Learning Experiences

Children with special needs will be perceived as less 'different' if they are part of the same environment as other children; as a result they will be more readily accepted by others--their families, their peers, and the community. (Phyllis A. Chandler)

Rationale: Best practices for providing appropriate early childhood learning environments are based upon knowledge of typical child development within a certain age span as well as the uniqueness of each child. Learning experiences are not only age-appropriate but individually appropriate. Appropriate learning experiences refer to a framework, a philosophy, or an approach to working with children that requires incorporation of what is known about how children develop and learn. A given curriculum or a rigid set of standards should not dictate practice.

Instruction is organized around the child's needs, interests, and learning styles, and is sensitive to cultural diversity. Activities are child-initiated, child-guided, and adult-facilitated. This process allows children to learn through play-based activities that emphasize hands-on experiential learning with numerous opportunities for free exploration. Children are encouraged to connect new discoveries with what they already know and are able to do. Some children may need more structure or more adult direction to guide learning than others. Accommodations and modifications are made to meet the individual needs of every child.

Outcomes: The Early Childhood Program provides developmentally appropriate activities that meet the needs, capabilities, and interest of young children.

Standard 1: The organization and introduction of learning experiences are consistent with research findings on the development of the whole child and individual learning styles.

Indicator 1. Learning experiences are based on established program philosophy and mission statements.

Indicator 2. Learning experiences are grounded in the most current research and literature on child development and education.

Standard 2: A variety of developmentally appropriate learning experiences facilitate the optimal growth and development of the whole child, and encourage children to be actively involved in the learning process.

Indicator 1. The program content is designed to achieve long-range goals in all areas of child development (social, physical, cognitive, emotional, and language).

Indicator 2. Developmentally appropriate learning experiences, materials, equipment, and environments reflect and respect diversity in national origin, religion, language, gender, ability, and age of all children.

Indicator 3. Learning experiences are provided through a variety of activities such as play-based exploration, guided discovery, problem-solving, repetition, intuition, and imitation.

Indicator 4. Learning experiences are presented in multi-sensory and integrated ways that build upon what children already know and are able to do.

Indicator 5. Learning experiences provide a hands-on orientation that emphasizes process over product.

Standard 3: The schedule of activities reflects the individual needs, interests, and developmental levels of all children.  

Indicator 1. The program schedule reflects the need for children to engage in a balance of activities, such as active and quiet, private time to relax and think, large and small motor activity, group and individual activities, and time to communicate with friends and staff.

Indicator 2. Transitions between individual activities are integrated into the program as learning opportunities.

Indicator 3. A daily routine is provided within a consistent environment to promote self-help and social skills as well as self-control and recognition of boundaries.

Indicator 4. Uninterrupted blocks of time help children develop problem-solving and decision-making skills by offering a choice of activities.

Indicator 5. The program is flexible enough to adapt planned or routine activities to the needs or interests of children.

Indicator 6. Through an integration model, support and special services personnel collaborate with program staff to offer learning experiences that are appropriate for each child

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