building the safe and secure school community necessary for children's active learning.

Teachers As Researchers

The teacher's role within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex. Working as co-teachers, the role of the teacher is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to children (Edwards, 1993). Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe and document children's work and the growth of community in their classroom. Teachers are to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking and children's collaboration with peers. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.

Teacher role is to:

  • Co-explore the learning experiences with the children;
  • Provoke ideas, problem solving and conflict resolution;
  • Take cues from the children and provide opportunities for further explorations;
  • Organize the classroom and materials to be aesthetically pleasing;
  • Facilitate children’s thoughtful decisions ;
  • Document children's progress: photographs, videos, displays and portfolios;
  • Support children in discovering the connections in learning and experiences;
  • Scaffold children in expressing their knowledge through representational work;
  • Form a community among other teachers and parents;
  • Have a dialogue about the projects with parents and other teachers; and
  • Foster the connection between home, school and community.

Representational Development

Consistent with Howard Gardner's notion of schooling for multiple intelligences, the Reggio Emilia approach utilizes the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypotheses in multiple forms of representation -- print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry and shadow play -- are viewed as essential to children's understanding of experience.


Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Children are encouraged to dialogue, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize and problem solve through group work. Within the Reggio Emilia approach, multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self.


Documentation of children's work is viewed as an important tool in understanding children’s learning and their process of learning. Teachers use a variety of media, including photographs, daily journals, videos and displays to make the children’s learning visible to the families. Our goal is give an authentic picture of each child’s development: socially/emotionally, cognitively and physically.

Parents As Partners

We are a family centered program based on Loris Malaguzzi's vision of an "education for children based on relationships." This vision focuses on each child in relation to others and seeks to activate and support children's reciprocal relationships with other children, family, teachers, society and the environment. We promote an interactive community of inquiry between children, teachers, parents, and school community.

We believe open communication is essential element in successful communities. Families are kept informed with a Daily Journal, conferences, a digital portfolio, and a detailed assessment of their child’s development and learning.

Encouraging high levels of family participation is another aspect of our daily lives at Pembroke Hill early childhood school. Families take part and provide input into the classroom activities through:

  • Guest reading;
  • Sharing a skill or hobby;
  • Serving as a room parent;
  • Assisting with a party;
  • Chaperoning a field trip;
  • Participating in a family meeting to plan a project;
  • Open house forums;
  • Informational meetings; and
  • Surveys.

Continuity Of Relationships

The Reggio Emilia philosophy stresses that education is based on relationships. Research has established that 95 percent of the brain develops in the first five years of life, and children develop best in communities where they feel safe, happy and secure. At Pembroke Hill we believe children and parents have the right to continuity of relationships.

If your child is enrolled in our early years program, he/she will move up to preschool with the entire class to a new teacher and classroom. Preschool teachers “loop” with their students. This means that children in preschool will stay together, in the same classroom, with the same teacher, for both preschool and prekindergarten. We believe that the relationships children and families develop through “looping” creates the optimal atmosphere for learning.