What is important to us in our work with young children, their families, and one another? And, have we really thought these things through?
Because, ultimately, shouldn’t we see evidence – in the child care center, and in the classroom – of what matters? 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 activities we offered to children.
“We Believe In …” was the document that connected the dots for us. 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 our reminder so we 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 determined that we believed in …
inclusion and diversity
thoughtful classroom design
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!
Should you like help with the process, I’m available to consult, and/or to provide training to you and your staff.
I welcome your comments, and would love to hear what you’ve done in your early childhood programs, and how you’ve done it.
My next post will address creating and setting goals – providing a roadmap to follow throughout the year. Because, “How do you know when you’ve arrived, if you don’t know where you’re going?”
Fall is here in all its glory – enjoy!
Nicely done , Marcia. I am sending consulting business your way, hopefully you will come to the South Shore!!!Miss you !!!
Linda – I will travel anywhere! I’m on a mission:)
Hello, Marcia! So good to read about the We Believe… I just mentioned that document in my Schooling in the U.S. class earlier today, after a discussion about Dewey’s statements defining education, school, curriculum content, and modality. I will gladly share with my new colleagues. Looking forward to seeing you in November!
Wonderful! The more we share, the more we learn:) Tell me about your class …
I have been visiting many centers. I always ask them about curriculum. I have seen many centers that tell me they are using Creative Curriculum. I then will see mimos and children coloring on the mimos. How can that be creative? I always loved your philosophy of learning. I wish you could come to these schools.
Donna – Thank you. As it happens, I am presently consulting with many directors (my new work) – to help them improve upon their early childhood programs. They are all wonderful directors, who just need a mentor, a coach, a second set of eyes and ears, and some kind words of support to accomplish what they want to accomplish. I am throughly enjoying this and think that working with the leaders of programs is exactly where I am supposed to be. So nice to hear from you:)