Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 7/29/2005 2:54:07 AM
Early childhood educational programs using developmentally appropriate and theme-based curricula have the highest levels of success in preparing children for a life of learning.
"Schools today are faced with the challenge of ensuring that the curriculum offered is in keeping with guidelines and standards of federal and local departments of education," says LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe. "That means early care and childhood education programs face a variety of challenges in trying to ensure the educational programs they offer will help children be academically ready for success in the elementary school settings."
Gioe says the success certainly is based in having a firm curriculum that is followed – whether that curriculum is a set of lesson plans purchased by the child-care center or one developed by its teachers based on the interests and abilities of the children.
"A curriculum that is developed based upon the interest and abilities of children is often referred to as developmentally appropriate," Gioe says, adding that a developmentally appropriate curriculum incorporates materials that are age appropriate, individually tailored and culturally appropriate for the children. "A developmentally appropriate curriculum also evolves around themes that take advantage of children’s natural curiosity, experiences, issues and problems – such as insects, gardening, dinosaurs and so forth."
Once they are selected, the themes help to organize and weave the curriculum and instruction through all aspects of the care setting, according to Gioe. "This type of theme-based curriculum serves as a basis for integrating basic educational components such as reading, math, science and social studies, and it’s carried out in a center-based classroom."
Such a classroom setting has a variety of organized learning centers, which support the educational themes, and those provide for relevant group activities throughout the classroom, experts say.
"Learning centers must be thoughtfully planned and based on specific learning objectives that have been identified for the children served," Gioe stresses, adding, "Learning centers should be equipped with a variety of teacher-designed, success-oriented learning experiences that are fun and self-motivating."
Among the learning centers that may be found in early care and childhood educational settings are blocks, science, table games, housekeeping, writing, art, sand and water, library and computer.
"Through the use of themes, teachers use equipment and supplies more effectively, focus on the interdisciplinary nature of learning, increase student interest in learning, utilize collaborative and cooperative learning strategies, focus on the learner and integrate social activity in all aspects of learning," Gioe says.
"Be Child Care Aware and look for a child-care program with a thematic-based curriculum," she says, adding, "By choosing an early care and education program that emphasizes curriculum, you are helping to ensure your child’s future academic success."