Our Educator Spotlight features some of the most amazing educators in our community. Throughout this series you will have an opportunity to learn a little more about our readers, as well as explore unique preschool programs across the U.S and in other countries.
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How long have you been an early childhood educator, and why did you become one?
I have been a licensed family child care provider for over 20 years. I began my career as an assistant at a friend’s licensed program. It was during that time that I decided to open my own program. As we grew our family, it allowed me to care for my own children while contributing to our family’s income.
What is the philosophy of your program?
I use both the Reggio Emilia and Forest School approaches, which focus on child-led, play-based learning. As an interest arises, the facilitator offers materials and provocations, and determines how certain skills can be introduced naturally throughout the project. This allows children the time and space needed to develop their interests and skills while having regular opportunities to develop confidence through engaging, hands-on learning experiences.
Child-led play supports the development of symbolic thinking, which underpins the child’s skills for reading, writing, and numbers. As children lead the play and become involved in developing imaginative scenarios, they are making connections between actions and thinking which are tangible, to those that are abstract and intangible (symbolic like numbers and letters). We can support this by enabling children to follow their own ideas and have opportunities to play imaginatively both indoors and outdoors. I am not a giver of knowledge, but rather a co-learner and co-researcher.
What makes your program unique?
My environment. The children are in nature for hours each day, month after month, year after year while learning the landscape and seasonal changes of the property. One group of children may choose to build shelters and create shops in the forest with handmade creations and currency. Another group is interested in mining for rocky treasures and building dams ahead of rainstorms.
Just before we go in for lunch, the children harvest a variety of vegetables for a salad or plant carrots seeds. After rest time, they may snack on raspberries and blackberries straight from the bush, or pick mulberries from a tree to make jam. Winter exploration includes searching for animal tracks in the snow, sledding, or finding a fallen log with interesting patterns of old insect tunnels. On average, we spend over 75% of our play time exploring outdoors, while supporting their interest-led curiosities, and letting them take the lead in their own learning.
What is your favorite thing about being an early childhood educator?
Seeing signs of deep engagement throughout the day! From a child’s focus on one small area of activity such as pouring water into a very narrow test tube over and over, to the wonder and enthusiasm shown when a Monarch butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Or the complexity and creativity of a group-invented game, and the sheer persistence to keep going when they try and fail at a task and the satisfaction when they finally succeed.
What advice would you give to a new educator?
Never stop learning! My program has continued to evolve and grow over the years because I’m always researching. There are many collaborative organizations that can help you to improve your program, backed up by support, tools, and research.
For instance, two helpful organizations for outdoor education are the 'Children & Nature Network' and the 'North American Association for Environmental Education' (NAAEE). Both of these organizations have online research libraries where you can access thousands of studies and peer-reviewed research articles on the childhood benefits of nature, printable info graphics to share those benefits with clients and families, online training and instruction, and community networking opportunities.
A big thank you..
I want to extend a big thank you to Amanda White for sharing her wonderful program with our readers! Be sure to stop by Amanda's FB Page or Website to see more of the inspiring things she's created for her program!
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