For this month’s Leading The Way Profile, we’re beginning by highlighting key developments in education theory and some of the practices being used today.
Early Childhood Education
Helping families and children thrive is one of the main objectives behind the entire 0-5 movement within Montana and the country. To achieve that outcome, it is vital for the community to have a good understanding of child development and early childhood educational concepts. It can be overwhelming, but with ongoing conversations and sharing of information, everyone can improve their understanding of these important ideas and the influence they have on a person’s entire life.
Many different theories of early childhood education exist, going back in official records to the 1500’s. Of course, long before that time, indigenous communities from around the world had their own practices and concepts. Early childhood education in the 21st Century has a very long and rich history with invaluable contributions from some of the greatest theorists in child development and education. In fact, several are now household words. In fact, they helped shape the educational system as it is today.
Some of the most influential theorists and practitioners have included Martin Luther, Jean Rousseau, Friedrich Froebel, Maria Montessori, Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, and Erik Erikson. Around 1500, German priest Luther had started his push for reading.
Luther believed in universal education, emphasizing that it strengthens the person, the family, and the community. His belief that children should be taught to read on their own was so that they would have independent access to the holy scriptures in the Bible. He of course is most known for being the namesake of Lutheranism.
In the 1700’s, Swiss philosopher Rousseau rose to prominence for his famous writings, such as Discourse On Inequality and The Social Contract. Both are still influential writings for modern social and political thinking. His viewpoint was that education should be child-centered and provide unlimited experiences that are sensory-driven and practical. Rousseau’s belief that measuring, singing, drawing, and speaking should be incorporated into education is the reason that they are present in schools today.
German educator Froebel made his mark in the education world in the 1800’s. He is believed to be the founder of kindergarten but his beliefs in how young children should be educated also impact today’s classrooms. Because of those theories, young children are taught through play, in addition to more conventional methods, providing positive experiences for learning.
Italian Montessori is a name still familiar because of the existence of Montessori Schools around the world. She believed that early childhood learning required a two-prong approach: Educate
the child’s senses first, then educate the child’s intellect. Her approach was to view the children as sources of knowledge with the teacher or educator acting as a social engineer. Her hands-on approach to instruction with the learning environment being deemed as vital as the knowledge itself has transformed academic success for many children who did not respond well to traditional classroom methods.
Russian Vygotsky made his mark in the early 1900’s. Vygotsky believed that social interaction is an important vehicle for child development on linguistic, social, and cognitive levels. He introduced the concept of a teacher as more of a learning facilitator where the child learns by working with someone more capable than the child (typically a teacher or parent). The teacher helps the child with tasks that are just beyond or just within the capability of the child. He also believed that grouping children of mixed ages in a learning environment supports their skill and knowledge acquisition.
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget had a huge influence on education and childhood development approaches beginning in the 1960’s. Piaget’s theory of learning incorporated four Stages of Development:
· Birth to about 2 years old – Sensorimotor
· About the time the child begins talking to around 7 years old – Preoperational
· About the time the child enters 1st grade until early adolescence – Concrete
· Adolescence – Formal Operations
He believed that children learn by interacting with their environment actively and directly. Piaget thought that a child’s learning also goes through several stages: assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration. This is how they process new information and make it useable to them. His work and theories continue to be a major influence within education and psychology.
Erikson was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychological development of human beings. He coined the phrase identity crisis. He emphasized that parents and educators are each integral in supporting and encouraging the success a child has in life at every psychosocial stage of development. By providing the support that is appropriate for the stage, it results in a positive learning experience. He also believed that older children’s social emotional development goes hand in hand with the development and subsequent success of early childhood curriculum.
These theories have led to styles of education that are still seen in the classroom today. Several have become highly specialized teaching methods and even have their own accrediting bodies to prevent scams and keep schools from teaching the method improperly or not operating fully within the method.
