A good question to reflect upon at the beginning of each school year is this: What is important to us in our work with young children, their families, and one another?
Because, ultimately, shouldn’t we see evidence of what matters, what is important – in the child care center, and in each classroom? Shouldn’t the words in our philosophy, our mission statement, our goals, come to life? Shouldn’t we see, hear, and feel the reality of our conceptual thoughts and ideas?
Yes! Yes! And, yes!
Years ago, our child care center sought to connect the dots, so that everyone involved in our program would be able to articulate our philosophy – our shared vision for our early childhood program. Additionally, we wanted everyone to be able to explain the reason behind curriculum projects, the ideas behind our displays and documentation, why we placed furniture as we did, why we had certain materials available in our classrooms, and why we chose the experiences we offered to children.
“We Believe In …” was the document that connected the dots for us. This was a team project that involved great effort to develop, but yielded even greater benefit for us year after year. It became our guide for designing our environment, and a reminder to remain true to our original intent.
From our philosophy …
“Our child care center is an environmentally-based program for care and learning. We believe the two are inseparable. We assume that children learn from the entire experience the day provides. The way time and space are structured, the furnishings, the equipment and materials, and all the ways adults and children behave, “teach” the child what the world is like, how it works, and the child’s place in it.”
And so, we discussed and agreed that we believed in …
- inclusion and diversity
- thoughtful classroom design
- homelike environments
- prepared environments
- organization of materials
- specific materials in every classroom
- a sensory-based environment
- child-centered emergent curriculum
- intentionality in all we do
… to begin with.
Beneath each topic, we listed several ways to visually bring this to life – to see concrete evidence of our beliefs – in the people, in the environments, and in the programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners at our child care center.
We Believe in Beauty. Therefore we:
- Provide walls, furniture, and materials that are clean and in good repair. Materials should be complete and in good repair, so as not to change their appearance.
- Provide aesthetically pleasing environments, including:
- Beautiful objects from nature and home.
- Balance of color and texture.
- Well-presented and thoughtfully hung pictures on the walls that reflect children, their work, and their families.
- The avoidance of commercial designs and objects.
- A thoughtful and balanced use of color. Soft colors, earth tones, and natural colors predominate. Bright colors are used for accents. Natural wood is preferred.
- A consideration of how things will look from the outside when we hang things on the windows.
We did this with each belief, and developed a detailed guide for designing our spaces in the child care center. Teachers worked within this framework as they added their own personalities, talents, and interests to their classrooms. The clear guidelines allowed our eighteen classrooms to come together. They were all parts of the whole. They were unique, yet, connected to one another. The essence of our philosophy ran through the entire facility and was felt by everyone!
I offer this for your consideration if you desire making changes to your schools, especially if your program feels disconnected, overwhelming, or somehow not working as well as you would like. Establishing a shared vision is a great way to begin the change process!