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Building Blocks of Early Learning

The educational philosophies of different preschool approaches

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Public preschools in Indiana are required to utilize the Foundations; however, private daycares and preschools may choose alternative methods. Cara Paul, director of the Children's Circle Preschool of Second Presbyterian Church, says her school doesn't adhere to the Foundations, but follows a developmentally appropriate, play-based Creative Curriculum. This proposes that young children learn best by doing. It encourages active thinking and using one's senses to discover how things work.

"We believe that learning comes through play – everything from reading to math," says Paul. "Children learn best by using all of their senses. That means they might get messy in the sandbox or doing art, but they are learning."

Lowe agrees that learning through play is essential for young children. "What children need most in order to thrive in school is the freedom to explore, to figure out how things work and the opportunity to build social skills such as negotiating, waiting, sharing and taking turns."

Reggio Emilia and Montessori are traditional approaches that are widely regarded as excellent teaching methods, and can be used in conjunction with the Foundations. Both are based on the "constructivist theory," which allows children to learn through exploration of their environment, as opposed to direct instruction by a teacher. "The teacher is a partner in learning, versus the purveyor of knowledge," says Lowe.

Another technique that is often used in early education is known as Conscious Discipline. This is a method of helping children learn to regulate their emotions and actions by recognizing and acknowledging how they feel. "It's about being able to say, 'I'm mad,' and what made them mad, and that it's okay to feel mad," says Paul. "It's about taking ownership of their feelings."

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Tags: Education, In This Issue, Kids

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