What is of utmost importance is how that information is used in an intelligent, responsible and ethical manner.
Experts, like Dr. Mark Rosenzweig, professor emeritus at the University of California, highlight that not only is there vast cognitive development during the first five years of age, it is also the time where neural networks, on which all complex future learning will be based, are developed. Because of this, it is essential to offer preschool age children with a wonderful experience, but also a high quality educational program that promotes learning and social skills.
This article seeks to help parents with the difficult task of choosing a preschool, giving them a description of the different educational methods available on the market: Traditional Education, the Montessori Method, the Reggio-Emilia approach and Edu1st (New Model of Education).
This is the best known method and emphasizes language skills and mathematics. In a traditional classroom, students are grouped by age and they are all taught the same material. Learning, though achieved through multiple sources nowadays, depends heavily on the experience of the teacher, who directs and controls the flow of information in class. In a traditional classroom, the teacher knows what they will teach at each stage and what a child needs to learn in class.
The Montessori Method
Its creator, Maria Montessori (1870-1952), based her educational theories on the observation of activities preferred and engaged by children. She identified that children have an innate love for learning and a keen enjoyment for the experience that ensues from completing tasks that they have freely chosen.
A Montessori classroom is conceptualized as an environment that helps children develop as integrated and independent individuals. In this environment children learn for themselves, using materials specifically designed by Montesorri that besides being attractive, self-correct. In a Montessori classroom students of different ages are grouped together in a non-competitive environment, where each child can choose their own activity and work at their own pace.
The teacher in a Montessori classroom is known as director and besides acting as a guide or facilitator by showing new activities and materials to children one-on- one or in small groups, the director also observes and monitors their progress to help and guide them in their activities and interests.
The Reggio Emilia Approach was developed by Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia and was originally created as the municipal daycare with education programs for children younger than six. In this approach a child is seen as a competent, clever, curious, imaginative and inventive individual who desires to interact and communicate with others.
In the Reggio approach, a child is an active apprentice who develops through interaction with others, including parents, teachers, classmates and the community. The “Reggio Vision” develops its curriculum guided by a child’s interests and their interaction with the needs of their community. Because of this, schools that follow this approach are said to be “Reggio inspired” because their cannot be two exact schools. The © Education First Inc. 2010 interests of the children, the interpretation of teachers and the needs of the community will always be different.
The environment acts as a third teacher and because of this the Reggio approach greatly values the integration of the graphic arts as tools in cognitive, linguistic and social development. Teachers are in charge of organizing atmospheres that invite children to explore and problem-solve through collaboration. Additionally, documentation of a child’s work is viewed as an important tool for children, teachers and parents in order to visualize the learning process.
Besides being a learner alongside the children, the teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to the children. Within such a teacher-researcher role they listen and observe the children carefully to be able to provoke and stimulate learning. Teachers of this approach are committed to reflection about their own teaching and learning.
Edu1st VESS - New Bilingual Revolutionary Model
Edu1st arises from the imminent need to recognize that education has to cease being an isolated entity and must prepare individuals for the world in which we live and will live; with its necessities and dynamics. Ethical, thinking, pro-active individuals who are knowledgeable, social, open-minded and happy.
The Edu1st model understands that information grows and changes exponentially every minute and it is only in a “mouse-click” away. It understands the technological, social and cultural challenges of our era; it keeps itself constantly up-to- date with the latest discoveries on the mind, brain and education and is conscious that our children are preparing themselves for an unknown and fascinating world.
It is not only important to stay up-to- date in regard to information, what is of utmost importance is how that information is used in an intelligent, responsible and ethical manner. For these reasons the Edu1st program focuses on the development of habits of mind and thought processes that allow children to discover themselves, develop their enormous creative capacity, their ability to comprehend and process patterns easily and explore their world from different points of view.
Edu1st is an integrative program inspired by the Reggio approach (previously mentioned) and other methodologies and approaches like Visible Thinking and Thinking Routines from Harvard University, conceptual maps, the Philosophy for Children approach, art programs to promote thinking, problem-solving theories and strategic thinking and the education standards of England and Australia, among others.
Children educated under this model discover a passion for understanding and learning through significant experiences that allow them to actively explore, question, research, hypothesize and seek individual and collective comprehension, in a fun and multi-sensory environment. They discover the value of teamwork, the value of having different points of view and acquire productive thinking tools that will be useful to them throughout their lives.
This article, while focusing on four preschool education models, does not wish to demerit other models. Each approach has its own strengths.
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