One of the biggest questions I receive from parents and professionals alike, is "what is your philosophy of education?"
While many may see that as a simple question with a straight forward answer, I find that it is anything but! Our philosophy of education is intricate and includes not just our academic approach but also the environment, the child, the families and educators.
Image of the Child
We believe that all children have the right to quality early childhood education. We view each child as capable, curious and a willing participant of the learning process. Every child has a right to a learning environment that meets their needs, including the right to educators who recognize their individual strengths and who support their development. We believe that children have the right to self regulation, discovery, exploration and mess making. We seek to foster a love of learning and a collaboration between ourselves and the children as we learn alongside of each other.
We believe children are CAPABLE of...
Who is the Child to Me
Children are the most important aspect of life, for without them all would cease to exist. The role of a teacher is to nurture, love, provide care, support and help to develop the child. We love what we do and are here because we believe that children deserve the opportunity to thrive. We seek to build connections with our children, their families and the community. In order to understand our role as educators, we must first understand, “Who is the child to me?”
We believe the child is...
The Role of the First Teacher- the Parent
We believe that the first teacher in a child’s life is his/her parent. From their first breath, you are there to help guide and shape their development. Your role is crucial in helping them to become confident and capable human beings. We recognize the immense importance of this relationship and seek to build relationships with you and your child to foster a collaborative learning experience. Through family engagement and communication, we look to build connections that will further our understanding of your culture and life experiences so that we may better serve the needs of your child and your family.
We believe parents are...
Environment as the Third Teacher
We believe that there are three teachers in a child’s life-
1. the parent, 2. the child and 3. the environment. The environment serves as a source of inspiration for your child's curiousity, sense of self and learning. We strive to provide children with real world interactions that include nature, realia (real world objects), and appropriate risk taking. Our classroom and play environments reflect this commitment to providing hands-on learning experiences for your children. Attention to color, aesthetics and function resonate in each space to create invitations to play and provocation of learning. Each environment features elements of light, color, nature, loose parts (open-ended play materials) and the 10 learning centers as outlined by Paths to QUALITY; Reading/Literacy, Writing, Mathematics, Science, Sensory, Music, Blocks, Manipulatives, Dramatic Play and Art.
The heart of our school can be found within the culture, values and traditions of Judaism that the children experience each day. Mitzvot (good deeds), tzedakah (charity), and chesed (kindness) are part of each classroom community. The students of our Ganon (pre-k) classroom reflected on what Judaism means to them sharing words and thoughts to create the word cloud below. Following, they created pictures of their understanding of Judaism and Jewish values.
Curriculum: A Child-Directed Approach
The Giving Tree Early Learning program is deeply inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education. Following WWII, the town of Reggio Emilia was war-torn and hurting. In order to heal, the town believed that the future lies with the children. Thus the Reggio Emilia philosophy was born with the guidance of Loris Malaguzzi. This philosophy believes that children have undeniable rights, including the right to construct their own knowledge.
With this inspiration, the teachers seek to help facilitate the exploration of the interests of the students through the Hundred Languages of Children. Malaguzzi describes the Hundred Languages of Children as the "infinite ways that children can express, explore, and connect their thoughts, feelings and imaginings.” Each day, teachers provide invitations to play and p
rovocations as a way to ignite new discoveries that blend the Hundred Languages with developmentally appropriate practices.
We pair the Indiana Early Learning Foundation Standards with hands-on, child-directed learning opportunities to support the development of the whole child. We utilize the Handwriting Without Tears program and incorporate Math Their Way concepts into our mathematical explorations to support the academic rigors needed for success in Kindergarten and beyond.
As we look to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year, the summer often times becomes a reflection period for the early childhood team and administration. Every year a theme is selected for our team to focus on as we continue to grow professionally. This year, the staff will be exploring the idea of INTENTION. This is an overarching theme that appears in every facet of our classrooms, professional development and instruction.
One area in which we are looking to create more INTENTION is in the opportunity for collaboration among teachers. In Reggio Emilia, teachers spend a large portion of their day in dialogue, collaborating on the needs of the children, collective group and pedagogy.
In order to support this in our own practices, many changes are being implemented for next school year. This includes welcoming Mrs. Nicole Mahern, our Ganon Lead teacher, as our new Assistant Director. She will spend a portion of the afternoon fulfilling this role in addition to her classroom duties as Lead Teacher. Her role will focus on mentoring, collaboration and support of our team as we continue to refine our developmentally appropriate practices and Reggio inspired pedagogy.
Another support includes the development of a professional development curriculum for both new and returning staff. This curriculum will touch on all areas of our program including Paths to QUALITY standards, accreditation, Reggio philosophy, classroom environment, Judaics and developmentally appropriate practices. The year long study will include reading passages, reflection questions, collaboration and practical application in the classroom.
Lastly, in order to fully support intentional collaboration, the team must have a space in which to create dialogue and make discoveries amongst themselves. The new collaboration space will contain a meeting area, resources, materials, professional works and research methodology, and will foster a sense of comradery as we grow with each other professionally and alongside our students and their families.
At Giving Tree Early Learning children are valued and their "voice" is recognized in various ways. None more prominent than in the Ganon's children's most recent project- The Turtle Project Artist Collaboration.
This project brought the collective vision and experience of the children to life as they expressed themselves creatively. It all began with a question from Artist Seth: "Can you draw me a turtle?"
Well of course- that meant that we first needed to learn more about turtles! After researching turtles through books, pictures and manipulation of toy turtles, the class was ready to begin.
Using black sharpie markers, the children created various sketches of turtles, refining their point of view with each new edition.
Artist Seth was impressed to see the variations of turtles and surprised the class with the opportunity to bring one of their creations to life! The class then voted to pick a class favorite to be brought to life using wood, tools and colorful paint! It was decided the E's drawing would be used.
Over the next several days, Artist Seth kept in close contact with the class to share his progress! First, Artist Seth recreated E's drawing onto a large sheet of plywood. Next, he cut out the turtle before adding color!
On Monday, May 10th, 2021 the turtle was ready! Artist Seth brought the life size cut out to school to help place it into its forever home in the outdoor classroom.
Thank you Seth Mahern for helping to bring to life the imagination of our students!
You can read more about the project by visiting:
One of our favorite creative play spaces is the Light Studio which was inspired by one of our family Reggio- inspired events, the Light Expo in 2018.
(read about it here: https://hhaireggiojourney.blogspot.com/2018/04/upcoming-family-reggio-event.html)
The Light Studio is home to various explorations of light, color and sound. Throughout the school year, a committee of innovative educators come together to routinely rotate and shift the Light Studio environment to support the children's current interests.
Various themes are explored each year including color, seasons, ocean, winter, artic animals, Jewish holidays, weather, insects and more!
The Light Studio is set up as what we call a "yes environment." Every item is meant to be controlled by your child. They are allowed to turn switches on and off, move and manipulate light sources, construct and deconstruct invitations and transport material from one center to the next to support their play.
Materials include projector and computer, overhead projectors, various lamps, rope lights, strings of lights, battery powered lights, light tables, black lights, mirrors, light curtains, "party lights" like disco balls, various translucent materials and manipulatives such as magnatiles, dramatic play items such as umbrellas, flashlights, clamp lights, tap lights, icicle lights, blocks, window blocks, various height platforms/surfaces, and recycled materials.
In the Light Studio aesthetics, accessibility, intention and creativity shine to provide your child with a world of wonder and discovery.
Mrs. Alethia Minlaff, Director: you can reach her by emailing email@example.com