Contemporary Early Childhood Education Programs
Maria Montessori’s vision is still very much alive. In the Montessori classroom, the focus is on the child interacting with the materials and the teacher is more of a facilitator as opposed to most traditional classrooms where the focus is on the child interacting with the teacher. Children learn by the experience of observing and doing various activities and tasks, including life skills like gardening, zipping, and cutting. Instead of being taught, they are led by the teacher to materials and activities that are suited for the child. In the classroom, children are free to move about, select activities, and pursue things that interest them at their own pace.
Classrooms As The “Third Teacher”
Developed by Reggio Emilia and Loris Malaguzzi, this highly creative learning environment focuses on the child’s interests and encourages intellectual development through creative outlets like painting, dramatic play, drawing, sculpting, working in clay, and conversing. The classroom is carefully designed with an emphasis on the look and feel which enhances the child’s learning experience and is often called the “third teacher.” The objective is to create a classroom that is stimulating, joyful, beautiful, and inviting. Teachers use photographs, videos, and notes to document the children’s activities, remarks, and discussions. Learning is made visible this way and it gives parents greater insight into what their children are learning. Children learn that their work is valuable and important while teachers form stronger bonds with their students and get to know them better.
Formed by Dave Weikart and Connie Kamii, the High/Scope program operates on a play-based premise with learning geared to the child’s current developmental stage. It is intended to promote positive experiences in learning and constructive processes that aim to broaden and grow emerging social and intellectual skills. High/Scope classrooms are made up of several learning centers that include math, building, music, science, dramatic play, writing, reading, art, and motor development. To create a predictable and active learning environment, teachers arrange and equip the classroom with diverse, open-ended materials that reflect children’s home, culture, and language. The room is organized and labeled to promote independence and encourage children to carry out their intentions. The educational style is the “plan-do-review” model. Each day the children discuss with the teacher how they will plan their day. They then follow their plan and, at the end of the day, review what they did with their teacher. https://highscope.org
The Waldorf program founded by Rudolf Steiner is designed to educate with a whole-child approach (“head, heart, and hands”). Children are allowed to be children in this program because of its overarching philosophy that all phases of child development take time and there is time for them. It also asserts that the formal education of a child should not begin until after their 7th birthday. The learning in the program is hands-on and achieved by exploring many different avenues including singing, cooking, dress-up, storytelling, puppet shows, art projects, and play. Each group of children has the same teacher from preschool, up through eighth grade. The
learning focus is on self-discovery and sensory exploration with an aim to instill a sense of responsibility and compassion in the children.
Learning By Doing
This developmental approach is based on Dewey’s theory of “learning by doing.” The focus is the child’s growth physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally. Social skills are important, and it is definitely an area of interest in this program. In these preschools, the child actively learns by using experience to gain knowledge. The teacher operates in a facilitator capacity and the child sets the learning pace. The lessons taught are all hands-on activities like dramatic play, clay, puzzles, and building blocks.
Reggio Emilia Approach
This educational project, which has become a reference point throughout the world, develops and renews each day in Reggio Emilia’s municipal infant-toddler centres and preschools in Italy. Children as human beings, possess a hundred languages: a hundred ways of thinking, expressing, understanding, of encountering otherness through a way of thinking that weaves together and does not separate the various dimensions of experience. The hundred languages are a metaphor for the extraordinary potentials of children, their knowledge-building and creative processes, the myriad forms with which life is manifested and knowledge is constructed. It is the responsibility of the infant-toddler centre and the preschool to valorize all verbal and non-verbal languages with equal dignity
Environment and spaces
The interior and exterior spaces of the infant-toddler centres and preschools are designed and organised in interconnected forms, and are offered to children and adults as places to live together and research. The environment interacts, modifies, and takes shape in relation to the projects and learning experiences, in a constant dialogue between architecture and pedagogy.
