Columbus City Schools’ Early Childhood Education Program is a developmental unit that includes programs for families and their children, ages four to eight. In collaboration with Head Start, private child care providers, private and public agencies and The Ohio State University, Columbus City Schools provide comprehensive early education programs and services to children and families. These programs are based on four fundamental beliefs that guide our work with children and families: 1) every child can learn, 2) involving families in the education of their children is very important, 3) high quality early education can make a difference and provide the foundation for success in school and in life, and 4) we must educate the whole child by providing a comprehensive program that meets each child’s cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs.
The cornerstone of Columbus City Schools’ Early Childhood Education Program includes a guiding philosophy, a commitment to provide high quality care and education to young children, a willingness to collaborate with community agencies and organizations to provide more services to children and families and a strong commitment to form strong partnerships with families.
Columbus City Schools’ Department of Early Childhood Education is highly regarded as a provider of high quality early care and education for young children. Eleven of the Pre-Kindergarten teachers have received certification from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The department was names one of Ohio’s “BEST” and received a “BEST” Practice award for early education in 1995, the 1994 Irene Bandy- Hedden Early Childhood Program Award, from the Ohio Department of Education, the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation Lighthouse Early Childhood Education Project Award and the Ohio Department of Education Irene Bandy-Hedden Early Childhood Education Leadership Award in 2004. Many other awards and recognitions have been given to the program.
Philosophy of Early Childhood Education
The years between the ages of three and eight are critical ones in a child’s education and should be viewed as a developmental unit. To a great extent, the foundation that is laid during these years determines what happens in later life. A strong high quality early childhood education program will ensure that this foundation is firm and secure.
Young children between the ages of three and eight think and learn in ways which are related to their stages of development and which differ from those of older children and adults. Research and child development theorists, such as Erikson, DeVries, Vygotsky and Piaget have documented that young children learn best when they construct their own knowledge as they interact with people and manipulate objects. This must take place in an environment that is stimulating, and in which the teacher has set high expectations for each child.
There is agreement among early childhood educators that teachers of young children should implement practices that are developmentally appropriate. A strong early childhood education program meets the needs of each child, rather than expecting the child to meet the demands of the program. In a developmentally appropriate early childhood education program, children do not learn in narrowly defined subject areas, rather their learning is integrated; and what is learned in one area affects what is learned in other areas. A strong early childhood education program is grounded in many concrete experiences which young children must have before they can negotiate abstract learning.
This type of early childhood education program is predicated on a philosophy based on research and knowledge about how children think, learn, grow and develop.
Children: How They Learn
We believe that a high quality early childhood education programs starts with a commitment to all young children regardless of race, culture, religion, gender, age physical and/or mental abilities. High quality early childhood programs are based upon many important beliefs about children and how they learn:
· A parent is the child’s first teacher.
· Each child is unique.
· Each child is an individual worthy of respect.
· All children come to school with a background of knowledge and experiences.
· Children learn in different ways and at different rates.
· Children are encouraged to take ownership of their own learning through the choice and decisions that they make.
Curriculum: How to promote a child-centered process
We believe that a child –centered curriculum is the core of an educational program. It consists of both content and process and is based upon what is developmentally appropriate for each particular age group. The early childhood curriculum meets the needs of the whole child – cognitive, social, emotional, and physical by being integrated, flexible and comprehensive. The curriculum is child-focused and provides concrete and relevant experiences that challenge children to be active participants in their learning, creative thinkers and independent, confident people. The early childhood curriculum emphasizes:
· the language, culture, interests and learning styles of children
· multi-cultural education
· partnerships with parents
· learning as an interactive process
· exploration, discovery and questioning as important elements in learning
· trust, respect, and acceptance of each individual
· varied experiences for aesthetic development
· learning as a life-long process
Methodology: How Children are taught
We believe that children learn in different ways, and that the early childhood educator is a facilitator/guide who employs multiple methods and strategies to address the individual learning styles and needs of children. Early childhood methods and strategies include:
· child-initiated learning
· teacher-directed activities
· process-oriented learning
· literature-based instruction
· integrated learning
· thematic approach learning
· problem-solving/critical thinking
· interest center approaches
· hands-on learning
· appropriate intentional teaching along with child-initiated, discovery learning
Assessment: How we know that Children are learning
We believe that assessment is an ongoing process that reflects the developmental principals of the curriculum. It provides children, parents and educators with information about the social, emotional, and academic progress of the child. Assessment guides instruction and indicates what the child has learned, how the child has learned, and what the child needs to learn. It should be comprehensive in order to reflect the scope and complexity of what is learned. Early childhood assessment includes.
· teacher/child/parent conferences
· parent and child involvement
· administrator and support staff involvement
· teacher observations
· portfolios which include periodic samples of a child’s work
· appropriate standardized tests
· recognition of the child’s success in learning
Program Goals and Objectives
- Promote the cognitive, social, emotional, physical and aesthetic development of each child – development of the whole child.
- Enhance each child’s self-esteem and self-concept.
- Provide preventive and ongoing health services.
- Promote the overall well-being of each child.
- Provide a safe environment.
- Provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum – one that fosters all areas of development.
- Provide an integrated, developmentally appropriate curriculum.
- Promote family partnerships.
- Provide ongoing professional development for staff and in-service for parents.
- Respect differences in children and their families.
- Provide an environment that encourages self-discipline and self-control.