Our philosophy, and therefore our curriculum is based on our understanding of how learning occurs. We believe that all members of our community (children, families, center faculty, and university students and faculty) are of promise and potential that is realized through collaborative inquiry, reflection, and attention to interactive and nurturing relationships. Our community, in turn, is enhanced as each of us grows.
The essential components of the Center's philosophy are:
- Understanding and embracing the value of diversity in individuals of differing abilities, needs, cultures, ethnicities, means and family structures is crucial.
- This understanding and embracing is apparent in the interactions among children, families, employees and the community.
- All children have the potential to construct and are capable of constructing their own understandings.
- Children come with experiences and interests that are influenced by their lives inside and outside of the Center. Curriculum emerges from what the children and other members of the community bring to the Center. These interests are explored and extended through authentic, meaningful experiences and re-visited again and again to add new insights.
- Trusting, long-term relationships are essential to growth.
- Beautiful, inspirational environments are essential to learning and encourage activity, involvement, discovery and the use of a variety of media.
- Transdisciplinary teamwork acknowledges the interrelatedness of developmental areas in the progressive growth of a child over time. At The Ben Samuels Children's Center we bring together educators, psychologists, speech-language specialists, occupational and physical therapists and music therapists in order to assess and plan for learning.
- The process of learning for individuals and groups is documented by observation, recording and reflecting on experiences; using documentation makes learning visible.
This philosophy is informed by current theory and practice in areas including the following:
- Deweyan notions of democratic education
Dewey saw democracy as more than just a form of government; according to him "...it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience" (1916, p. 87). The essence of democracy is inclusiveness - everyone is recognized, utilized, and rewarded, both as an individual and as a member of the whole. His vision of democracy welcomes plurality and diversity and rejects barriers that exclude and divide (Cuffaro, 1995). See also Dewey, 1916; Mayhew & Edwards, 1965; Tanner, 1997; http://teacher.scholastic.com/products/ect/dewey.htm; http://www.ul.ie/~philos/vol1/dewey.html
Briefly, constructivism is a theory about knowledge and learning that defines knowledge as temporary, developmental, socially and culturally mediated (Fosnot, 1993). Recently, in a move away from the individualism inherent in Piagetian constructivism, the notion that learning is context-dependent and socially mediated has gained currency (see, for example, Vygotsky, The Problem of the Cultural Development of the Child, 1929). This approach argues against general human cognitive skills, instead contending "that cognition is [always] channeled by socio-cultural factors" (Cannella & Reiff, 1994, p. 40). See also Forman, 1987; Fosnot, 1989; http://www.sedl.org/pubs/sedletter/v09n03/construct.html
- Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP)
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC ) and the Council for Exceptional Children's Division of Early Childhood (CEC/DEC) have developed a shared understanding of "appropriate" practices for young children that encompass a range or continuum of teaching methods and levels of structure to meet the individual needs of children. DAP requires that quality early childhood settings reflect philosophies, practices, and services by a team of professionals that have collaboratively examined their professional standards. http://www.naeyc.org
- Developmental Individual differences Relationship
Based Approach (DIR) Developed by Stanley Greenspan and Serena Weidner, this biopsychosocial approach provides a model for considering the central role of emotional development and how it affects and is affected by individual physiology and development in all domains. The DIR approach to working with children is based on the idea that every child has his or her own profile of development that makes him or her a unique individual. The child's interactions in relationships and family patterns are the primary vehicle for mobilizing development and growth. http://www.floortime.org/ft.php?page=Our%20Approach
- The Reggio Emilia (Italy) Approach
The cornerstone of the Reggio Emilia philosophy is "the image of the child as rich in resources, strong, and competent" (Rinaldi, 1998). This philosophy draws upon the work of many in the field of child development including Erickson, Dewey, Piaget, Biber and Vygotsky. Early childhood programs using a Reggio Emilia philosophy believe that the image of the child is informed by theory and constructed when the educators, families and children spend time together observing, reflecting and discussing. Adults are engaged with children asking questions and exploring their world together. http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v2n1/glassman.html