An Introduction to Our Curriculum
Developmentally Appropriate Practices
The Weekday School provides activities that are developmentally appropriate for the children, that is, appropriate to each child’s level of development. Many concrete materials and hands-on experiences are offered because young children learn best by interacting with materials and persons. Workbooks and worksheets are not appropriate in the preschool classroom and, therefore, are not used. Parents are encouraged to check out from the school library and read Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs, published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
DAP is Developmentally Appropriate Practice. What DAP means to our children here at St. Andrew’s is that teachers plan daily schedules, weekly lesson plans, and classroom activities based on where the children are in their developmental process. Children are growing in four basic developmental domains: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. Those four domains do not always grow together or at the same rate. Growth in the four domains is integrated, but occurs at uneven rates. At times, the cognitive development will be pushing ahead, and the social or emotional development will be lagging behind, and other times it may be reversed. Our purpose is to help all children develop in each domain to their full potential. What we know is that young children learn best (in all the domains) through hands-on, interactive experiences.
Why Is Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) Important?
Developmentally Appropriate Practice is important for a variety of reasons. One major importance of DAP is that young children are forming the foundation for their learning over the next 17 years of school and learning throughout life. Forcing young children to sit for long periods of time, to complete ditto sheets, to learn by rote techniques is asking them to perform tasks that are not within their physical, cognitive, emotional, or social abilities. Placing children in a developmentally appropriate setting gives them the ability to learn in the way they learn best as young children. It also gives them the gift of time to develop their abilities in the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social domains to be able to learn the way older children and adults learn--by sitting at desks, listening to adults and attending to instructions.
We all learn best in subjects that interest us. Young children are the same way; yet in DAP environments children often explore and experience areas that are not their strengths or favorites. Because DAP classrooms have many interesting and hands-on experiences, children are allowed to make choices, try new things, and learn about many different topics. Exploring areas that are not their favorite help children develop in all domains and enable them to explore without the fear of failure.
DAP classrooms have schedules that are developed with the knowledge of “how young children work.” Young children need large spaces of time to be able to explore and develop their play. Research provides us with the knowledge that young children take, at minimum, twenty minutes to get into play. It’s important to allow children to play out their ideas and test their knowledge.
The curriculum of the Weekday School shall include developmentally appropriate experiences in:
Creative arts, using various media, such as paint, chalk, and crayons;
Language arts, through literature, communication skills, and dramatization;
Science and math, with hands-on, manipulative activities;
Creative music, through participation in music class once a week in the Weekday School and classroom experiences;
Social Studies, with classroom activities including a variety of multi-cultrual experiences;
Outdoor play and motor skills, with twice daily opportunities to run, climb, and ride bikes; and
Decision making and problem-solving, through self-selected and self-directed activities.