SEHS - Lowry Center for Early Childhood Education

Pawley Hall
456 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)

Lowry Banner - Curriculum

Curriculum

Overview

The Lowry educators are considered facilitators and co-researchers within the realm of children’s learning.  They plan experiences based on the children’s interests and provocations derived from their observations and anecdotal notes of the children’s experiences and involvement.  The program encourages emergent reading, writing, art, music and movement skills and abilities.  Hands-on experiences with stimulating and interesting materials promote children’s understanding and mastery of various math and science concepts.  There is a focus on encouraging children’s logical thinking through problem solving and mediation.

The curriculum is designed from an eclectic approach; meaning parts of various philosophies and formats are incorporated to ensure a quality program.  The daily routine is comprised of planning time, work time, and recall time as defined by the HighScope Curriculum.  Project work (Project Based Learning) provides children with the opportunity to truly use their minds and delve more deeply into exploring various topics and questions.  Project work takes the process of systematic instruction (various educational concepts) to a more hands-on, investigative and explorative level.  It provides children with the opportunity to predict, test out, and evaluate their ideas, questions, and interests.  Within the project approach, learning becomes intrinsically motivating for children as they initiate their own learning and discovery.  As children are involved in more project experiences, they become familiar and competent in the process and framework of planning, exploring and further developing, and concluding a piece of work that is something interesting and worthwhile for them.  Their hands-on involvement in the process allows them to relate new skills and concepts to past experiences and to synthesize new and old experiences.  Elements of the Reggio Emilia approach are also evident as interactions between adults and children occur, environments are planned, and children’s ideas are valued.

The program strives to help children develop a strong self-esteem, to grow in trust and autonomy, to develop a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn.  Ongoing authentic assessment through observations, anecdotal notes, and portfolio collections assure individual children’s development and growth.  The program utilizes the HighScope Child Observation Record (COR) as an assessment tool.

All adults working with children maintain a respectful and supportive relationship with them.  Interactions and verbal guidance are stated in a positive manner that suggests the desired behavior or activity.  Children are encouraged and enabled to become independent and responsible for their own needs, social interactions and behaviors.

The Lowry Center believes that success of each child’s experience and learning is dependent upon the relationship between the staff, families, and children.  A strong sense of community is developed when all participants are focused on the children.

The HighScope Approach

The HighScope curriculum / approach is based on a consistent daily routine that supports active learning and builds on children’s interests. Through active learning children construct knowledge through immediate hands-on experiences that are supported by adults. The classroom environment supports children’s development no matter where they are. The classroom space is divided into well-defined interest areas to encourage distinctive types of play and promote development in all areas. These areas are flexible to accommodate practical considerations and children’s changing interests.

 

The HighScope pre-school daily routine includes the plan-do-review process, which enables children to express their intentions, carry them out, and reflect on what they have done. Planning in the HighScope approach is a process in which internal goals shape anticipated actions. As young children plan, they may start with a personal intention. These intentions may be expressed through actions, gestures, or words. After planning children carry out their plans during work time. Work time provides an opportunity for children to carry out self-initiated plans through a variety of different types of play. Work time promotes children’s innate desire and need to explore, experiment, invent, construct, and pretend. Play is the work of the child. Recall time helps children make sense of their actions during work time. During recall children remember and reflect upon their experiences by talking with both children and adults. Also included in the daily routine are a small group time, large group time, and an outside time. During small group time children are encouraged to explore and experiment with new or familiar materials adults have selected based on their daily observations of children’s interests, curriculum goals, and the key experiences. During large group time both children and adults initiate music and movement activities, sharing, discussion, classroom communication and stories. Adults set each large group time in motion around a plan they make relating to the children’s current interests and developmental abilities. During outside time children engage in a variety of large motor activities. Adults using the HighScope pre-school approach use adult-child interaction strategies as they converse and play with children throughout the day. Adults practice positive interaction strategies-sharing control with children; they focus on children’s strengths and form authentic relationships with children. Teaching staff strive to support children’s play and adopt a problem-solving approach to social conflict. The HighScope curriculum supports observing children and authentic assessment. Through observation and interaction, adults get to know children. They watch and listen closely to children as they work and play with them to find out what interests them, what holds their attention, and what they understand about their world. This information serves as a basis for assessment and planning for classroom strategies and activities.

