By Margaret Jones, Associate Head of School
When thinking about traditional educational practices in the early years of childhood, the three R’s often come to mind – reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. These core academic areas are integral to the development of children’s communication through words and figuring with numbers, data and space. Yet, young children are really only beginning their development into their mature selves as learners and as people. Many aspects of a learning environment are essential to ensure that children’s minds and bodies grow into productive and successful learners.
Current brain research suggests that resources similar to those devoted to literacy and numerical skills should be focused on young children’s emotional, regulatory and social development. Allowing students time to play together and explore their world in a community-oriented environment helps them gain invaluable skills in negotiation, communication and conflict resolution. Educators must support children’s learning through direct instruction in problem solving and empathy and by valuing the skills and dispositions developed through these social interactions. Helping children practice “getting along” promotes healthy human relationships that build empathy and cooperation.
Another aspect of growing a learner involves developing an intrinsic desire to learn. Encouraging children to explore actively and to reflect on their world allows them to master their environment. By pursuing their own questions and making their own hypotheses about how something works or fits together, children nurture their passion for learning and curiosity. When given the opportunity to explore an idea and pursue a question, children want to learn more. As with any exploration, children may experience places where their ideas are proven to be inaccurate, forcing a new iteration of their hypothesis or explanation. This “failure” may include how a number sentence is solved or why a pulley actually can lift a heavy load. Working through idea development helps grow learners who are persistent and resilient in their thinking and who possess a foundation for innovation and future learning. In turn, resilience grows confidence and interest in learning.
At High Meadows, we provide children with the necessary skills to succeed academically, but perhaps more importantly, we grow learners. We develop the whole child, helping children focus on building strong relationships and becoming resilient learners who pursue their interests and passions. That’s been our focus since our beginning in 1973, and we’re proud it continues today.