Children learn through their play by exploring, problem-solving, self-initiating, making decisions, watching, feeling, and engaging in reflective conversation. They learn through their play because play is meaningful to them. Children must have hands-on interaction with material, because in order for information to reach the child's brain, it must first go through the hands. Children learn best when taught in a way that honors their developmental capabilities. A variety of experiences support various styles of learning.
Our approach draws from many prominent early education philosophies. We incorporate a Reggio Emilia style when we create classroom environments that invite self-initiated learning and when we build on our learning through projects, dialogue, and group experience. Thematic curriculum solidifies experiential learning as knowledge deepens and becomes real.
Jean Piaget told us that children construct their own knowledge, and we follow this approach when we follow the children's lead in creating the curriculum. Waldorf-style education promotes the natural aesthetics of the classroom. We value our eco-friendly materials and beautiful works and environment, as it shows a respect for the child and a trust that the children will care for their learning materials. Child sized equipment and self-serve style learning materials give children the opportunity to feel ownership over their play. These ideas were coined by Maria Montessori, a pioneer in early education. Most importantly, we use the principles of RIE, infusing teacher-child interactions with respect, honoring the child for their capabilities and potential to guide their unique process of learning.
An "emergent curriculum" follows the child's cues and creates experiences that emerge from the group's interest. Classroom themes are based on interests, and the teacher's role is to set up a curriculum that capitalizes on these interests. Sometimes this interest gravitates toward science, sometimes toward academics, sometimes to art, and sometimes it leads to rich sensorial experiences like playing in the sand and mud and paint and air.
The most important part of what we do with children is in how relate to them. Relational learning creates a foundation for all other learning. Teachers support children through play, conflict, conversation, and having meaningful interactions. We also act as meaningful attachment objects for children, whereby we contribute to the blueprint of how children relate to others and themselves. We find each child's strengths and challenges and work with those to help them flourish socially. Then we begin to see the development of a whole person, who can find their way, lead and follow, feel secure and speak up when they don't, have self awareness and compassion and courageous assertiveness. They will know their boundaries and know how to cope with big feelings. These children will be leaders with agency in their own lives because they have a foundation of love, care, awareness, and play.