 

Hohmann M. & Weikart, D. P. (2000) Educating Young Children. HighScope Press: Ypsilanti, MI

The Project Approach
to Learning and Curriculum
The Lowry Center incorporates principles of project-based learning at various levels throughout the center and the various programs.

The Project Approach refers to a way of teaching and learning, as well as to the content of what is taught and learned (Katz & Chard, pg. 3). Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences. They are based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in groups and to revisit ideas and experiences is the premier way of gaining better understanding and learning (p. 7). Projects are based on the children’s interests and their familiar knowledge.

The five major aims of the project approach are:

1) Intellectual goals and the life of the mind
· Provides a developmentally appropriate curriculum which means to provide children with engaging learning experiences that will deepen the child’s understanding  
· Improving the child’s understanding of the world around them and strengthening their dispositions to go on learning      

2) Balance of activities
· Project work should complement and enhance what children learn from spontaneous play as well as from systematic instruction.  
· The teacher takes her lead from the children.      
· Small group work is typical.      
· Teachers check in and find out if interests have changed or evolved.      

3) Fieldwork / Work Time / Implementation
· The teachers would provide developmentally appropriate activities. [Example: The interest was cars – some things could be provided -car books, magazines, newspaper car ads, boxes to create cars, different sized cars to sort, car washing, etc.]  
· Work Time is a time for the teacher to observe the children’s learning experiences and skills, engaging the children to find out ways to add more to their own knowledge construction. It is also a time for teachers to observe and make plans for the next work session.      
· Areas of learning are integrated - Math, Science, Literacy, Music, Movement, Social skills, etc.      

4) Review / Recall
· This time usually happens at the end of a session or activity.  
· Many techniques could be used to implement recall – journals, writing down child quotes, using games, using songs, etc.      

5) Display / Share
· Children’s work can be displayed in center areas or placed in portfolios  
· Documentation of child’s work with photos and explanations    

Conclusions
Through the project approach, children are able to express their interests, expand their knowledge with developmentally appropriate activities and develop a sense of oneself and others around them.

The above information was taken from: Engaging Children’s Minds: The Project Approach, by Lillian Katz & Sylvia Chard. For further information on Project Approach see: The Project Approach, (Book Two) by Sylvia Chard, Ph.D. Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years, by Judy Harris Helm & Lillian Katz.                                                          
Reggio-Inspired
Curriculum

The Lowry Center’s beliefs about young children are in line with the basic principles set forward by the Reggio Emilia Approach. This approach originated in a municipally sponsored early childhood school in Reggio Emilia, Italy. This highly developed approach has become a point of reference and a guide for many educators throughout the world.

The following principles guide the Reggio Emilia Approach and highlight how this approach is used at the Lowry Center.

Basic Principles

Image of the child

All children have preparedness, potential, curiosity, and interest in engaging in social interaction, establishing relationships, constructing their learning and negotiating with everything in their environment. Teachers are deeply aware of children’s potentials and construct the environment accordingly.

Children’s Relationships and Interactions Within a System

Each child in relation with family, other children, teachers, the environment and the wider society is the focus of education.

The Three Subjects of Education: Children, Parents, and Teachers

In order for children to learn, their well-being has to be guaranteed. This sense of well-being is connected with that of parents and teachers. Children’s rights and needs should be recognized. Children have a right to high-quality care and education that supports the development of their individual potentials. Parents’ rights to be involved in the life of the school and teachers’ rights to grow professionally are respected.

Role of Parents

Parents are an essential component of the program. Parents participation takes on many and varied forms and is expected and supported.

Role of Space

Arrangement of the physical space in addition to welcoming those who enter the school, fosters communication and relationships. The arrangement of fixtures and materials encourages choice, problem solving and discoveries. The learning space is full of children’s work - in the classroom, halls, bathrooms, and more.

