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October 30, 2020 | Emily Ford Sytsma
Mustard Seed School is expanding our preschool offerings for the 2020-21 school year. We will have two classes: a three-year-old class and a four-year-old class.
Our early childhood program uses a Reggio-inspired approach. What does it mean to be Reggio-inspired? Reggio Emilia is a region of Italy where the preschools have developed a progressive, child-centered approach to learning. There are several aspects of our program that are modeled after these schools in Italy.
We call the child the protagonist of the experience at school. The child is at the center of the learning, not because children come to school lacking in knowledge, but because they are ALREADY capable, curious, and creative thinkers. We believe that the role of the teacher is to come alongside children and become partners in their learning. Our teachers value each child’s experience and they provide a stimulating and fluid environment that can respond to the ideas and questions the children have.
We also understand that the family has a crucial role in learning. What does this look like?
Communication. We want for you to know about what is going on at school and we provide pictures and stories and information through a family app, weekly newsletters, and blog posts. In non-COVID times, we invite parents into the classroom every day so that you can see the work and the materials and participate with your child.
We offer a number of opportunities for parents to volunteer at school so that your gifts are seen and leveraged in our community as well.
There are so many languages children can use to show us what they are thinking and to explain the theories they are developing. We offer drawing, paint, clay, wire sculpture, collage, blocks, dramatic play… and more. As children work with these languages, their thinking becomes visible. They show teachers and each other what they know and notice. Teachers can prompt them to reflect and question and seek answers. In this way their ideas become more complete. Through art languages, children have independence in their own learning.
The first thing that people notice when spending time in our classrooms is how many conversations are happening. You see teachers are in conversation with students. And teachers have designed ways for children to be in meaningful conversations with each other.
We know that collaboration is a 21st century skill. When the children who are in kindergarten today enter the workplace in 20 years, they will need to know how to share ideas and work together in complex ways. We intentionally teach the social skills that children need for effective collaboration.
Play is not only a source of delight for the young child, it’s the basis for academic readiness. We know that in pretend play, children engage more areas of their brains than in almost any other activity because it involves the whole child. We want for young children to spend time playing at school. And we want to utilize every moment of that play time to the fullest and so much of the play in our program is guided play, not free play. Teachers are involved in the play, to offer new vocabulary words and concepts, to ask questions to stretch the thinking and to pose problems that students can work to solve. It is in this guided play that teachers layer in academic skills and children develop a strong foundation they need to be ready for strong academic work in upper grades.
We integrate a life of faith into everything that we do. We want children to know God loves them and is with them at all times and in all places. The school day begins with a time of worship that is developmentally appropriate and accessible to young children. Time spent in worship forms the basis for social-emotional learning. For learning the language of apology. Forgiveness. For caring for one another and serving one another.