Marie was a four-year-old girl who loved to express herself through a variety of activities. She spent much of her time at home designing beautiful rainbow trees, painting rocks, building boats out of recycled milk cartons to float in buckets of water, singing karaoke and pretending to be an actress on stage. Marie’s parents believed in the importance of constructing early learning environments that would stimulate Marie’s curiosity while encouraging her interests through independent exploration.
Now that it was time to enroll Marie in a preschool program, her parents faced the difficult task of finding the right curriculum for her. Marie’s parents recognized her strengths as a creative child but also wanted her to develop in all the other areas of learning; a movement called “The Whole Child.” As her primary caregivers, they knew what types of activities she enjoyed, her learning style and her need to be surrounded by caregivers who would stimulate her mind with creative problems to ponder, investigate and solve.
After spending weeks researching and touring preschools, Marie’s parents finally found the one that would be best suited to Marie’s needs; a program with the approach that we all learn differently. Discovery Centers were the focus of the classroom environment. The materials were intentionally placed as inspiration for children to collaborate with one another as part of the learning process. When Marie’s parents arrived to pick her up after her first day of preschool, they found her looking through a large magnifying glass, with one of her new friends, at an enormous leaf they had seen on the playground.
Marie was an excellent example of developing the whole child. Rather than just focusing on her artistic abilities, the adults in her life surrounded her with learning environments that would encourage Marie in all areas of her development. She developed her self-esteem through expressive art, and her ability to make choices, without being told what colors of paint to use for her rainbow tree. Marie enhanced her physical development and science knowledge as she explored nature to select pretty rocks for a painting project. Problem-solving comprehension was evident while she was developing engineering skills in the boat building project. Marie gained strength in her expressive language and social development skills when she sang karaoke and acted out a skit on the stage in the dramatic play center. Creative thinking skills were magnified through a multitude of opportunities. All of these skills are essential tools for developing 21st Century skills in the workforce.
Nature grants each child with a certain level of creativity, curiosity and constructive knowledge that becomes ingrained in how they develop through childhood. Each child has untapped capabilities that need to be cultivated in surroundings that will enhance their unique potential. What they do with that potential, and how they develop it from childhood to adulthood, helps define who they are as a person. Recognizing the importance of constructing unique early learning environments for children can lead to a lifetime of discovery and understanding.
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