We strongly believe children grow and develop best in an atmosphere where they are encouraged to explore, take safe risks, try multiple solutions to problems, and interact with peers. Our classrooms are learning-center based, with carefully chosen areas available for children to explore. Basic centers in each room are:
Manipulative: Puzzles, pegboards, beads, duplos, building materials, etc. This area helps children develop and practice small motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and sorting and patterning skills essential for math and reading.
Dramatic Play: The dress-up or "house" area is one of the most vital and best-loved areas by children. It encourages the development of the social skills and language of sharing, working together towards a common goal, bartering, and delegating. The practicing of and experimenting with social and gender roles also occurs.
Blocks: Block usage encompasses more than "just building." This area promotes skill development, language, math concepts (comparing sizes, weights, elements of gravity/balance) and a host of socialization skills such as cooperation, sharing ideas, and being appropriately assertive. Also, children are very creative in this area!
Literacy: Both the library and writing center help children develop basic academic skills related to acquisition of reading and writing. They gain "book knowledge" handling books, reading from right to left, that written words have form and meaning, concepts of beginning and ending, plots, themes, storytelling skills, etc. Most importantly, children develop a love for reading. The writing center encourages the practice of written language skills of letter recognition and formation. It allows children to experiment with known letters/words and those just learned. Environments rich in written language and exposure to books are great predictors of strong readers and writers.
Art: The art area allows children free access to materials without a great deal of intervention or teacher direction. Children experiment with a wide variety of mediums with freedom to interpret creatively and individually. Children practice and refine small and large motor skills, develop basic concepts such as color, shape, and size, along with practicing socialization skills. Children's Center art is very hands-on and can be messy! Projects are child directed, made and interpreted by the children - not the teachers - and reflect their unique creative processes.
Playdough: The playdough table offers opportunities for both large and small muscle development with pinching, squeezing, and rolling. Playdough also has great imaginative qualities, offers sensory experiences, and encourages a great deal of social interactions.
Sand and Water: In addition to sand and water, we also use rice, flour, beans, peas, cornstarch and other interesting textures in this table. Besides tactile and sensory exposure, these areas almost always require that children work together, which involves inventing elaborate role playing scenarios.
Outdoors: One of the best-loved areas! The outdoors offers an area most free from restrictions and with the greatest opportunities for unlimited play. Children engage exuberantly with each other in "pretend I'm the ..." play, practice large motor skills, socialize, and engage in interesting natural experiences.