The Importance of Play
Free play is the very essence of preschool education and early childhood development. Play motivates a child’s natural curiosity by enabling him or her to make decisions, wonder, problem solve, collaborate, ask and discover. Through play, a child gains confidence in his or her ability to think and work creatively. We see the value of play in the lives of children and in the children’s life at school in two different ways:
Play has intrinsic value to children – we believe in play that is uninterrupted, respected and as unencumbered by adults and adult restrictions as much as possible. By giving this time to the child, we, as adults show children that we value their choices, interests and ideas.
By observing children’s play, adults come to know children’s interests, questions and theories about the world. This kind of observation and consideration by teachers enables curriculum planning that represents the children in the classroom community. In this way, we are able to introduce projects, new opportunities, experiences, materials, possibilities, ideas, skills and even problems into their play and exploration.
A curriculum centered around play and children’s choices gives value to the child and allows for a child’s authentic and natural development socially, emotionally, cognitively, physically and creatively.
For us projects are a curricular tool that allow us to look at the children, their interests and questions and scaffold their learning. Projects center around intellectual concepts and intellectual goals that propel the children's thinking deeper, allowing them to invent and solve problems, often in small groups. Projects, both small and large help children gain new skills in service of their ideas, inventions, research and questions. Projects vary in size and duration. They can be very small groups of children or the whole class. What is important about projects is that they put learning and thinking at the center.
Creativity is a part of every person and is an essential part of the learning process. Creativity finds a home in all areas of learning and problem solving. Children are encouraged to invent, explore, and express themselves in every area of the school room; outside in the natural world, with their peers and teachers and in their community. By allowing for each child to be creative whether it is through visual arts, music, movement, construction, story telling, dramatics, scientific experimentation, physical activity and any kind of problem solving - children are able to be inventors of their own experience, producers of ideas, and valued for their individuality and unique perspective.
A Community of Learners
We believe that learning is not just the purview of children. The Cooperative Preschool was founded on the belief that all members of a community benefit from the gifts, talents, expertise, culture and contributions of all of its members – children, parents, extended family and educators. Our classrooms and school are new and different every year because of the unique children, parents and teachers that create every new community.
Social Construction of Knowledge
From a strong image of a community of learners, it follows that being with others, discussing, disagreeing, playing, working, creating, listening, observing and discovering leads to new learning. We believe that school provides an important opportunity for children to be surrounded by a variety of people with different ideas and background. We believe that respectful conflict and understanding different points of view lead to new ways of thinking and for creative problem solving. These principles are the foundation of The Cooperative Preschool and a democratic society.