At RIFC we create an environment where children can continue to live out their childhoods. We believe children learn best when the curriculum is child-centered, play-based, and emergent, based on their interests and passions. We also believe that by thoughtfully planning social experiences, activities, environments, and teacher- 5 child interactions we facilitate children’s success in kindergarten and beyond. We believe that all children are full of remarkable capabilities and have a right to a childhood filled with play, exploration, and excitement about learning. Children’s learning is enhanced with respect and support from adults. We see children as enormously creative, and capable of complex learning through self- directed play. We build our curriculum around their questions and pursuits and the skills they are trying to master. We pay close attention to cultivating their self-esteem and their dispositions toward learning, risk-taking, socialization and problem solving.
TEACHERS SEE CHILDREN AS ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS IN THEIR OWN LEARNING.
Following the example of the master educators from Reggio Emilia, RIFC uses an emergent curriculum model, also referred to as “child centered” curriculum, this describes a process where the teachers observe children at play, meet together to share their notes and come up with possible “next steps”, and then implement their ideas in the classroom. One helpful description of this approach is to imagine that a child has a metaphorical ball of clay that he or she marks in some way, before tossing it to the teacher. The teacher then theorizes the meaning of the child’s marks, and then makes her own mark on the ball, before tossing it back. If the teacher’s understanding of the child’s ideas were correct, the child will respond by accepting the ball, making new changes to it, and tossing it back again. In this way, knowledge and ideas are grown, challenged, changed, and expanded as the “ball” continues to be passed back and forth.
In the classroom, this might manifest itself in a teacher responding to a group of children’s interest in music by bringing in different instruments, exploring dance, or creating their own musical language. Embedded in this work, would be opportunities to explore physical movement, literacy, mathematical concepts, and social problem solving, as well as opportunities to expose the children to the music and dance of non-dominant cultures. This helps ensure a positive and supportive relationship between the children and the teachers. It also helps the children have more control over what they do in the classroom as this emphasizes the children's ability to see themselves as capable learners and grow a better sense of community. Since this work is so specific to the children involved, extended investigations rarely include all the children in a class, but instead are tailored to meet the needs of small groups of children and are usually facilitated by one teacher from the classroom team.
OUR PROGRAM IS INSPIRED BY CHILDREN’S CURIOSITY AND NATURAL INCLINATION TO LEARN THROUGH PLAY.
At RIFC we strongly believe that play-based curriculum is the very best way to meet the developmental needs of the children in our care. Play based curriculum supports not only the more obvious physical and social emotional development of young children, but it also creates an environment where the teachers can fully engage in the Reggio inspired practice of emergent curriculum, thus meeting the children’s intellectual needs as well. When children are fully engaged in meaningful play, teachers are able to closely observe them as they work, collecting information about the children’s passions, developing hypotheses, and areas of growth. We use this data to plan “provocations” in the classroom for the children, with the goal of deepening their thinking, expanding their understanding, and giving them the opportunity to explore and master new skills. Play based curriculum is also the perfect vehicle for practicing empathy and conflict resolution skills and for learning to work collaboratively with peers; skills that support the development of executive function and that are looked for when evaluating children for placement in elementary schools.
BECAUSE OF OUR SHARED VALUES OF ANTI-RACISM AND SOCIAL JUSTICE, WE LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES IN CHILDRENS’ PLAY TO CHALLENGE THEIR THINKING ABOUT ETHNIC, CULTURAL, DISABILITY, FAMILY, CLASS AND GENDER BIAS.
While RIFC is committed to emergent curriculum, we’re also dedicated to our shared values of anti-racism and social justice. Because of this, we look for opportunities in the children’s play to challenge their thinking about ethnic, cultural, disability, family, class and gender bias. When necessary, we even create situations of “disequilibrium” to provoke questions and create room for new ideas.
Our goal is to grow these discussions naturally from topics children are already engaged in, but because of our belief in the importance of this work, we won’t always wait for the subject to emerge from the children. At these times, we very carefully and intentionally introduce new activities or topics of discussions to share with the children in our care. The four goals of a culturally relevant anti-bias approach are:
CHILDREN USE THE LANGUAGE OF ART TO BUILD DEEPER UNDERSTANDINGS OF THEIR WORLD.
At RIFC, we put a lot of emphasis on the way we document childrenʼs lives in the classroom. Our curriculum is the life of the classroom, and the way we document that life will give you window onto your childʼs daily experience.
By observing children, discussing our findings, and writing up our thoughts and ideas, we work together to create an amazing body of written work. Work that includes not only our thoughts but also the children's thoughts and remarks, their artwork, pictures and more. This gives teachers a valuable tool for reflection and planning. It lets parents look in on their child's life at school and find out not only what your child is learning, but also gives you insight about how and why they learn as they do. Perhaps it's most important job, is to provide children with an amazing record of their work and an avenue for self-reflection.
There are four main areas to look for examples of how we document children's play. First, you'll find weekly updates posted outside your childʼs classroom in a designated spot for on-going communication. Second, you can find copies of all documents that feature your child in his or her journal. Third, each classroom has either a classroom blog, or a weekly e-mail update, which will include stories about the children's work in the classroom from that week. Finally, in the classroom you will see the children's work displayed throughout the class making their thoughts and work visible through drawings, pictures and more.
Creating a bilingual/bicultural environment where children can learn and appreciate two different languages and cultures.
At RIFC we implement a bicultural, bilingual model that fosters the development of English, Spanish, and validate all and other languages through our dual language model. We have adapted the curricular approaches outlined in Soy Bilingüe as well as The Creative Curriculum® to provide activities in all learning domains: cognitive, social/emotional, language, math and physical development.
Creating a bilingual/bicultural environment where children can learn and appreciate two different languages and cultures. Our dual language curriculum focuses on Spanish and English in the classroom, our children gain a rich understanding of both languages, our goal is for children to leave our program being bilingual and bicultural. Having a dual language program is a valuable way of developing language proficiency in another language besides English. Our program provides music, books, activities and everything in the classroom is labeled and color coordinated in the two languages so children are able to see and recognize their everyday classroom items in the two languages. All of our teachers are also fluent in both Spanish and English, enabling them to aid the children in learning Spanish or English at their own speed and being able to go back and forth between both languages. Our dual language model is currently- Time Based Model, where two days are English, two days are Spanish, and Friday half in Spanish and English. Encouraging the children participate not only in social activities but also the learning activities in both Spanish and English.