The Williams College Children’s Center offers developmentally appropriate experiences which mirror the College’s mission: to educate toward the capacity to explore widely and deeply, think critically, reason empirically, express clearly, and connect ideas creatively. We support each child’s journey toward his or her social, emotional, cognitive, physical, and aesthetic potential.
The depth and development of thinking and expression are evident in children from a young age. Children actively learn in a framework of play, relationships, and exploration. Teachers deliberately plan curriculum which weaves together the strands of children’s expressed or observed interests, passions, or concerns as well as their growing capacities and skills. We incorporate goals for early learning and our own interests to create curriculum that responds to the children while educating and preparing them for the world around them.
Thoughtful design of space and inspiring materials and activities contribute to individual and group learning; they support the construction of knowledge through discovery and experiences which provoke independent thinking and questions.
We foster meaningful and loving relationships, positive social interactions, and a commitment to community that reflect the needs of individual children and of the group as a whole. We nurture open-mindedness as children learn and explore. In our goal to form a greater sense of community we help children draw upon their concern for others.
The collaboration of parents, teachers, staff, and the Williams College community creates a diversity of thinking, cultural understanding, and experience to inform our collective wisdom. Children express their multiple ways of learning and contribute their own ways of knowing about the world.
We are inspired by successful childhood education philosophies and practices in the field as we also reflect on our own practice. We consider standards and research that support child growth, development, and learning and offer our own learning as evidence of growing understanding of children in today’s world.
Emergent and Project Curriculum
Since our opening in 2008 we have been committed to emergent curriculum which means that we pay attention to and build upon the interests and concerns of children as we build curriculum. We support children’s growing skills as they seek to understand their world. In recent years we have also embraced Project Approach learning which is closely related to emergent curriculum. It provides a more systematic way to draw out children’s questions within a framework of teachers’ goals for children’s learning. Children investigate the world right around them. Children of all ages in our school can make use of the Project Approach. Teachers can also use elements of the Project Approach when they observe and extend children’s exploration in their work with infants.
As we prepare children for future schooling we also help them develop what are known as “Habits of Mind” – curiosity, exploration, flexible thinking, persistence, problem-solving, competence, independence, and inventiveness. Early childhood educators know that young children learn best with hands-on learning where they can engage their senses, “follow their noses” and connect learning to past experiences. Children learn in relationship to others through their play and through structured experiences. They observe and model both children and adults. They problem-solve, work through trial and error, and practice and hone what they know.
Is Project learning the Only Kind of Learning?
In building curriculum, we pay attention to state and national guidelines and plan learning experiences so that children have a blend of child initiated experiences and teacher-directed learning. We want children to have age appropriate learning experiences across all domains: social studies, science, math, literacy, the arts, and health. While the Project Approach lends itself to integrating all types of learning within projects, it is not the only way that teachers chose to do so. Children learn from a continuum of teacher-directed or child-initiated learning since each kind of experience holds its own importance in the education of young children.
In the Project Approach teachers support children in active research and investigation while still making sure broader learning goals are met. Projects are just one way children learn. Good early childhood teachers make use of all the above practices, blending them into the day or week or month as is appropriate to a group’s learning needs.