RCDN follows the Creative Curriculum for Preschool, which is endorsed by the State of New Jersey. The curriculum focuses on providing children structured play
opportunities in eleven core early childhood interest areas: blocks, library, dramatic play, toys & games, art, discovery, sand & water, music, cooking, computers and movement.
The interest areas are then applied to the five components necessary in helping children acquire social competence and the skills they need to succeed as learners. The five components are: how children develop and learn, the learning environment, what children learn, the teacher’s role and the family’s role.
THE FIVE COMPONENTS
I. How Children Learn and Develop - Knowing how children grow and develop and appreciating the general patterns of growth in all children as well as the differences encountered in individual children is the basis for planning the program, selecting materials and guiding children’s learning. When you know the unique characteristics of every child you build a relationship that enables all children to thrive.
II. The Learning Environment - Which includes:
1. The use and organization of the space of the classroom with interest areas set up allowing multiple opportunities for the children to explore, discover, grow and learn as well as care for their classroom and what is in it.
2. The daily schedule and routines help create a sense of order. Knowing what
to expect and what is expected allows the children to settle into learning and functioning as part of a group.
3. The social and emotional atmosphere. When teachers relate to children in positive ways and help them do the same with one another the children feel good about school and learn to the best of their ability.
When the learning environment meets the children’s needs, it makes all children feel safe, comfortable and that they belong, which results in helping them to become independent and confident learners.
III. What Children Learn - Experts have developed standards defining what children should know and be able to do by certain levels. The content children learn in the Creative Curriculum is guided by these standards. The emphasis on teaching content is greater than in the recent past which have set new challenges for the preschool teachers. When the content of the curriculum is taught with children’s developmental stages in mind, children are more likely to be successful learners who feel excited about and challenged by what they are learning.
IV. The Teacher’s Role - A Creative Curriculum teacher is engaged in an ongoing
cycle of observing, guiding learning and assessing children’s progress. Teachers interact with children continuously and make decisions about when and how to respond to meet individual and group needs.
A preschool classroom is full of contradictions. It is calm yet dynamic; predictable but full of surprises; active and hands on, but sometimes quiet and reflective. The
contradictions require a range of teaching approaches. What works to introduce, reinforce and extend learning in one situation may be ineffective in another. Because children have unique learning styles, good teaching requires a range of teaching approaches.
V. The Family’s Role - Home and school are a young child’s two most important
worlds. If home and school are connected in positive respectful ways children feel secure. Building a partnership with families and ensuring that they have a role in their children’s education by creating a welcoming environment, informal daily exchanges and involving families in the program will be effective in providing their children with a learning experience that will promote positive development.
THE INTEREST AREAS
The eleven interest areas use various materials that meet the developmental needs of young children and enhance learning and teaching.
1. Blocks - the hardwood blocks in the classroom are one of the most valuable
learning materials we have. They come in exact sizes and shapes. For this reason when the children build with the 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 (triangles, squares and rectangles). When they lift, stack and move blocks they explore weight and size. Children often use blocks to recreate the world around them - a road, a house, the zoo. They work together and learn to cooperate and make friends. Children are encouraged to talk about what they are doing to promote language skills. Wooden blocks naturally appeal to young children because they feel good to the touch, are symmetrical and invite open-ended explorations.
2. Dramatic Play - is central to children’s healthy development and learning
during the preschool years. Children take on different roles and recreate real-life
experiences. They use props and make-believe to deepen their understanding about 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 and solve problems. When children engage in dramatic play they develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
3. Toys and Games - include puzzles, various table blocks, small construction
materials such as Legos and board games. These materials offer children a quiet activity that they can do alone, with a friend, with a teacher or a parent volunteer, or with a small group. 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. Children strengthen all areas of their development as they play with toys and games.
4. Art - every day children find a variety of art materials available. Drawing,
painting, gluing, molding and constructing are not only enjoyable but also provide
important opportunities for learning. By exploring and using art materials children
improve their coordination, learn to recognize colors and textures and develop creativity and pride in their accomplishments Creative art is another language children use to express what they know and what they feel.
5. Library - is a very important part of the classroom and of your child’s life.
It’s where children gain the foundation for reading and writing. It’s also where children can relax and enjoy the wonderful world of children’s books. Stories are read to the children every day and children are encouraged to look at books on their own. Reading introduces new ideas, helps children learn how to handle problems that come up in life and mostly encourages them to develop a love for books.
6. Discovery Area - Young children wonder about the world around them, the
discovery area is a place to answers questions, to spark curiosity and wonder using new and interesting materials. In the discovery area children use their senses to touch, feel, taste, smell, and see. They can act on objects and observe what happens next. They learn how to solve problems together and how to communicate with others.
7. Sand/Water - Although you are probably used to seeing your child splash
in the bathtub and dig in a sand box, you may be surprised to know that sand and water play not only delight a child’s senses but also challenges a child’s mind and promotes other areas of development. When children pour water into measuring cups, they are exploring math concepts. When they drop corks, feathers, marbles, etc. into the water they are scientists exploring which objects float and which sink. When they comb sand into patterns they learn about math and art. The sand and water area allows children to develop their minds and bodies in a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable way.
8. Music - Music naturally delights and interests children. Music provides an
outlet for children’s high spirits and creative energy. Singing is an enjoyable activity for children that helps everyone feel a part of the group. Even shy children tend to feel a little more at home when singing with others. A good music experience will teach a child to enjoy, appreciate and notice music.
9. Cooking - In the cooking area children have the rare treat of doing the same
things that grown-ups do. Cooking is typically a special activity - for example making apple sauce in the fall, butter and corn bread at Thanksgiving or inviting parents to share a treasured family recipe. When we cook, we talk a lot about what we are doing and why to give children the opportunity to learn about nutrition. When children help in cooking they tend to eat better.
10. Computers - The computer area is a place where children can have fun while
exploring the many exciting things that computers do. Computers are a way for children to demonstrate self-direction and independence. Children work on fine motor skills as they use a keyboard and coordinate the cursor with the movement of the mouse. At the same time computers offer children opportunities to work with other children to solve problems, as they jointly maneuver their way through a program. Studies have shown that children working on a computer have nine times the number of conversations as children doing a puzzle together.
11. Movement - Physical exercise is very important for your child’s health and
well-being. By going to the gym each day the children develop their basic locomotor skills (running, jumping, climbing), balance by moving across the balance beam, eye-hand coordination by throwing and catching the balls. On weather appropriate days the children are taken outside for walks. The sense of pleasure children experience when they take in fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on their face and observe nature around them is immeasurable. What is very evident is that the time children spend running, jumping and climbing is just as important as the time spent in the classroom.