The Project Approach
The world is vast and there is much to learn….so how can we best help children make sense of it all? The better we structure the learning environment, the higher the level at which children learn. For this process to be most effective, children must play an active role in their learning so they begin to create their own structures and become increasingly less dependent on adults. After all, the end goal of the educational process is the creation of self-directed learners.
Our project-based approach in the Early Childhood Center creates self-directed learners. Project topics create a sense of fun and excitement, activating full engagement of mind and body and allowing learning goals to be artfully integrated into meaningful activities.
Projects last four weeks and follow a powerful four-step process that takes children’s learning from the here-and-now to greater levels of abstraction and representation. The four weekly steps are:
- Orientation: starting with the familiar and building excitement for the learning ahead
- Demonstration: active learning of new skills, concepts, and vocabulary through hands-on, sensory activities
- Broadening: connecting new learning to personal experiences and comparing/contrasting relevant characteristics
- Deepening: applying learning to new situations through abstraction, problem solving, and flexible thinking
Children learn and relearn in both short- and long-term cycles that take place over time. Each project represents a short-term cycle of learning for a body of concepts, skills, and vocabulary. Our Nido ECC projects also connect across the three-year span of PK, K1, and K2 programs, so that each year students revisit their favorite topics with more sophisticated conceptual approaches and in-depth study. This creates the long-term cycles of learning that are necessary for broader, deeper understandings to take hold in the mind.
Across this three-year age span, children experience the kind of recursive learning that creates multiple, strong connections in the brain. Most importantly, the children are having fun as they actively engage in activities that stimulate their curiosity and sense of adventure!