Our Educational Approach
Earlybird uses a supported play-based approach that includes a combination of (child-led) free- choice periods and (teacher-led) targeted small-group and whole-class games and activities, arranged according to fortnightly themes and three broad learning and development areas.
We take a holistic view of each child’s learning and development which includes the following elements:
Our approach is grounded in social constructivist theory; that is, the notion that learning and development are driven by social interactions and hands-on experiences. Learning happens as children use their existing knowledge, both correctly and sometimes mistakenly, to make sense of new information; effective educators anticipate cognitive challenges and mediate new learning by helping children bridge the known to the unknown as they explore and experiment in the world around them.
There are five well-known early education “schools” that are underpinned by social constructivist theory: Montessori, Waldorf, High/Scope, Froebel, and Reggio Emilia. Each has its merits and has a particular focus on a different aspect of child development (e.g. creative expression, self- regulation, intrinsic motivation, independent problem solving). Common to all five approaches is a major emphasis on individual free play and child-led learning experiences. All of these approaches were developed between 1870-1950, but over the past two decades breakthroughs in neuro- imaging technology have taught us a great deal about the neuro-biology of children’s developing brains and we have learnt that while making time for individual free-play is very important, it should not eclipse the role of relationships and interactions. Neuroscientists have shown that when young children and their peers and adult caregivers engage in “activities that are joyously shared”, they release hormones that have a demonstrated supporting role in the development of brain cells and neural pathways. Repeated exposure to myriad “serve and return ” interactions is absolutely critical to the development of all-important social-emotional and communication skills (multiple studies have shown that vocabulary at age 5 is highly predictive of labour market outcomes at age 25, including salary level). Compelling findings about the nature of young children’s learning and development are constantly coming to light and we pride ourselves on our commitment to examining new evidence and using it to identify areas we can improve on to ensure we are truly preparing children for success in the 21st century. Thus, while Earlybird’s model shares the same core elements as the five well-known social-constructive preschool approaches we have intentionally chosen not to buy-in to a single “brand”, rather focusing on proven drivers of quality in early childhood care and education.
The key values underpinning our learning programme are:
Both relationships with other children and with adults are imperative. Children are expected to work together in communities to collaborate with each other. Children’s views and ideas should be respected as much as adults’. Children are grouped in multi-year classes to facilitate peer learning and to ensure they have a longer period to bond with a teacher, who becomes a consistent fixture in their life over a multi-year period.
Children engage in active learning when they construct knowledge through interactions with materials, people, events, and ideas. Nurturing adults help children explore, make decisions, and get excited about learning. Children are seen as co-constructors of knowledge, instead of being viewed as targets of instruction. They participate in many different projects where they can observe, hypothesize, question and clarify to create understanding. Multi-sensorial expression is particularly important for young children: The basis of creative problem solving is the exposure to similar materials and concepts in a variety of ways. Children participate in long term projects designed to let them view a subject from many angles (two-week long themes facilitate this). Movement and messy play are encouraged at all times!
We know that children with barriers to learning are much better off if they have the opportunity to be integrated into classrooms with children who do not face the same barriers. We believe in inclusive education and work hard to ensure that the physical environment of our classrooms, the excellent training our teachers receive and the high adult-to-child ratios allow us to give each child who wishes to attend an Earlybird centre, the opportunities and support they need. We hope to work closely with parents of children with barriers to learning to keep them integrated into “mainstream” classroom environments for as long as possible.
Find out more about our tailored learning programmes for each of the age-groups we serve: