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Principles & Practices in Early Childhood Education

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Preschool education landscape in Singapore which comprises both kindergartens and childcare centres has seen many positive developments over the last few decades with help from the Early Childhood Development Agency, ECDA which provides quality assurance and oversees all aspects of children’s development from birth to age 6. Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) supports preschool teacher’s through its shared curriculum resources such as the Nurturing Early Learners (NEL) Framework while ECDA supports through its Early Year Development Framework (EYDF). These frameworks will be further discussed in the later part of the essay on how it supports our chosen preschool’s curriculum as well as its programmes to help nurture every child’s unique development.

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Kidz Meadow Early Childhood and Development Centre, the early childhood branch of MERCU Learning Point, rebrand in 2008, believes in their comprehensive programmes draft out to equip every child’s interest in learning. Kidz meadow is one of the Partner Operators (POP) appointed in 2015 by Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) with all its centres being awarded with SPARKS certification to ensure the centre’s continued commitment to provide quality in areas such as its ‘curriculum, pedagogy and health, hygiene and safety’. (ECDA, 2019)

Kidz Meadow’s philosophy aims to create a fun, creative and positive environment to allow children to express and hone their potentials to the fullest in their own comfortable little beings. They also aimed to be a 1st class provider in Early Childhood Care and Education in which they have been recently awarded by Parents World for Best In Developing Environmentally-Aware Learners 2019 through its Nature Magnified programme specially catered for children aged 4 to 6. Their comprehensive programmes was designed not only to help them academically but also to nurture them to be socially responsible citizens through community involvement, active learners and thinkers, a part of Kidz Meadow’s mission.

Kidz Meadow emphasizes heavily in cultivating learning experiences through ‘creative play and discovery’ where learning continues beyond the boundaries of their classrooms through outdoor activities and also through their value added programmes giving them ample opportunities to experiment what they’ve learned, discover and explore alongside with their teachers on hand to ensure safety.

The school’s practices correlates with the Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) whereby they introduce age appropriate curriculum such as the Little Bloom for infants to age 3 and Bloom Curriculum for ages 4 to 6.

Kidz Meadow embraces every child’s individuality by allowing children to express what they have learned not through just academic worksheets but through other mediums that best explains their thinking process. This is evident through one of their value added programmes, SuperKinder Camp targeting the Kindergarten 1 and 2 children whereby they present their learning experiences through various mediums such as diorama, dramatisation as well as drawings with educators by their side to facilitate them.

The educators in Kidz Meadow does not miss out on the valuable teaching moments that can be imparted to impressionable young minds. Kids will also learn to love their language and culture through various fun activities and festive celebrations, building a strong sense of identity and instilling confidence for their future and these are evident through their Bloom Curriculum of Kidz@Heart.

Kidz Meadow planned out a structured curriculum in which they call it as Integrated Thematic Bloom Curriculum. The Bloom Curriculum is divided into five categories; Kidz@Work, Kidz@Venture, Kidz@Play, Kidz@Nature, and Kidz@Heart. Play is central throughout these areas, with children learning academic concepts through engaging activities like songs and games. Literacy is not forgotten, and the pedagogy at Kidz Meadow focuses not just on teaching the little ones to read, but also allowing them to practise expressing ideas through different mediums. The 5 categories of Bloom curriculum are strongly referenced and influenced from the NEL framework as well as the EYDF. Educators of Kidz meadow are encouraged to integrate each lesson plan with at least 2 out of 6 learning areas as specified in the NEL framework and to relate each lesson to the school’s term’s thematic topics and subtopics.

Every unique child learns differently. It seems challenging to recognize a child’s ability and progress through play or simply to put a tick on a checklist. Therefore, the role of the educator comes in as a facilitator to facilitate the child’s individuality while identifying the child’s behaviour, character as well as their learning developmental stage.

NAEYC, an organization that provides support for Early Childhood educators (NIEC slide, PPEE session 3, 2019) crafts out a framework of 5 guidelines for effective teaching as well as Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) to help young children’s optimal learning and development to meet the challenging and achievable learning goals (NIEC slides, PPEE session 3, 2019). Through this framework, educators are able to plan out lessons and curriculums to guide children’s development individually and in a group setting.

There are several considerations that an educator need to focus on when crafting out the school’s curriculum and lesson plans. The educators needs to ensure that the children’s learning are intentional in order for them to achieve their goal. Through DAP’s framework that serves as a guideline, there are 3 core considerations that could help to facilitate the child’s goals.

Creating curriculum and programmes with regards to their age appropriateness. The first consideration is to ensure that knowledge of development and learning of children’s capabilities are within the milestones range. The second consideration is to respect the child’s individuality by attuning to the child’s personality and learning styles. Lastly, the curriculum and programmes should be appropriate to the social and cultural context in which children live.

MOE published a curriculum framework (revised 2012) for preschools in Singapore called Nurturing Early Learners, NEL which trained educators uses this as a guidelines to provide a holistics education for children age 4 to 6. The NEL framework contains learning goals each child should fulfilled at the end of the preschool years. This is to ensure that they are able to cope with the change from preschool to primary school.

This framework is divided into 6 learning areas which describes how children are able to fulfil their goals at the end of their preschool. These goals would eventually be converted into each child’s knowledge and skills as well as their learning dispositions which helps the educator to plan lessons and curriculums.

