Project Based Learning
The principle goal of education is to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done - men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers.
We are heavily influenced by the Reggio Emilia Philosophy of learning which calls for a child-centered evolving curriculum that is largely executed through Project Based Learning. In The W.I.D.E. Pre-School classrooms, children engage in thought provoking, challenging play everyday. This play naturally leads to experimentation with math, physics, language, art, and more. A child’s natural sense of curiosity about the world around them will offer the teachers opportunities to help the child discover and apply concepts of every discipline. We believe that children must construct their own knowledge and our school aspires to cultivate an authentic passion and love of lifelong learning and exploration. At W.I.D.E. School, the teachers balance supportive and directive roles in the child’s learning. The teacher's supportive role is carried out by carefully observing the children's play and then helping to deepen their experience through various ways:
- presenting items related to their topic of interest to engage their thinking on a deeper level ie: books, art materials, pictures, any tangible item related to the project
- asking the children questions about their current knowledge
- helping the children formalize questions
- supporting the children in their efforts to further their learning
- helping children observe and build their knowledge on the subject
- supporting group participation and communication between the children
Teachers also provide provocations within and outside the children's project work. The Reggio Emilia philosophy believes in using the classroom itself as a teacher. Thoughtful and engaging provocations are set up daily for the children to explore a variety of disciplines. Our children learn within a framework of structure that is carefully planned to allow plenty of time for authentic learning and play. The Reggio Emilia philosophy and W.I.D.E. School believe that children are most engaged when they are interested in the topic. Our days are open to start new projects or to continue exploring ongoing projects, probing deeper into a subject and discovering how it is related to the world around us and knowledge we have previously built.
As children grow in our school, they are the drivers of their education. Our elementary students’ curiosities allow them to delve deep into various subjects. Allowing the freedom for curiosity to thrive in Project Based Learning has proved to be very engaging and challenging for the children. Their questions and the journey of finding the answers allow them to truly analyze what they are learning. This naturally leads to more thoughtful questions, more discovery, and more passion and ownership of their education. Academic information not explored through project work is integrated by our teachers in the form of provocations.
We believe our world needs future adults who can think for themselves, tackle complex problems, think outside the box, and embody true self confidence that comes from years of practicing these skills in various ways. The W.I.D.E. campus is dedicated to making this a reality for all its students. The possibilities are endless!
Leadership and the Ability to Execute Ideas
Most parents want their children to be leaders and posses confidence, creativity, commitment, innovation, and being a team player. Our students are given continual opportunities to practice the critical skills of leadership and the ability to execute ideas. Our students know that we will honor their ideas and support them.
The flexibility that is an innate part of project based learning, allows for the free flowing of ideas and curiosity to take rein.
This critical point becomes fuel for the children to continue to bring their ideas forth. Project Based Learning will naturally offer children opportunities to take the lead in various aspects of the project. Additionally, the students participate in daily meetings where they share ideas and build plans to further their projects.
Teamwork, Respect, Creative and Critical Thinking
One of the main roles of our teachers is to "put the ball back in the student’s court" as much as possible. Sometimes this is easier to explain by letting you know what we don’t do:
We do not answer all of their questions.
We join them on a journey of discovering the answer.
We don’t give them clear and concise directions on how to do their work.
We present them with materials from a very young age and help them master them. We help them plan and carry out their experiments.
We don’t tell them their idea will not work (even if we know for sure it won’t!). We don’t tell them the easiest way to solve the problem. We don’t tell them how they will learn.
We allow them the time and space to think, reflect, collaborate, and be creative.
We support their ideas and let them find out on their own if it will work or not. We encourage the students to use each other as resources. Students are often in a position to teach others in their class or group. When a child is able to teach a concept to another child, it greatly heightens their own level of understanding and confidence. Moreover, children teaching each other builds their interpersonal relationships.
"The strength in our classroom lies in the collaboration of learners not in the knowledge of one expert." -Unknown
Autonomy and Self Regulation
At W.I.D.E School we see conflicts as learning opportunities. We believe that teaching children coping skills and self awareness is a vital part of our day. The methods used to resolve conflicts teach children values and principles. We believe in allowing opportunities for the children to regulate themselves, have autonomy, take responsibility for their actions, and learn from natural consequences. We discuss what kind of class everyone wants to be a part of and the students create a set of relative rules. The teachers and students discuss classroom rules, agree on them, and they write them down. Children see themselves as capable of deciding right from wrong. As the school year progresses rules are altered, taken out, and new ones are added by the class. Development and evaluation of class rules provides an important life lesson: flexibility and reevaluation are critical cornerstones for success. As specific problems occur in the classroom, the teacher acts as a coach to facilitate communication between the children. The children express their issues and they must find a mutually agreeable solution. This method allows the child to have an internal struggle between their intrinsic wants versus morality or empathy. This is true character building and a very rich experiences for everyone involved. We also strive to form authentic relationships with every child. Our students feel loved and valued because we show them this love every day by sharing their interest, having a democracy within the classroom, holding them and ourselves accountable, and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Our students come from all ethnic and religious backgrounds. Diversity brings us closer together as a community. Through our differences we find our cohesiveness. We share and celebrate our families' cultures, histories and traditions during big celebrations, such as the International Festival. We also celebrate our traditions and culture through food. The children cook and eat foods from their culture - parents will often come to cook with the class. We read and dissect a wide range of books, listen to music from all over the world, and discover different parts of the world through our project work. Diversity is greatly celebrated in the atelier as well. We believe diversity brings richness in a way nothing else can. Diversity enhances worldliness, social development, and helps prepare our students for work in a global economy.