The Value of Relationships and Interaction of Children in Small Groups

Teachers offer the possibility for children to be with the teachers and many of the other children, with just a few of them, or even alone when they need a private place to stay by themselves. Small groups of two, three, four, or five children provide possibilities for focusing, hearing and listening to each other, developing curiosity and interest, asking and responding to questions. This provides opportunities for negotiation and communication. This type of grouping also enables the emergence of cognitive conflicts that can initiate a process in which children construct new learning together.

Role of Time and the Importance of Continuity

Children’s sense of time and their rhythms are considered in planning and carrying out activities and experiences. Because teachers have time to discuss and interact with each other they get to know children and their particular characteristics. Every effort is made to provide continuity of staff.

Teachers as Partners

Teachers observe and listen to children closely as they plan for experiences. This enables them to act as a resource for children as they ask questions and discover children’s ideas, hypotheses, and theories. The role of the teachers is one of continual research and learning process. This process takes place with the children and is embedded in team cooperation. This provides for continuous individual and group professional growth.

Cooperating and Collaboration

Teachers work in teams in each program to gather information about work children have done by means of documentation, discussion, observation and assessment. Teachers are provided with ample time in their schedule for meetings, preparations, parent conferencing, and in-service training. To support and meet the needs of the children and families, teachers use planning time to offer high quality experiences for children.

Many Languages of Children

Children can explore various art materials, such as painting easels, inventor’s box, art table, and a variety of writing and art tools. This use of media is not a separate part of the curriculum but an inseparable, integral part of the whole cognitive/symbolic expression involved in the process of learning.

Power of Documentation

Transcripts of children’s words and discussions, photographs of children engaged in activities, and representations of their thinking and learning using many medias are arranged on the walls of the classroom to document children’s work. Benefits of documentation can include:

· Making parents aware of children’s experiences

· Maintaining parent involvement

· Allowing for teachers to understand children better

· Evaluating children’s work

· Providing a venue for children to recall and value their own work and the process of that work

· Facilitated communication and exchange ideas among educators.

Emergent Curriculum

The curriculum is not established in advanced. Teachers express general goals and make hypotheses about what learning may occur in activities and projects. Then, after observing children in action, teachers compare, discuss, and interpret their observations. They make choices about what to offer and how to sustain the children in their exploration and learning. In fact, the curriculum emerges in the process of each activity or project and is flexibly adjusted accordingly through continuous dialogue among the teaching team and the children.

Projects

Projects often provide a basis for children’s and teacher’s learning experiences. They are based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance. By discussing and revisiting experiences, understanding, knowledge construction and ownership of concepts can occur. Ideas for projects originate from teachers and children as they express interests and construct knowledge together. Projects can last a few days to several months. They may start either from a chance event, a problem posed by one or more children, or an experience initiated directly by the teaching team.

Conclusions

The Reggio Emilia Approach allows us to support the basic rights of children. These rights are:

· To realize and expand all their potentials while receiving support by adults who value the children’s capacity to socialize

· To receive and give affection and trust

· To have adults ready to help them by sustaining the children’s own constructive strategies of thought and action rather than by simply transmitting knowledge and skills.

The rights of parents to participate actively and of free will in the experience of growth, care, and learning of their own children is also valued. This participation is vital to the sense of security for children and parents. Parent participation is an essential part of working together, sharing values, ideas, and content of education.

The right of teachers to contribute to the content of knowledge, objectives, and practice of education is supported through a network of collaboration. The learning environment is always open to professional growth and research.

“Respect for these rights will bring mutual and shared benefits for children, parents, and teachers. This makes it possible for all to construct learning together and renders the school an amiable place that is welcoming, alive, and authentic.” (Hendrick, 1997, p. 25).

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This information is taken from First Steps Toward Teaching the Reggio Way, by Joanne Hendrick (Ed.), (1997) Prentice Hall, Inc.: Upper Saddle River, NJ.