At SEK International Schools, we believe that children are naturally inquisitive. From birth, they have the ability to learn about the world around them, interpret it, and interact with it. They are curious, capable and independent.
Our aim is to foster and celebrate these natural qualities through an innovative and creative curriculum that ensures the best learning and teaching practices in Early Childhood.
The values and beliefs that sustain our learning and teaching practices in Early Childhood at SEK Schools have socio-constructivist and socio-cultural influences. We draw on the theories such as those by Vygotsky, Bronfenbrenner, Rogoff, Montessori, Steiner and Malaguzzi.
SOCIO-CONSTRUCTIVE AND SOCIO-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES OF LEARNING
One of the ideas of socio-constructivism is that boys and girls build their ideas through interaction with peers and adults who have more knowledge or skills than they do. With this scaffolding, the child’s learning is transformed and deeper ways of understanding the world are built. This is called the Zone of Proximate Development (ZPD).
CENTRAL IDEAS OF LEARNING IN SEK EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Childhood experiences are the foundation for all future learning. Supporting children in their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development implies that all members of the community give importance to this stage and take into account the importance of play as the main catalyst for inquiry.
SEK Early Childhood Learning Core Ideas take into consideration the best practices for teaching and learning and are based on the theories that are at the basis of our educational vision. These ideas include appropriate inquiry for the stage, play, evidence for learning, relationships, exploration and symbolic expression (language, literacy, mathematics and other forms of communication), the profile of the student, spaces and time for learning.
Each of these elements support each other and work together to offer students balanced experiences, to enhance their learning and development.
From the sociocultural perspective, we understand that children develop as they participate in cultural communities. Their ideas and ways of understanding the world are built on relationships: conversations, social interactions and experiences with collective meaning. From this perspective, learning emerges from relationships and participation with others. Learning and development are cultural processes.
INQUIRY APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDHOOD
Learning at SEK schools is based on inquiry. In early childhood, this means that children observe, explore, experiment, check, handle and use all their senses, when interacting with the world and predicting what is going to happen around them. They gather information and form their conclusions using their senses.
Play is at the base of this process of inquiry: as children interact with the world around them through play and free exploration, they reflect on and extend their understanding of it, their knowledge, and their abilities.
From 0 to 3 years of age, the senses are the primary vehicle for inquiry. Children use all of their senses to explore their own bodies, and then the world around them. With them, they initiate increasingly complex games and interactions, thereby developing their understanding and skills.
What implications does this have in practice?
Inquiry and learning take place when children play. During play, children build, test, confirm, and review their ideas about how the world works. By playing, children make decisions, take initiative and the opportunity to inquire. During the game, they build and confirm their ideas and ways of understanding things. They adapt these ideas about how the world works, within a safe context, in which they are willing to take risks.
Play allows children to feel safe. Through it, they express themselves freely and develop cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically.
What implications does this have in practice?
EVIDENCE FOR LEARNING
Through close observation of children’s inquiries and play, teachers document and monitor children’s learning and development, including:
With the aim of making learning deep and meaningful, improving their school experience, and ultimately improving their performance, SEK Schools are implementing an Evidence for Learning (E4L) model. It is a model based on the systematic, continuous and consistent implementation of collecting learning evidence, and giving students feedback on their next steps in their learning.
In Early Childhood Education, the practice of documenting learning through evidence gathering is common.
In the E4L approach at SEK Early Childhood Education, children participate in different experiences based on play and inquiry, where they develop cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically, and whose learning stories are documented by the teachers in some of the following ways:
Children also participate in documenting their learning when:
Children and teachers reflect on these evidences of learning to identify ideas, learnings, needs and interests. They collaborate to identify the next steps in their learning, and thus advance their learning and development, using the feedback from teachers, their peers and themselves.
At SEK Schools we motivate and nurture positive relationships between home, family and school, to offer a solid foundation for learning, behaviour, health and general well-being.
Children experience the world as an environment of relationships, these relationships affect all aspects of their development. The importance of relationships in childhood is a fundamental part of developing important skills, and dispositions that focus on trust and a sense of belonging. When the importance of relationships is reinforced, the foundations for creating an effective learning community are consolidated.
Teachers support the development of relationships through:
EXPLORATION AND SYMBOLIC EXPRESSION: LANGUAGE, LITERACY, MATHEMATICS AND OTHER FORMS OF COMMUNICATION
Literacy and number literacy are evolving processes as children move toward increasingly sophisticated understandings. The effective teaching and learning of language and mathematics relies on children’s developing abilities to listen and speak with others, and to understand and use symbols.
The teaching of language and mathematics is an individual and different process in each child, it is related to the personal interests. Children develop their understanding and skills of literacy, numbers, and other modes of communication, within the context of inquiry and play. For example, when they play with wooden blocks, they acquire vocabulary, learn about volume and shape, and develop gross and fine motor skills.
In the context of play and inquiry, children use symbols to explore, examine, question, predict, share, investigate, and reflect. By playing, they construct meanings, develop oral language and symbolic competence.
By engaging in socio-dramatic play, role play, or “make believe …”, the language they use becomes more complex, as it includes negotiating roles, taking turns, explaining what one wants to do and responding to the needs of others.
Teachers support language learning by offering opportunities for physical movement and cooperative and imaginative play.
During play, children have many opportunities to reflect on their ideas. As part of the game, they represent their way of understanding the world in different ways. They also have the opportunity to recall their representations and reflect on them to extend their learning.
They share their personal experiences and ways of understanding things through speech, play, shared stories and collaborative exploration.
By playing independently, children use internal speech to play with the elements of language, thereby consolidating their understanding of the tasks they perform, and the relationships in which they engage.
By interacting with different types of materials, children develop the symbolic languages necessary to share and communicate their ideas and knowledge: literacy, mathematics, and other conventional forms of expression.
STUDENT PROFILE, EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
As children inquire and play, they develop attitudes and attributes, along with skills and understanding. Children become:
LEARNING SPACE AND TIME
A learning environment is the context in which learning occurs. Learning occurs in settings that promote collaboration and a shared sense of purpose and belonging. An environment respects the agency of “rich and powerful learners” (Edwards, Gandini, and Forman 2012), inspires creativity and innovation, and recognises experimentation and failure as an integral part of the learning process.
Engaging learning environments inspire students’ imagination and creativity and encourage the process of inquiry, action, and reflection. These environments provide opportunities for emerging inquiries.
Spaces should provide opportunities to play independently and in groups. To develop a sense of ownership both inside and out, shared routines, rituals, and understanding are developed to support being and learning together. Learning spaces reflect the sociocultural worlds of young students where family, identity and languages are represented through the use of images, artefacts and exhibits.
At this age, children depend on sensory information to make sense of the world. Materials and resources for young learners lead to play to give them multiple opportunities to manipulate objects, build and test theories to construct meaning both indoors and outdoors.
Time spent outdoors is considered an important time for authentic inquiry, learning and play, social interaction, movement, and relaxation. The different stimuli provided by the open air and the availability, arrangement and rearrangement of materials are taken into account. Outdoor observations, such as seasonal changes or local bird migration patterns, can be integrated indoors for further investigation and creation of meaning.
Outdoor spaces also have the potential to expand inquiry, risk-taking, and wellness support through socialization, negotiation, and communication in both planned and incidental learning activities.