The Young Children's Program provides an environment designed to help each child:
GOAL 1: Grow in independence and self-sufficiency
GOAL 2: Develop enthusiasm and skills for learning
GOAL 3: Grow in the ability to interact positively with others
GOAL 4: Increase personal awareness and self-discipline
GOAL 5: Grow in the ability to use language effectively
GOAL 6: Value individual creativity and self-expression
GOAL 7: Construct knowledge through experience and inquiry
GOAL 8: Develop and refine motor skills
GOAL 9: Make choices that support personal wellness
The curriculum of the Young Children’s Program is dynamic, evolving, and personal. It is grounded in our mission to support the growth of children in all areas of development -- physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and language. Professional training, skillful observation, and personal relationships with each child and family enable teachers to make curricular decisions that facilitate optimal growth and learning.
Program goals represent the areas of development and provide the framework of the curriculum. They are aligned with the Milestones of Child Development (VA Early Childhood Development Alignment Project, 2007) which define specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes appropriate for children ages 3 to 5 years of age in each developmental domain.
All choices that relate to short-term and long-term planning reflect these goals, as well as the understanding that children construct knowledge through interaction with materials, people, and the environment. Therefore, play, investigation, communication, and reflection are daily experiences for children. The foundation of the curriculum is frequent, first-hand experiences within the classroom and the community.
These experiences may take the form of special classroom activities or events, ongoing projects, field trips, walks to campus or community sites, or visitors to the school. Teachers then build on these concrete experiences by providing activities and materials which encourage growth and learning in the goal areas. These opportunities for creative expression, symbolic representation, individual research, social interaction, dramatic play, and the use of language and literature encourage meaningful learning because they are extensions of children’s personal experiences and are presented in a manner that is sensitive to each child’s level of understanding.
Appropriate content knowledge identified in national and state standards in the areas of literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies is integrated into extension experiences.
The physical environment of the Young Children’s Program is a critical component of the curriculum. The classrooms and outdoor learning spaces are designed to include a rich variety of materials that encourage meaningful exploration and play and, therefore, support learning and development in all program goal areas. The learning environment is constantly evolving. Teachers introduce new materials, develop unique interest areas, and display equipment in different ways to challenge children’s thought and motivate involvement.
The organization and presentation of classroom materials contributes significantly to the overall curriculum; intentional decisions are made that support children’s cognitive development, as well as conceptual knowledge in the content areas.
The daily schedule supports the program goals by providing routines that contribute to children’s feelings of security and purpose. Flexibility within the schedule supports growth in all goal areas and enables teachers to respond to the needs and involvement of the children at any time during the day. The majority of each session is dedicated to exploration and purposeful play.
During this active time, children choose where they want to play and when they are ready to move to a new activity. Teachers encourage involvement in chosen activities for an amount of time appropriate for each child’s developmental level, but do not impose a scheduled rotation of activities. When possible, special activities or materials are available for consecutive days in order to encourage children’s involvement and in-depth investigation. The role of the teacher and support staff during this period is also active, moving among individuals or groups of children to provide supervision, observe children’s use of materials, or interact in ways that support the construction of knowledge, language acquisition, personal independence, and social growth.
Classroom routines for opening and concluding the session, preparing and eating snack, and the rotation of classroom responsibilities incorporate the use of written and oral language, numeracy, science, and social studies in concrete and meaningful ways.
The success of a dynamic, child-centered curriculum is dependent on the teachers’ understanding of child development and their knowledge of individual children. YCP teachers know how young children learn and incorporate this understanding as they plan activities and provide materials that will be motivating and intellectually engaging. Every aspect of the curriculum, the classroom, and the daily routine reflects extensive knowledge of child development in all areas -- physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and language. In addition to facilitating meaningful planning, this knowledge provides teachers with a basis for assessing the development of individual children. The assessment informs and enables the planning of experiences that will support optimal learning and growth of each child.The final and most critical component of the Young Children’s Program curriculum is the demonstration of sincere respect for every child. It is each teacher’s responsibility to know the children personally -- their special interests, fears or needs for dependence, out-of-school routines and activities, and family values and dynamics. This is accomplished through consistent and meaningful interaction with each child, careful observation and assessment within the school environment, and the development of a cooperative and communicative relationship with all families.
