The centres provide programs for children aged 18 months to 5 years of age. Each centre has two classes and four teachers. The preschool class in each centre has a separate studio to facilitate art exploration and project development, and a kitchen area used for baking activities and water/sensory play. The outdoor area is designed to provide space for running and shouting, but also to give children a place to explore the natural world and to give teachers an opportunity to extend the projects to outdoor activities.
The program at Jubilee Road Children’s Centre and Beech Street Preschool is inspired by the early childhood programs of Reggio Emilia, in northern Italy. The achievements of this approach have been demonstrated in an exhibit of children’s work which has travelled the globe for the last 20 years. The Reggio approach has been developed over many years, since the end of the Second World War; it is a complex system and is the subject of a great many books and articles. We can offer a few points which give some insight into our program:
• At the heart of the system is the powerful image of the child. Reggio educators see children as strong, full of potential, competent and capable of building their own theories.
• It is a system that lends itself to: the role of collaboration among children, teachers and parents, the co-construction of knowledge, the interdependence of individual and social learning, and the role of culture in understanding this interdependence. (Baji Rankin, 2004)
• Teachers, children, and parents work together to build a culture within the school which respects childhood as a time to explore, create, and be joyful.
• Children are regarded as having many symbolic languages (the 100 languages) with which they learn and demonstrate their learning, including painting, drawing, sculpture, dance, puppet play, block building, water play, make-believe and drama, dressing up, collage work, conversation, music, in fact, all the activities that engage children in a rich and inviting environment.
Our curriculum approach emphasizes natural materials and begins with the understanding that learning takes place during play, in a stimulating and carefully prepared environment. The educators at our centres use careful observations of the children as the starting point for making curriculum decisions. This type of planning is responsive to the children’s interests and to what they are exploring during play. Our teachers use this information and their observations to build upon and develop plans that are rich in opportunities for children to further construct knowledge through exploration, field trips, visits from outside resource people, and hands-on experiences.