When giving tours at ELCM, I am often asked “Are you more academic or play-based?” I must admit I find this to be the most difficult question to answer. If I respond with the importance of preparing children academically for the rigor of first grade, I feel I am misrepresenting the young child by denying the importance of play. If I respond with my belief that the young child learns through play, then I am misrepresenting the importance of preparing the child with the academic skill set needed to be successful in first grade. How do I explain to a perspective ELCM parent their child will love school and will thrive in the academic arena with the right type of play combined with a developmentally appropriate learning time.
Setting up a classroom is a very methodical process. There must be the right balance of purposeful play and teacher directed learning. At ELCM, every center created within the classroom has a purpose and a role in the child’s learning. Here is an outline of the “Play Centers” you will find in our all of our classrooms.
Our MATH centers are designed with brightly colored thematic objects to catch the playful eye of the child. These hands-on objects lend themselves to sorting, graphing, patterning, and the discovery of symmetry. What the children do not realize as they are “playing” is they are learning mathematical concepts. Also the manipulative nature of the math materials help develop small muscles and build skills they will need in higher grades.
Our DRAWING and WRITING centers are fill with markers, crayons and assorted paper. It is in this center children are developing organizational skills, along with pencil control and printing skills. It is also allows for creativity and for expressing one’s imagination with pen and paper. Drawing and Writing are important steps into the writing and reading process.
Our BLOCK centers are filled with blocks of various shapes and sizes. This tends to be the most popular spot in the classroom. A great deal of organizing and planning, not to mention cooperative play takes place here. It is said that our future architects and city planners play here!
Our DRAMATIC PLAY centers are filled with items where children can role- play important futures career opportunities such a doctor, a veterinarian, a police officer, a mail carrier or more importantly a mommy or a daddy.
Our SCIENCE centers bring the world around us into the classroom. They are free exploring and allow the children to experiment and discover with various mediums. Many skills are taught through exploration and the self-discovery of making predictions and watching outcomes help to make confident learners.
Our ART centers are filled with various paints, play dough, glitter, glue etc. This is the center to express oneself creatively and to build confidence in using all school tools such as scissors, paint, and glue. The young child is naturally drawn to the love of art; and so we feed that love.
Our GAME centers are extremely important in teaching life skills about cooperation, how to wait your turn and the most valuable lesson of all, how to be a good winner and a good loser.
Our PLAYGROUND is as important as our classrooms. Exercise is unmistakably important for the mind, body and spirit. When children use their large muscles, they release energy and oxygenate the brain. Social scenarios occur as children swing, slide, climb, dig and use construction vehicles. Not to mention, being outside is just fun!
I agree that teacher-directed learning has its place in the early childhood curriculum, but what if you watch or listen to the young child, if play they want and play they need. So I say to parents and teachers alike; remember, ” Play is a child’s work” and know that at ELCM our “play centers” are so much more than what meets the eye.
-Authored by Deb Winslow
ELCM Owner / Teacher