The curriculum focuses on skill development that is appropriate to each age group within the program. Some skills are applicable to all ages whereas others only apply to one or two age groups. The structure of our curriculum ensures continuity in skill development from year to year contributing to smooth program transitions.
Themes are used as planning tools for the staff and help enhance real-life experiences for the children. The themes provide necessary variety since the skills are reinforced and taught continuously throughout the year. As the children grow and develop, so do their cognitive abilities. The repetition from year to year provides new learning situations commensurate with their increasing capabilities.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice
Developmentally appropriate practice represents the cornerstone of philosophy and practice at the Child Development Center. It is a set of principles that honor the general sequence of child development and also each child’s individual differences. Lessons planned, activities organized, and experiences that evolve are measured as to the appropriateness for the group and also for the individual child’s physical, social, intellectual, and Judaic development at any given point in time.
Developmentally appropriate practice enhances children’s development and facilitates learning while avoiding the stressors created in a highly academic, teaching environment. The teacher’s role becomes that of facilitator and enabler...one who sets up the environment to encourage development of skills, spark interest, and allow for independence.
In the course of their days at the Child Development Center, children are given blocks of time to move freely about the classroom, self-selecting activities set up by the teacher. Resources available to children contain the “seeds” of learning through: dramatic play, puppets, books, puzzles, manipulatives, blocks, water and/or sand, and large muscle activities.
Our program includes indoor and outdoor play, napping and rest periods or opportunities for individual and group play. We also ensure that there are opportunities for children to read and explore books, that teachers read daily with children from developmentally appropriate literature, and that teachers foster, language and social development by talking with children and modeling appropriate language behaviors. Incorporating developmentally appropriate practice by definition allows children to do the “work” they are best capable of, which we often call “play.” “Play involves a free choice activity that is self-motivated, enjoyable and process oriented” (Johnson, Christie & Yawkey).
Time to play allows children to lay the many and varied experiences foundational to later success physically, socially and academically.
Children learn to think abstractly, to try out new roles and possible situations, and to experiment with language and emotions with dramatic play. In addition, they develop flexible thinking, learn to create beyond the “here and now,” stretch their imaginations, use new words and word combinations, and use numbers and words to express ideas, concepts, histories, and dreams.
The book “Jewish Everyday” by Maxine Segal Handelman helps guide our strong Judaic curriculum. This resource helps the teachers in taking a more general theme and finding ways to make the theme have a strong Judaic aspect. Providing a strong Jewish foundation is key to the success of the Pennie Z. Davis Child Development Center.
“Jewish Everyday” concentrates not only on the holidays but also on values that apply to everyone regardless of their religion. Themes such as taking care of the elderly, giving Tzedakah, helping others, kindness to animals, taking care of the earth, and visiting the sick are a few of the many different values that are incorporated into the daily themes.
At the Pennie Z. Davis Child Development Center Shabbat and Havdallah play an important role in our program. Through the curriculum we celebrate and learn about the importance of Shabbat in our lives. It is through the traditional blessings and songs that the children here understand the importance of Shabbat. In addition, we have on staff a Judaic Coordinator that works with small groups to reinforce all of our themes.
The Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers, & Twos has helped teachers understand developmentally appropriate practice and how to create daily routines and meaningful experiences that respond to children’s strengths, interests, and needs. Using exploration and discovery as a way of learning, The Creative Curriculum for Preschool enables children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills. The assessment component is an authentic, ongoing observational system for assessing children from birth through kindergarten, proven to be valid and reliable by extensive field testing. It helps teachers observe children in the context of everyday experiences, which is an effective way to get to know them well and find out what they know and can do.
Our 3- and 4-yr-olds also use the Handwriting Without Tears Get Set for School® program. Get Set for School® helps young learners gain the skills and experiences they need for lifelong learning success. Our hands-on curriculum focuses on the three core learning areas—readiness & writing, language &literacy, and numbers & math. We get preschoolers singing, dancing, coloring, building, and exploring on a joyous journey to school.