This year, the board and staff of Zearing Child Enrichment Center in Princeton, Illinois made the decision to move to multi-age grouping in our prekindergarten classes. We made this decision based on the many benefits that multi-age grouping provides young children ages 3 to 5.
Once we made the change in grouping, my staff and I began to reflect on the importance of evaluating our current prekindergarten curriculum to be sure it would meet the developmental needs of children who vary widely in age and experience. As a student in early childhood education, I was fortunate to learn the Project Approach and to have the experience to put it into practice. Some of my staff also have had Project Approach training. We decided to make a centerwide effort to put the Project Approach in place in our prekindergarten classes. Based on our training and experience, I know that we can expand on our curriculum and make it developmentally appropriate for all ages by providing children project opportunities for in-depth studies of real-world topics.
In early September, the prekindergarten staff and I met to discuss some specifics of implementing the Project Approach as part of our curriculum. The topic of their first project is “Pumpkins.” They will meet for collaborative project planning primarily on the second Tuesdays of each month and on Wednesdays during combined naptime. We are looking forward to some opportunities for mentoring by Sallee Beneke.
I believe the Project Approach will allow my teachers to address developmental goals and benchmarks related to the Illinois Early Learning Standards. I also believe that doing projects in our classrooms will help support assessment of each child’s learning, because projects often touch on several domains of development. Project work will help the teachers document children’s learning because classes actively engage in high-interest project work and the children put their best efforts into creating representations of their new knowledge and understandings of the topics they investigate.
We will keep Illinois Projects in Practice readers posted about our progress in implementing the Project Approach this year.
Zearing Child Enrichment Center Inc.