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Funshine’s curriculum and extended programs are designed to provide students with age-appropriate skills, knowledge and experiences. Our comprehensive program is aligned with the Indiana Foundations for Young Children and the goals and objectives of the Creative Curriculum for Preschool.
The philosophy behind our curriculum is that young children learn best by doing. Learning isn’t just repeating what someone else says; it requires active thinking and experimenting to find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in. In their early years, children explore the world around them by using all their senses.
In using real materials such as blocks and trying out their ideas, children learn about size, shapes, and colors, and they notice relationships between things.
In time, they begin symbolic thinking by learning to use one object to stand for another. For example, they might pretend a stick is an airplane or a block is a hamburger. These early symbols – the stick and the block – are similar in shape to the objects they represent. Gradually children become more and more able to use abstract symbols like words to describe their thoughts and feelings. They learn to “read” pictures which are symbols of real people, places and things. This exciting development in symbolic thinking takes place during the preschool years as children play.
Play provides the foundation for academic or “school” learning. It is the preparation children need before they learn highly abstract symbols such as letters, which are symbols for sounds, and numbers, which are symbols for number concepts. Play enables us to achieve the key goals of our early childhood curriculum. Play is the work of young children.
The most important goal of our early childhood curriculum is to help children become enthusiastic learners. This means encouraging children to be active and creative explorers who are not afraid to try out their ideas and to think their own thoughts. Our goal is to help children become independent, self-confident, inquisitive learners. We’re teaching them how to learn, not just in preschool, but all through their lives. We’re allowing them to learn at their own pace and in the ways that are best for them. We’re giving them good habits and attitudes, particularly a positive sense of themselves, which will make a difference throughout their lives.
Our curriculum identifies goals in all areas of development.
Social/Emotional: To help children develop independence, self-confidence, and self-control, follow rules and routines, make friends, and learn what it means to be part of a group.
Physical: To increase children’s large muscle skills including balancing, running, jumping, throwing, and catching, and use the small muscles in their hands to do tasks like buttoning, stringing beads, cutting, drawing, and writing.
Cognitive: To acquire thinking skills such as the ability to solve problems, to ask questions, to think logically by sorting, classifying, comparing, counting, and making patterns, and to use materials and their imagination to show what they have learned.
Language: To use words to communicate with others, listen to and participate in conversations with others, understand the purpose of print, recognize letters and words, and begin writing for a purpose.
The hardwood unit blocks you see in our classroom are one of the most valuable learning materials we have. They come in exact sizes and shapes so that when children build with blocks they learn math concepts such as the number of blocks that fill a certain space. They compare the height of their buildings and learn about geometric shapes like triangles, squares, and rectangles. When they lift, shove, stack, and move blocks, they explore weight and size. Each time they use blocks, children are making decisions about how to build a structure or solve a construction problem. Children often use blocks to recreate the world around them—a road, a house, the zoo. Blocks also encourage children to work together and learn to cooperate and make friends. We encourage children to talk with each other about what they are doing to promote language development. We also talk with children and ask questions to expand on their block play. For example, we might say: “I see you built a tall apartment house. How do the people get to their floor?”, “Where do people park their cars when they come to visit the shopping center?”, and “Would you like to make a sign for your building?” These questions make children more aware of what they are doing and encourage them to try out new ideas.
In our program we are delighted to have tablets as learning tools for the children. Here are some of the things children learn when they use computers: to be comfortable with technology, beginning reading and writing skills, math skills, and concepts such as counting, numerical relationships, how to express themselves creatively, how to solve problems, and how to begin to do research. We encourage children to work at the computer in pairs or small groups. This helps them learn from each other and develop their social skills at the same time. While the children are working at the tablets, we ask them questions to help them think about what they’re doing: “What made you decide to choose this program to work on?” “How can we use the computer to send a copy of your painting to your grandparents?” and “What would you like to do with the printouts you made today?” By working with children in these ways, we not only encourage their growth and development but also help prepare them for a future in which they will need to know how to work with technology
Cooking is an important part of our curriculum. When children cook, they have an opportunity to learn about nutrition, be creative, and prepare their own healthy snacks. Cooking teaches a lot of academic skills too. When children learn to follow picture recipe cards, they develop skills they need to read and write. Measuring 1 cup of flour and pouring 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice into the batter gives them a lesson in math. Whipping egg whites into meringue and melting cheese under a broiler are lessons in science. When children cook, we talk a lot about what they are doing and why. They are scientists, observing what happens to flour when we add water to it and predicting how high we should fill a muffin tin so the batter doesn’t overflow. When we prepare the special foods of each family, your child learns to appreciate the cultures of everyone in our class. If you have some favorite family recipes that you would like to share with us, please give them to us at any time! We would also love it if you would like to come to our Cooking Area and introduce the class to your child’s favorite foods. Cooking is a very special part of our program. It is one of the few activities children get to do that is also done by adults. Children pretend to be grown-ups making meals in their dramatic play, and they can read books and sing songs about food. But in our cooking center, children can actually behave like grown-ups.
