As I sat in a nail salon early one Saturday morning, I overheard two women having a conversation. How did your son do in school this year? Not well, he’s not a student, she went on to say, He has a fascination with cars and knows everything about every car. The history of the car, how fast it goes, the type of engine. He knows every detail. I know he is bright; I hope this year will be better for him.
I began to wonder, do parents and children get the message if they don’t make the “grade” they are not smart or bright? At the pre-school age I find that some parents are concerned hoping their child will learn their letters and numbers. Will they learn to read, and how is pre-school preparing them for kindergarten? In pre-school our focus is to support the child’s needs now, which is to foster their social and emotional development. A healthy social and emotional development sets them up for future success in school and relationships.
All children are curious and eager to learn about the world around them. Learning can be stimulated in many different ways. The Reggio Emilia and Project approach styles of teaching guide children toward their interest, which allows for a wide variety of opportunities within the learning process. Teachers work together to observe the children. The curriculum then develops around the children’s interest. Within the learning domains children are building their cognitive social, emotional, physical and language development.
In this type of program an in-depth investigation of cars allows the child to have ownership in the learning process. What is the child actually learning in the car investigation? Teachers are guiding them and providing opportunity to enhance interest within the topic. If they are looking at different models of cars, they are sorting on the basis of one or more attributes. For example; size of tires, colors, shapes etc. Topics can branch out into many different areas through the child’s curiosity and interest. A topic can start out with car’s but go in the direction of machines that move or how tires are made. The possibilities are endless.
Just like adults where there is an interest, the learning becomes more meaningful. Parents should not fear that their child is not learning. There are many ways through the learning process. We find that because the Reggio Emilia and Project approach enhances the child’s curiosity and interest their school experience becomes one of true joy for them. As parents and educators, we should encourage our children’s interest, it can lead to different aspects of learning. Every child is a student, and this child with the fascination for cars has a wealth of knowledge already!
Lee Longo is the Director of Sound Beach Day School. Located on the Greenwich Stamford border. A pre-school inspired by the Reggio Emilia and the Project approach philosophies in Early Childhood Education.