Philosophy for Education and Care of Children

The staff of the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) is committed to providing a high quality program for young children and their families.  The program is nationally accredited through NAEYC and is designed to promote the development of the total individual by helping each child to develop skills in the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive areas.  This is accomplished by providing a balanced program that includes both teacher-directed and child initiated activities, quiet as well as active experiences, and the recognition that learning occurs in both formal and informal settings, especially through play.

Young children are integrally connected to their homes and families, and it is understood that families are and should be the principle influence in their children's lives.  The ECDC seeks to be appropriately responsive to families.  Parents, teachers, and staff work together toward the goal of nurturing children in an environment where all are respected for their individual differences and provided with the building blocks for a lifelong love of learning.

The Early Childhood Development Center's philosophy is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach and is based on the knowledge that young children learn through active exploration of their environment. This occurs optimally when their physical needs are met and they feel emotionally secure. Instilling in children a sense of security and trust will be of utmost importance. Staff will create classroom learning environments appropriate to the developmental needs of the various age groups and will provide for the needs of individual children.

The ECDC is a ‘living laboratory’ where adults as well as children come to learn. We believe that we learn from the children just as much as they are learning from us. Teachers are co-collaborators with children. Teachers are guiding, mentoring, and modeling, but also observing, reflecting, and hypothesizing. Teachers are researchers, studying the changes that individual children have as they grow, as well as the changes in the group and between group members. Our teachers are curious, interested, and enthusiastic about how children learn, and how children show us what they know. We understand that much of what children show us about their learning and understanding of the world is not through verbal communication.

kids playing in the plaza

ECDC Philosophy Inspired by Reggio

By Mary Lynn Gottler, Head Teacher, Luna Classroom

The Early Childhood Development Center is a school strongly inspired by the work of the educators of Reggio Emilia.  As such, we share an image of the child as powerful and competent – a child who both carries and constructs his own culture, a child who is able to direct his own learning.  We strongly believe that it is important that children’s voices be heard and that their contributions to our own unique culture be valued, just as those of the children of Reggio are valued in their community.  So it is with great effort and intention that we work to find new and meaningful ways to connect the life of the children with the life of our community.  Through meaningful interactions and participation in Campus events, the Flint Farmers’ Market, and relationships with people and places around them, the children demonstrate their understanding of the world and contribute in many ways.  This is our way of preparing the children for future civic engagement and responsible citizenship, just like our college student counterparts.

The teachers work to develop a disposition of listening “with” children – of noticing and wondering alongside them as they explore the world around them.  They are constantly observing the children, formulating questions and conducting research.  As they observe and document the children’s work, collaborative reflection between teachers, students, and families provides further insight into the thinking of the children and reveals possible directions for furthering their thinking.  The curriculum unfolds and deepens, as teachers, students, and families, reflect upon their experiences and make collaborative decisions about the directions learning will take.  In this way, the curriculum is “co-constructed” based upon the interests of the children as participants in their learning. 

There is an emphasis on the natural environment and learning through play with open-ended and beautiful materials.  Beauty in the environment is intentional, as the Italian educators have taught us the importance of aesthetics to the learning process.  The classroom environments are unique, each one speaking strongly of the community of learners who occupy that space each day.  Photographs of children, teachers, and families abound.  Photo documentation and children’s work take center stage, and the children’s work is framed and showcased as you might see in an art museum, instead of having a mass produced appearance.  In this way we communicate the respect and importance placed on the children’s work.  There is beauty all around and the children respond to that beauty by caring for it and creating beauty in return.  It inspires them and invites them to engage with the materials and explore new possibilities.

The Early Childhood Development Center is a founding member of the state-wide collaborative group,  Michigan Inspirations, who along with Central Michigan University, Lansing Community College, Fenton Public Schools, Okemos Nursery School and Building Blocks Preschool, provide ongoing support and high quality professional development for Reggio-inspired educators throughout our state and beyond.  As participants in this group, six educators from the ECDC made a Study Tour to Italy in 2014, to deepen their understanding and practice of the Reggio-inspired approach.

At the heart of our work at the ECDC there is a pervasive sense of joy.  It is a joy that is boundless and most courageous, as it looks to what is good and what is worth upholding in all situations and times of its history.  The schools of Reggio Emilia were built by its citizens, brick by brick, out of the rubble of a war ravaged city in the aftermath of WWII.  The people wanted to build a place for children to renew their hope – a place where they could thrive.  A place of joy!  Like the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy, the Flint Community too has experienced times of suffering and trial. Yet we hold onto the hope and firm belief that each one of us can make a difference and that positive changes that can come when citizens work together to build on what is good.  We believe in the power of each child to make the world a better place and we work to provide opportunities for them to do so right from the start.