Singing & Creative Movement
We do a lot of singing and creative movement in our program. Singing and moving to music gives children a chance to hear and appreciate different kinds of music, express themselves through movement, and practice new skills. The children love our daily time for singing together, and it helps them learn to cooperate in a group. We listen to all different kinds of music and even play instruments to make our own music. Children love using colored scarves and paper streamers to use as they move to the music. We also use chants to help us get through the daily routines, such as clean-up time. Sometimes we take a tape recorder outside and play jazz or folk music, and the children dance and act out songs. Early exposure to music not only develops rhythm skills, but it also helps build children’s self-confidence, enhances complex reasoning, and focuses listening skills. Research also shows that when children are exposed to a variety of music at an early age they perform better academically and it has cognitive benefits in many areas of the brain. Ms. Anna teaches music classes each Tuesday for each of our classrooms. It is the goal of our music program to provide children with early exposure to active, participatory musical experiences to help establish a foundation of expressive, receptive, and creative music skills. The program incorporates a wide and varied repertoire of songs, fingerplays, and music activities that are age-appropriate and highly engaging. Each year the children perform in a Christmas musical and a Spring musical that offers parents the opportunity to see their children perform
Sand & Water Play
Although you’re probably used to seeing your children splash in the bathtub and dig in a sandbox at the playground, you may be surprised to know that the Sand and Water Area is an important part of our school program. Both sand and water are natural materials for learning. When children pour water into measuring cups, they are exploring math concepts. When they drop corks, stones, feathers, and marbles into a tub of water, they are scientists exploring which objects float and which sink. When they comb sand into patterns, they learn about both math and art. We encourage children to experiment with these materials. As they do, we ask questions to focus their thinking on their discoveries: “Now that we’ve turned the water blue, what should we do with it?” “How did the water change when we added the soap flakes?” “What can wet sand do that dry sand can’t?” “What can dry sand do that wet sand can’t?” and “How many of these measuring cups of water do you suppose it will take to fill this quart pitcher?”
Young children have many questions about the world around them. They ask: “Where did the puddle go?” “What do worms eat?” “How can I make my truck go faster?” “Do fish go to sleep?” In our classroom, the Discovery Area is a place where children can explore and investigate to answer their questions. They observe, experiment, measure, solve problems, take things apart, explore the materials and living things we put out, and guess what will happen as a result. In the Discovery Area children do what scientists do: ask questions, plan and conduct investigations, gather information, construct an explanation, and communicate findings. They also learn important concepts in science as they study plants, animals, magnets, properties of materials, light, shadows, how things work, rainbows, our body, our senses, how things move and change, and more. In addition to learning science content, they also learn how to solve problems together and how to communicate with others.
The Library Area is a very important part of our classroom and of your child’s life. It’s where children gain the foundation for reading and writing. It’s also a place where children can relax and enjoy the wonderful world of children’s books. We encourage children to look at books, listen to taped stories, retell stories, and scribble and write throughout the day. Sometimes children dictate stories to us, which we record in books. We read stories to the children every day. Reading introduces new ideas, helps children learn how to handle problems that come up in life, and encourages them to develop a love for books. As children listen to us read, their own reading skills begin to develop. When we read, we look at pictures and ask: “What do you see?” We encourage children to predict what will happen next by asking “What do you suppose will happen now?” We encourage children to repeat words, rhymes, and phrases they’ve memorized.
Art is an important part of our curriculum. Every day, children find a variety of art materials available on our shelves. Drawing, painting, pasting, molding, and constructing are not only enjoyable but also provide important opportunities for learning. Children express original ideas and feelings, improve their coordination, learn to recognize colors and textures, and develop creativity and pride in their accomplishments by exploring and using art materials. When children are engaged in art activities, we talk with them about what they are doing and ask questions that encourage them to think about their ideas and express feelings. We are just as interested in the creative process as we are in what children make. We say things that will encourage children to be creative and confident, such as: “Tell me about your picture!” instead of “Is that a house you made?”
Toys and Games
Toys and games include puzzles, various table blocks, small construction materials such as Legos, board games, and collections of objects including shells, bottle caps, and buttons. When children use toys and games, they explore how things work, learn to be creative and use their imaginations, strengthen and control the small muscles in their hands, work cooperatively and solve problems, and learn math concepts. When children use toys and games in the classroom, we encourage them to talk about what they are doing. For example, we might say: “Tell me about the design you made. How did you get those rings to fit together?” or “You’ve picked out all blocks that look the same. Can you tell me how they are the same?” These questions and comments are designed to help children develop their thinking skills.
In the Dramatic Play Area, children take on different roles and recreate real-life experiences. They use props and make-believe to deepen their understanding of the world they live in. The ability to pretend is very important to your child’s development. Children who know how to make believe develop a good vocabulary, which is important for reading. They learn to cooperate with others, solve problems, and think abstractly, all of which are important skills for success in school. When children pretend, they have to recall experiences and re-create them. To do this, they need to picture their experiences in their minds. For example, to play the role of a doctor, children have to remember what tools a doctor uses, how a doctor examines a patient, and what a doctor says. In playing the doctor or other roles, children learn to cooperate with others and to share their ideas. When children make-believe, we might ask: “Is your baby sick? What are you going to do?” “Are you the storekeeper here? I need to buy some food.” and “What are you cooking for dinner tonight? It smells so good.” We talk with children and participate in their play to extend their thinking.
Physical exercise and fresh air are important for your child’s health and well being. We take children outdoors every day, weather permitting, so they can run, jump, swing, climb, and use all the large muscles in their bodies. They run around, breathe in the fresh air, look at the clouds, or catch a ball or a bug. They lie on the ground and watch clouds and birds, or they climb high and look down. We also talk about the things children see, hear, touch, and feel so they become aware of changes in the weather, the seasons, the growth of plants, and the animals. While playing outdoors, your child can learn to notice and appreciate changes in nature such as how water puddles appear after rain and disappear when the sun comes out. We encourage children to wonder about what they see by asking questions: “What do you notice?” “Where do you think they are going?” and “How are they different or the same?”