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First United Church Nursery School bases its philosophy of education and its curriculum and practices on Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs, a publication of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (Third Edition, 2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice is a framework for best practice in early childhood education based on what is known about child development and learning and what is known about each child as an individual and the social and cultural contexts in which they live. This means that we teach in ways that match the way children develop and learn.

Creative Curriculum is a curriculum model based on the principles of Developmentally Appropriate Practice and is the curriculum model adopted by First United Church Nursery School. Both Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Creative Curriculum draw from the research theories of education and knowledge base of Abraham Maslow (hierarchy of common human needs), Erik Erikson (Eight Stages of Man) , Jean Piaget (logical thinking and reasoning), Lev Vygotsky (social interaction and learning), Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligences), Sara Smilansky (the role of play in learning and brain research.) We additionally are influenced by the model of early education in Reggio Emilia, Italy and the Project Approach.

The classroom environment is organized around a topic of study. The topic can be prompted by children’s interest or that of the teacher. Generally a topic lasts for two to three weeks, but may develop into a project of longer duration. Many elements in the classroom are designed to support the topic, including group time discussions, books, science experiences, math activities, art activities, social dramatic play props, games and puzzles. Children become engaged in experimentation and discovery, build new understanding and vocabulary, represent their discoveries in art and writing, question, think and build confidence as a learner. We know that children learn best by active hands-on experiences and play. In play, children are free to try out new ideas and practice skills while having opportunities to interact with others and gain social competence.

While the curriculum is intellectually engaging, it is also designed for children to gain social benefits and important attributes such as self-regulation and initiative. First United is also a joyful place. Some of our activities are done for the pure fun of doing them. We expect to hear chatter and laughter in our classrooms and see children excited about the things they are discovering and experiencing as a group.