Curriculum in the early childhood setting means all the interactions, experiences, activities, routines and events – planned and unplanned – that occur in an environment designed to foster children’s learning and development.
-adapted from Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Curriculum Framework
The Weekday School was established in 1949 as an outreach of the church’s Christian Education program to offer young children in the community opportunities to grow as thinking children, who discover the world around them with creativity and curiosity, capable children who work with other children and adults to solve problems together, caring children who learn to share themselves and things with others, contented children who enjoy learning, and loving children who are being loved, respected and challenged in a safe and secure environment where they have fun. We hope that by providing this atmosphere and these experiences, our school will help prepare children to become people who respect others, value diversity, and will be active, contributing members of their communities in the future.
What is the HPC-NWS Framework About?
Current research shows that young children need a variety of stimulating experiences in order to enhance their growth and development. Our developmental approach to early childhood means that we welcome each child as she or he comes to us and we pay attention to, and hope to enhance their physical, social, emotional, cognitive and moral growth.
This curriculum framework is a foundation out of which come the daily experiences of children, their families and the teachers who work with them. It is not about specific activities for content or subject matter, but more importantly, this curriculum framework is about why – a rationale for practice.
Play is Learning
Young children do not learn because they are taught, they learn by doing. They learn through play. When children play they are showing what they have learned and what they are trying to understand. Therefore, PLAY is at the center of our curriculum framework. We then consider the principles, practice and learning outcomes determined to be at the core of our curriculum and become more intentional with our teaching.
Principles (Planning for Learning)
These principles are believed to be the core elements of what we do.
Children learn and construct knowledge through meaningful experiences that build interest, motivation and a love for learning. We plan experiences and projects that match children’s learning styles and developmental needs, and that take age into consideration.
We use the children’s interests as a basis for our curriculum. By observing and listening to the children we are able to identify what they want to learn more about: babies, peacocks, worms, shadows or anything else that captures their interest or imagination.
We consider relationships to be the foundation of everything we do at HPWS. The research tells us that children’s brains develop when they are in nurturing relationships. We base these relationships on respect and the belief that children are competent and capable.
Children thrive when school and families work together in partnership to support young children’s learning. We strive to create a welcoming environment where all children and families are respected and encouraged to collaborate with teachers to ensure that learning experiences are meaningful. Working with clay, sharing cultural rituals, teaching Spanish, reading books, and singing are just a few examples of how parents have partnered and been a part of the curriculum.
Practice (Promoting Learning)
Our practice draws from numerous pedagogical approaches including the Reggio Emilia Approach, Lilian Katz’s Project Approach, Vygotsky’s theories on social constructivism and scaffolding, and others which inspire the “Hi Ho Way.”
Learning through play
Play is very important to children’s learning so we offer large blocks of time for children to explore, create, imagine and concentrate. During this time children develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. To assist children in their play, activities and materials are provided in our dramatic play, block, science, sensory, manipulatives and literacy areas in the classroom as well as on the playground and patio.
The Reggio Emilia approach refers to the “environment as the third teacher, where design and use of space encourage encounters, communication, and relationships.” We are inspired by this approach and believe children learn from attractive and interesting materials provided in an organized and thoughtful manner. We maintain a variety of materials to use on a rotating basis or to extend an idea emerging from children’s play. Most of these materials are open-ended.
Our role is to set up a child-centered environment with rich and varied activities that integrates experiences in the following areas:
Literacy: reading and listening to stories and poems, talking and writing about our daily experiences individually and in groups, experiencing in many ways letters, sounds, and words, numbers, etc.
Math: counting, matching, sorting, sequencing, patterning, estimating, adding and subtracting, recognizing numbers, etc.
Science: observing, predicting, comparing size, problem solving, classifying, studying nature
Music: singing, moving our bodies, playing instruments, listening to sounds, creating new tunes and rhythms
Art: painting, drawing, sculpting, representing our world in a variety of media, and imagining and making new creations
Responsiveness to Children
Learning is meaningful when it is responsive to how young children learn. It is important when planning experiences for the group and for individual children that we learn who they are and what interests them. We do this by listening to the children as they play, observing them, designing experiences according to their needs and interests, and documenting their work. This gives value to the children’s thinking and enhances their learning.
Intentional teaching is “to always be thinking about what we are doing and how it will foster children’s development and produce real and lasting learning.” (Epstein, 2007) We do this by making informed decisions based on the children’s interests, child development, developmentally appropriate practice and being individually appropriate. By observing – planning – doing – reflecting – and changing as needed – we act purposefully.
We believe that when children are engaging in meaningful experiences, it’s important for them to have uninterrupted TIME to make choices, solve problems, interact with and respect others, and learn together with the adults around them in an unhurried peaceful environment. We balance times children make choices on their own with times they’ll learn to do what the group does. Through this collaboration children and adults learn from each other.
Learning Outcomes (Assessing Learning)
The process of gathering information as evidence about what children know, can do, and understand is part of an ongoing cycle that includes planning, documenting and evaluating children’s learning. Through relevant and meaningful authentic assessment, we give value to the children’s thinking which enhances their learning.
Learning outcomes – skills, knowledge and dispositions – are encouraged and supported in collaboration with children and families.
Children are confident and involved learners.
Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, enthusiasm, persistence and imagination. They increasingly are able to take responsibility for their own learning, personal regulation and social contribution.
Children have a strong identity.
Children feel safe and supported which can be seen in their secure attachments with teachers and peers, the ability to initiate and join in play, cooperate and work with others and an increasing ability to self-regulate.
Children are connected with and contribute to their school community.
Children have a sense of belonging and comfort in their environment which is demonstrated when they help others, respond to diversity with respect, and share their ideas with others.
When children experience the “Hi Ho Way” they feel good about themselves and those around them. We encourage children to be enthusiastic, excited learners. Our ultimate reward is hearing these words, “I can do it!” “We did it together!”