Assessment of children’s development and learning is an integral part of the curriculum. The information learned through purposeful assessment enables teachers to plan experiences for children that are personally meaningful, appropriately challenging, and consistent with their level of understanding. For this reason, the YCP assessment program is an ongoing process, specifically designed to facilitate the collection of data on each child’s growth in the developmental areas identified in the program goals.
This is done through documentation of the observable knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the Milestones of Child Development (VA Early Childhood Development Alignment Project, 2007). Records are kept in individual assessment booklets and supported with samples of children’s work. Involvement of family members is a critical component of the assessment program because of the knowledge they can contribute toward a complete understanding of each child’s abilities, interests, experiences, and needs.
The assessment process begins before the opening of school each fall as parents are given the opportunity to write an introduction to their family and their child. The introduction form is part of the registration packet mailed to each family during the summer and serves as a focus for the preschool conference of the teacher and parents. At that time, program goals are reviewed and family members are urged to be involved in supporting and documenting their child’s growth. Early in the school year, parents are also encouraged to collaborate with the teacher in determining individual goals and assessments for their child. These are recorded in the child’s assessment booklet. Progress toward the goals is documented in this booklet and discussed during formal and informal conferences throughout the year. Revision of goals and assessments are made when appropriate.
Communication with families about their child’s development and progress toward program goals is scheduled a minimum of four times each year, at least twice in writing. This kind of sharing occurs in ways that are mutually agreeable and may take the form of formal or informal conferences, electronic contacts, phone calls, or personal conversations. Parents have the opportunity to review and contribute to the developmental information in the assessment booklet during formal conferences or on additional occasions as requested. Conferences or other formats for sharing information may be initiated by a teacher of family member at any time throughout the year.
Because the YCP program goals for each child represent assessment in all developmental domains, the data collection process constitutes an effective screening instrument. However, a separate developmental checklist is completed within each child’s first three months of school attendance. If significant delays or areas of concern are recognized at this point or at any time during the child’s enrollment, they are summarized and shared with the parents. Appropriate resource professionals are consulted if necessary and an intervention plan is developed in consultation with the family. If efforts to facilitate progress are unsuccessful, appropriate referrals may be made.
As much as possible, assessment of children in the YCP is conducted informally and as a part of their daily school activities. This is done through careful observation, collection of work samples, and the use of checklists and anecdotal notes. When assessment of specific, unobserved skills is necessary, it is conducted in an atmosphere that is supportive and enjoyable for the child.
All written information collected on individual children in the YCP is confidential and is kept in a secure location. Access is limited to those persons who work directly with children or are responsible for program accountability -- the child’s family, the teaching and administrative staff, and officials of regulatory agencies. Because it is critical to their teaching role at the YCP and their professional preparation, student staff members may review children’s assessment records. However, real names are never used in student projects, research, or other assignments without specific permission of the parents.
In addition to facilitating individual growth and learning, the information compiled through consistent observation within the classroom is used to make decisions that result in the improvement of the program, curriculum, teaching strategies, and classroom environment. Teachers are trained in the implementation of this program during the initial orientation process. Training is updated when changes are made.VA Early Childhood Development Alignment Project. (2007). Milestones of child development. Richmond, VA: VA Dept of Social Services.
The YCP assessment program is specifically designed to facilitate the collection of data on each child's growth in the developmental areas identified in the program goals. This is done through documentation of the observable knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the Milestones of Child Development (VA Early Childhood Development Alignment Project, 2007).
Teachers are trained in the implementation of this program during the initial orientation process. Training is updated when changes are made.
||GOALS 1 & 2
Approaches to Learning
GOALS 3 & 4
Social & Emotional Development
Language & Literacy
Cognition & General Knowledge:
Families & Communities
Learning About the World
GOALS 8 & 9
Physical Development & Health