At Cole Valley Gan, children learn through play
The act of playing is part of the developing child’s way of exploring the world. Play refines motor skills, encourages exploration, creates curiosity of the environment, and expands social, cognitive, and language boundaries.
The classroom environment plays a crucial role in a child’s learning. In fact, we consider the classroom/environment to be the third teacher.
The classroom set up is comprised of learning centers which include building blocks, art, dramatic play, books, water and sensory tables. These centers are changed up daily with provocations which encourage children to use the materials in different ways and think deeply about the world about them. The centers allow the child to have choices and actively explore with different mediums at a pace that meets his or her individual development.
The classroom belongs to the children. It is their classroom. They have access to all materials and they are presented on low shelves that the children can reach. They are encouraged to care for all these materials and treat them with respect. This care and respect will transfer to the care and respect of their home and their environment. It is through this opportunity to control their own small environment that the children learn to feel in control of themselves and learn to become independent and self-reliant.
The role of a teacher in a play based preschool is unique in the fact that the teacher isn't just supervising children play.
Teachers act as observers and facilitators. They ask pointed questions during play as a tool to deepen understanding, knowledge and skill, following the child's interest. They challenge the children to think deeply, experiment and gain a deeper awareness of the world around them.
Development of Self Esteem
Accepting tasks and responsibility
Initiative and independence
Creativity and Imagination
Working independently and with others
Positive interpersonal relationships between peers as well as teachers
Teaching the Whole Child
We encourage the children to develop self-motivation, active investigational skills through questioning, exploring and observing, and the thinking and problem solving abilities needed to thrive in a world of challenge and competition.
We encourage each child to work and play with others, to develop language communication skills, and to respect the rights and privacy of their peers. They learn to take turns, how to win and how to lose. They develop feelings of kindness, courtesy, helpfulness and acceptance.
Play affects children’s minds by teaching them cause and effect, symbolic thinking and causal inference. These skills are gained through testing, questioning and exploring, and will give a child an understanding of the space they move through.
Children are provided constant opportunities to develop their gross and fine motor skills, to develop finger strength and dexterity, and arm-eye and body coordination.
Children are encouraged to develop a positive self-concept, to understand the difference between right and wrong and to develop responsibility. They are encouraged to recognize that people are different and to be accepting of others. We teach children to recognize their emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, excitement) and we help them learn and practice appropriate ways to regulate their emotions.
Our Jewish values drive the curriculum, environment and school culture. We model and encourage kindness, respect, compassion, confidence and responsibility. Judaism teaches that the formative years of early childhood are vitally important. A child is viewed as a seed that we nurture with the utmost care, since the seed's every experience will shape and color the quality of its matured self.
Judaism underscores the uniqueness of every child with the axiom "chanoch l'naar al pi darko," teaching us to train children according to their individual paths. We recognize that each child has his or her unique needs, interests and passions. We practice an Emergent curriculum, using the child’s natural curiosity to direct their learning.
In addition, lesson plans are built around the events influencing the children at the time that they are being taught. Weather changes, Jewish holidays, Shabbat etc... determine what will be brought into the classroom at any particular time of year. All these are laced into the general curriculum to allow the children to learn from what is going on around them.
Learning Centers Help Kids Grow Socially
Learning Centers allows children to grow in their social skills. They navigate interactions with their peers during this time, and it is happening almost constantly. Here are just some of the ways centers help children socially:
Kids need to find a way to join in on play that’s already established at one center.
They need to negotiate the guidelines to what they’ll be doing in the center.
One child may want some time to herself at a center, and she needs to express that to her friends.
Children constantly work on who is using what material at any given time, and if they’re willing to share that with some friends.
When it’s time to clean up, the kids need to divvy up who will be responsible for what task.
A child might be struggling with a task he very much wants to do. He can ask a friend for help, a friend could offer to help, or some combination thereof.
Looks like just playing? Not really. In this area children work the hardest at many skills which they will use throughout their life. As children engage in pretend or dramatic play, they are actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, children learn to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve.
Dramatic play helps children understand the power of language as words are used to reenact a stories. This process helps children make the connection between spoken and written language - a critical pre-reading skill.
Problem solving is another aspect of pretend play. Whether it's two children wanting to play the same role or searching for the just right material to make a roof for the playhouse, children are using essential cognitive skills.
As children tear paper for a collage or use scissors to cut, they refine small muscle movements. Making lines and shapes with markers and crayons are activities that help children develop the fine motor control they need for writing.
Children draw, paint, and sculpt what they know. As they translate their ideas and feelings into art, they use thinking skills to plan, organize, select media, and represent their impressions.
The art table provides open ended opportunities where the process is more important than the product. How children use the materials is much more important than what they make with them. Using creative thinking skills and expressing ones creativity are important self-esteem builders.
As children experiment with different sized containers in the sensory area, they develop math skills such as size, conservation, counting, matching, and sorting. As children manipulate the materials, they understand the concepts such as more or less, full or empty, and sink or float. Science concepts such as cause and effect, gravity, and solid to liquid are also explored.
Building with blocks or other building materials teaches children about balance, gravity and is fundamental for later cognitive success in learning mathematics and numbers, particularly in algebra.
Blocks building also develops early scientific skills. Children learn to problem solve as they build structures, constantly experimenting and figuring out better systems.