Here you see a girl drawing a line in the dirt of our playground. She is focused, and calm. The dirt is endlessly fascinating. It holds many treasures both in and on it. Soon she will go off to climb or collect other treasures, and stop again to experiment with other tools, both manufactured and natural. Her friends do the same, both boys and girls. There is time for this in the day because it is essential to the growth of her mind. She will need to discuss what she discovers later in morning meeting, or at lunch, or during activity time. And she will have the opportunity to try out her drawing using other media. She will extend and expand on what she has learned outside.
In our day we discuss every aspect of our curriculum with the children, and they easily offer tips and suggestions to us. Everyone has a say. We ask important, open-ended questions and expect answers not only at the time but after, while we are on the playground, for instance, or at lunch. We eat with our children and everything is discussed. I don't mean to make it sound like a graduate dorm! The children are under five and conversations can become silly and even naughty! But they know that anything they say has value to us, and we will take their comments and questions seriously, whether about the construction project across the street (is that a dump truck?), the lines they are drawing in the dirt (I can make a rectangle!),and the food we are eating (ugh! you brought mushrooms?). Perhaps partly because of our program's emphasis on individual inquiry, and partly because each teacher is open as a person to the children, our children have a reputation to the various adults who come to observe. A former college student of mine said, "they are lively, but so well-behaved". And each year those who come to observe for both state and county licensing say something even more interesting. They say, "They have so much PERSONALITY!"
I think this says volumes. When the state and county regulators go to other childcare centers do they see children who are not as inquisitive, not as lively? Do they see children who are marched through the day doing coloring and worksheets, or going from activity to activity every fifteen minutes or half hour? Do they have concrete playgrounds instead of outdoor environments?
Possibly we just have more interesting children coming to our center! I can't say for sure, but I must admit, they do have so much personality!