Through this 6 learning areas, iTeach principles was created by NEL to guide educators with the planning and promote meaningful learning experiences to raise children’s knowledge and skills. This framework acts just as a guidance for educators to plan their curriculum based on the children’s capabilities. However, registered preschool centres in Singapore are allowed to plan their own curriculums based on the NEL framework (MOE, 2013).

Let us take a thorough look on how Kidz Meadow designed their curriculum, programme and lesson plans taking reference from the various above mentioned frameworks.

Kidz Meadow provides various value added programmes to enhance children’s love and respect for local cultures , to activate their interests through theme projects and explore through outdoor activities and camps. The school practices the DAP guidelines for effective teaching. Kidz Meadow focuses more towards the DAP’s 3 core considerations, developmentally, culturally and individually.

A 2 days, 1 night programme where children and teachers worked alongside each other to explore the wonders of nature and be given the opportunity to prepare a presentation through various mediums such as drawing, diorama and dramatization to help the child reflect and recap on what they have learned through the programme in their comfortable way to express their thoughts. A camp for kindergarten 1 and 2, ages 5 and 6.

In deep project teachers and children are to collaborate their ideas or explore on a topic of interest. They are to contribute ideas or find more information on the particular interest, for example an animal. They might have an opportunity to go to the zoo to explore and observe different types of animals and at the end of the day the children are to do a mini exhibition at the centre to reflect on what they have learned. A project for toddlers ages 18months to the Kindergarten 2 children, age 6.

Each term, the children are exposed to various local cultures, visiting places that best reflects the culture descriptions through Learning Journeys and games and activities of different cultures.

The children are exposed and educated about the different types of cultural found in Singapore. They learned through either dancing, singing , videos , art & craft or different types of traditional clothing.

A nature based outdoor programme where children unearth the wonders of mother nature and excites their curiosity by exploring using their sensorial capabilities. Equipment such as hats and bags are provided and are encouraged to wear to signify the Nature Magnified period. Simple tools were not provided but recreated by the children using recycled materials.

Kidz Meadow uses the core considerations as a guidelines to plan lessons and curriculums that benefits the children. Activities are usually focused on the children’s capabilities and milestones. Looking at their curriculum and their programme, Kidz Meadow adheres to the key ideas of progressive education of John Dewey (NIEC slide, PPEE session 1, 2019), as they focus on teaching a child physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively or in other words, a ‘Whole Child’. Children of Kidz Meadow will learn through exploring real materials and self-directed activities through projects such as Nature Magnified, SuperKinder Camp and others, to name a few, from the Integrated Thematic Bloom Curriculum.

Kidz meadow has a mixture of approach and it weighs heavily in Project approach in their teachings. This benefits the children in problem solving and skills that will be useful for them in the future. These projects are given by educators based on their termly themes. Educators will guide the children with questions which helps the children to brainstorm. Brainstorming helps the children to think creatively. From there, they will learn how to inquire a variety of possibilities to solve.

In a project approach teaching, children would either work individually or in a group. When a child works in a group, they improve their social and emotional skills and increase their confidence in sharing. They are allowed to communicate and strengthen their motivation to improve (NIEC slide, PPEE session 2, 2019).

As an educator, they are there to guide and lead the children in the correct path. An educator role is more of a co-player in this situation. They would redirect the children back to the main project if the children ideas went out of range. Hence, this helps the children to problem solve and communicate among their friends.

However, in Singapore, parents are rather skeptical in putting their children in a preschool that uses project approach teaching. Parents would rather put their children in a structured or academically inclined programme preschool which they believe that it is more ideal for the transition to primary school.

Overall, Kidz Meadow have a curriculum and programme that relates back to the frameworks however the execution to these are heavily focused on one aspect which is the environmental awareness (nature magnified) which seems as a success. It could also imply that the centre would like to tackle on the various programme one at a time achieving it slowly to develop the child holistically as it may seem impossible for the child at such a young age to ace in all various programme.

 

 

References

1. NAEYC, Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 (2009) A position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/PSDAP.pdf

2. Nurturing Early Learners, A curriculum framework for Kindergartens in Singapore.Vol.1 (2012) Educator’s Guide: Overview. Retrieved from https://www.moe.gov.sg/docs/default-source/document/education/preschool/files/nel-edu-guide-overview.pdf

3. Nurturing Early Learners, MOE (2012). A curriculum framework for Kindergartens in Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.nel.sg/qql/slot/u143/Resources/Downloadable/pdf/kindergarten-curriculum-framework.pdf

4. SPARK Info Pack. (n.d). Listing of SPARK-Certified Preschools. Retrieved on https://www.ecda.gov.sg/sparkinfo/Pages/ListingOfCertifiedCentresByYear.aspx

5. KMBR Lil Rangers in ACTION (n.d.). June DEEP Project: Primate Kingdom Special. Retrieved from https://stories.littlelives.com/p/startsmalldreambig/stories/kmbr-lil-rangers-in-action-june-deep-project-primate-kingdom-special-4290.

6. Kidz Meadow (2019). Providing quality education since 1999. Retrieved from https://www.kidzmeadow.com/

7. Kidz Meadow (2019). Enhance your child’s holistic development through unique, fun and nature inspired programme: BLOOM CURRICULUM. Retrieved from https://www.kidzmeadow.com/

8. Kidz Meadow (2019). What is Nature Magnified and why is it important?. Retrieved from https://www.kidzmeadow.com/

9. Mercu Learning: Kidz Meadow (2019). Kidz Meadow Curriculum. Retrieved from http://merculearning.com/kidzmeadow/

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