children at circle time
 
 


Educational Philosophies of Bright Prospects Cooperative Preschool

Throughout our school day, we strive to create real-life experiences for the child: the opportunity for conflict and conflict resolution, independent social interaction, child-centered exploration of their environment and imaginative play, verbal self-expression, the chance to exert independence in daily activities, and the opportunity to make and learn from mistakes and to overcome challenges. We weave these experiences into our daily activities and curriculum to help every child grow and flourish. 


Outdoor Time/Large Motor Development 

Unstructured outdoor time offers one of the best opportunities for social interaction and growth. On the playground, children are able to interact with one another and negotiate the social structure on their own terms. They introduce themselves to one another, ask to play, or invite others to join them. With minimal adult intervention, the children work out what games they will play and how they will play them. They offer ideas to each other and compromise, or choose to play on their own. They also experience conflict—whose ideas will they choose, who gets to play with the shovel first, when will it be their turn. On the playground, we, as teachers, intentionally have minimal interaction with the children. We observe them and step in only when it becomes clear they don’t have the words or processes yet to negotiate the social landscape. When we do step in, it is to offer them the tools they need to successfully navigate these challenges. By giving them the language to assert their needs or feelings and encouraging the children to use these words and face these problems independently, their successes become theirs alone. This helps build confidence and becomes a powerful lesson (much more than if an adult were to intervene and take over): They did it and they can do it again. 


Circle Time 

Whereas outside time is intentionally unstructured, Circle Time is exactly the opposite: very structured and very formal. Here, we are working on listening skills and attention span as well as how to interact with others in a large, formal group. This means sitting and waiting for your turn, raising your hand before speaking, and listening quietly when others are talking. At the start of the year, Circle Time is shorter than it is later in the year. This helps build the attention span of the younger students who have not yet been exposed to sitting and listening for a longer length of time. Academically, Circle Time offers an opportunity to introduce literacy and math concepts through songs, books, and the calendar. This is also when we introduce science concepts that correspond to our theme. Often, these concepts are geared more towards the older children who will be moving on to kindergarten the following year, whereas the intention for younger students is to simply expose them to those ideas. Teachers maintain students' excitement about learning through activities including art, yoga, music, singing, stories, and puppetry. The curriculum covers engaging topics such as outer space, transportation, ocean lift, and fairy tales to name a few.


Group Time 

The first half of Group Time is set aside to work on math and prediction skills as we chart the weather, make predictions about what types of weather will occur both most and least often during the month, and count the first hundred days. The second half is devoted to gross motor, singing, or skill-building games. Some days we might dance and give kids a chance to explore physical intelligence. Other days we might play a treasure hunting game and sort objects by color, shape, and size––or all three. We might also follow up on a science-related project begun earlier in the day or week. Often, Group Time is a chance for children to work on following multiple-step directions in a group setting. 


Show-and-Tell 

About a month into the year, we introduce weekly Show-and-Tell days to Circle Time. Children are given a chance to explore public speaking and verbal skills as they talk about what they’ve brought in. It’s also a chance, though, for them to learn how to wait for their turn as they listen to their classmates share. 


Art Projects 

Art is divided into two categories in our school: child-directed art such as the painting easel or the play-dough table and art projects. While art projects may result in beautiful art, the goal of art projects in our classroom is not to produce art but offer students a chance to explore their imagination and creativity as well as push their development and work on skills which, though attainable, may be just beyond their present reach. We focus on things such as fine-motor skills, following two and three-step directions, focus, and independent choices. At times, this may be difficult for some students. Some may not yet have the skills to cut accurately or to fold a piece of paper or sit for an extended period of time while working on a project. However, with more exposure and opportunities to practice, the easier these skills become. For these reasons, throughout the year we will offer both “no-thank-you” and “yes-please” projects. “No-thank-you” projects are ones where we aren’t working on any specific skill or set of skills so children have the chance to choose whether or not to participate. “Yes-please” projects are ones where we do have specific goals or skills we want the children to practice. These are the projects we intentionally plan to target the students’ zones of proximal development so that they can push themselves and work on those difficult skills. For these projects, all students will be called to the art table to spend time working on the project.


Self Help 

Throughout the school day, we encourage children to do things independently. This includes tasks such as nose-blowing, hand washing, putting on outdoor clothes or inside shoes, hanging up jackets and sweaters, and cleaning up areas and tables. The importance of encouraging children to do these things themselves is that it not only develops these skills, it also builds their self-confidence and independence.