The Kids' Place Mission Statement
Our school is a small community that encourages children to develop healthy relationships and to become active agents in their own education. The development of resiliency is the root goal of all interactions in our school community. We provide a climate for growth in which children have opportunities through play and real work to explore their ideas and realize their capacities. Led by the Reggio Emilia method of teaching, we foster the next generation of citizens in an environment dense with potential that promotes literacy, numeracy, problem-solving, collaboration, and respect.
Our Vision Statement
The Kids’ Place has earned a reputation as a regional leader in Early Childhood Education. We provide excellence in programming for our children and their families, and use our expertise to promote and support family members and other care providers who also strive for excellence. We retain and empower highly qualified staff members who have a strong desire to teach, nurture and care for young children. Members of our Board of Directors become informed advocates for quality early childhood experiences and through exceptional organizational leadership extend our Core Values into the Walla Walla community. We celebrate relationships with alumni families and contributors and actively seek ways to make a positive impact in the Walla Walla Valley. We will continue to live up to our reputation by engaging, listening and responding to each of these community stakeholders.
Our Core Values
- Resiliency (the capacity which allows a person, group or community to prevent, minimize or overcome the damaging effects of adversity) is essential to a child's ability to succeed.
- Authentic acceptance of diversity is based on engagement with and understanding of the unique nature of individual people, families, and cultures.
- Active, genuine partnership between our school and our families is necessary to successfully understand and assist each child's development.
- An actual culture of safety and trust must be maintained for all members of the Kids' Place community in order to ensure such partnerships, cultural diversity, and the development of resiliency.
Our Curriculum Philosophy
Reggio Emilia Approach
The groundwork for what is now referred to as “the Reggio Emilia approach” (Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1992, 1998) is deeply rooted in the town’s long history of resistance to social injustice and its alliance with Italy’s socialist and communist parties (New, 1993). The more obvious origins can be traced back to a time shortly after World War II, when working parents claimed abandoned buildings and petitioned the city to help them build new schools for their young children. Wanting more than the traditional custodial care, parents found an eloquent spokesman in the form of Loris Malaguzzi, who was inspired by their strong sense of purpose and soon joined their efforts. Parents declared their desire for schools where children were taken seriously and where even the youngest could acquire the skills and values of collaboration and critical thinking necessary to a free and democratic society. Aided by Malaguzzi’s vision of childhood as rich with unrealized potentials and building on collaborative traditions, Reggio Emilia opened the city’s first municipal preschool in 1963 and played a leadership role in the establishment, in 1968, of Italy’s national system of early childhood services.
Excerpt from Reggio Emilia as Cultural Activity: Theory Into Practice
This Reggio Emilia inspired teaching method, adopted by Kids’ Place staff in 1994, and enhanced our ability to promote sound physical, intellectual, social, and emotional growth of the children in our small facility. The method formalized our belief that young children are not simply blank slates waiting to be filled up with facts and figures to be repeated back on standardized exams, but are instead sophisticated learners establishing life-long cognitive patterns. Our school works from the Piaget and Vygotsky philosophies that children construct meaning from their individual and collaborative experiences with an ever-expanding circle of community. To translate that theory into daily classroom strategy, we rely on Project Work, Representational Development, Collaboration, Teacher’s Role, Documentation, the Environment, and Developmentally Appropriate Practice.
Emergent Curriculum: An emergent curriculum is one that builds upon the interests of children. Topics for study are captured from the talk of children, through family events, as well as the known interests of children (puddles, shadow, dinosaurs, etc.). Team planning is an essential component of the emergent curriculum. Teachers work together to formulate hypotheses about the possible directions of project, the materials needed, and possible parent and/or community support and involvement.
Project Work: Projects, also emergent, are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests which arise within the group. Considered as an adventure, projects may last one week or could continue throughout the school year. Throughout a project, teachers help children make decisions about the direction of study, the ways in which the group will research the topic, the representational medium that will demonstrate and showcase the topic and the selection of materials needed to represent the work.
Representational Development: Consistent with Howard Gardner’s notion of schooling for multiple intelligences, the Reggio Emilia approach calls for the integration of the graphic arts as tools for cognitive, linguistic, and social development. Presentation of concepts and hypothesis in multiple forms of representation—print, art, construction, drama, music, puppetry, and shadow play—are viewed as essential to children’s understanding of experience.
Collaboration: Collaborative group work, both large and small, is considered valuable and necessary to advance cognitive development. Children are encouraged to dialogue, critique, compare, negotiate, hypothesize, and problem solve through group work. Within the Reggio Emilia approach multiple perspectives promote both a sense of group membership and the uniqueness of self.
Teachers’ Role as Researchers: The teacher’s role within the Reggio Emilia approach is complex. Working as co-teachers, the role of the teacher is first and foremost to be that of a learner alongside the children. The teacher is a teacher-researcher, a resource and guide as she/he lends expertise to children (Edwards, 1993). Within such a teacher-researcher role, educators carefully listen, observe, and document children’s work and the growth of community in their classroom and are to provoke, co-construct, and stimulate thinking, and children’s collaboration with peers. Teachers play many roles including storyteller, facilitator, and reporter. Teachers are committed to reflection about their own teacher and learning.
Documentation: Similar to the portfolio approach, documentation of children’s work in progress is viewed as an important tool in the learning process for children, teachers, and parents. Pictures of children engaged in experiences, their words as they discuss what they are doing, feeling and thinking and the children’s interpretation of experience through the visual media are displayed as a graphic presentation of the dynamics of learning.
Environment: Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom. Environment is considered the third teacher. Teachers carefully organize space for small and large group projects and small intimate spaces for one, two or three children. Documentation of children’s work, plans, and collections that children have made from former outings are displayed both at the children’s and adult eye level. Common space available to all children in the school includes dramatic play areas and work tables for children from different classrooms to come together.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Teachers work with an understanding of early childhood development. Teachers design and provide for the environment, materials, and activities to suit children’s changing developmental needs. Teachers work with families to identify what stage children are at in all developmental domains: physical (fine and gross motor), intellectual (cognitive), linguistic, social, and emotional. Based on where children are at, teachers design the environment, materials, and activities to strengthen children’s current skills and abilities while encouraging children’s natural development in all domains. In addition to this, teachers prepare, document, and share with families when children reach developmental milestones.
This overview of the Reggio Emilia Approach was adapted from information available through The Hundred Languages of Children traveling exhibit. The curriculum philosophy has been modified to meet the guiding values of The Kids’ Place.