Care of the furniture, the objects, and the activity spaces is an educational act that generates psychological wellbeing, a sense of familiarity and belonging, aesthetic sense, and the pleasure of inhabiting. These are also primary premises and conditions for safety in the environments, a quality generated by dialogue and shared elaboration between the different professionals profiles who have to concern themselves and take care of this aspect. https://www.reggiochildren.it/en/reggio-emilia-approach/
Montana: Statewide Focus
Supporting early childhood development and learning has gain greater and greater focus in the last decade in the United States. Montana has introduced various approaches to better support children, including the Best Beginnings STARS to Quality Program within the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Best Beginnings STARS to Quality Program
Mission and Vision of STARS
Mission: To support high quality early care and education programs for child care and education through a quality rating and improvement system that strengthens programs and practitioners with continuous improvement strategies and assists families to make informed decisions.
Vision: A quality rating improvement system to support early childhood education programs in continuous quality improvement.
What is STARS?
The Best Beginnings STARS to Quality Program is a voluntary quality rating and improvement system that aligns quality indicators with support and incentives for early childhood programs and early childhood professionals. The Montana Department of Early Childhood Services Bureau has enjoyed watching the program grow and develop with the input from the various stakeholders, and has listened carefully to early childhood professionals, parents, and national experts to provide a strong program, desired by many.
STARS has several components:
1. Workforce Development
2. Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
3. Infrastructure to administer the programs, provide training , coaching, and technical assistance, and to validate the STARS system
STARS Program: Workforce Support and Incentives, Professional Development
Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver Stipend
It is designed to support individuals who are caring for infants in licensed child care centers or registered group or family child care homes by:
1. Encouraging on-going skill enhancement,
2. Increasing their understanding of child development, and
3. Providing an incentive for individuals that remain employed in the same facility, working directly with infants/toddlers, for a specified amount of time.
For individuals that have completed the course:
· $1600 over 18 months of continuous employment in the same licensed program
· Individuals must be working directly with infants/toddlers a minimum 25 hours/week
o Applications accepted in January and July only
o Once application is accepted, payments will begin 6 months after
o Individuals must be current on the Practitioner Registry at time of application
o Individuals must send a current, signed W-9 with their application
Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential
By completing the 60 hour Montana Infant Toddler Caregiver Education course and the 60 hour Preschool Teacher Education Course that lead to a Montana certificate, one will have completed the training requirement for the national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. For
more information on the CDA Credential, and the criteria to be eligible for an assessment, go to www.cdacouncil.org.
Montana Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has partnered with the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI), in offering a registered Child Care Development Specialist (CCDS) Apprenticeship Program as a strategy for linking high quality, well-trained caregivers with the possibility of increased compensation, job security and career enhancement opportunities.
The CCDS apprenticeship program is an organized formal system of on-the-job learning under supervision of a qualified mentor at a designated early care facility, supplemented by related technical instruction in which the apprentice “learns by doing” and “earns while he or she learns”. The program offers a national CCDS certificate that is recognized in all 50 states.
Individuals that complete the 60-hour Montana Infant Toddler Caregiver Course are eligible for a $500 PDIA award. Individuals must be working a minimum of 15 hours per week in a Montana licensed child care facility.
Individuals that complete the 60-hour Montana Certified Preschool Teacher Course are eligible for a $500 PDIA award. Individuals must be working a minimum of 15 hours per week in a Montana licensed child care facility. All training must be approved by the Montana Training Approval System. For more information, please contact the Best Beginnings Lead Specialist at: [email protected]
STARS incentives are available to programs in two forms: 1) quarterly quality improvement awards 2) tiered reimbursement percent increases (above standard state reimbursement rates) for those facilities choosing to serve Best Beginnings Scholarship families.
STARS incentives are to be used for continuous quality improvement, staff support and salaries, professional development, equipment, etc. Purchases and investments are meant to assist a program in moving to the next level, maintaining the STAR level achieved and increasing quality. STARS incentives must be used in accord with an approved quality improvement plan. STARS incentives may not be used for construction. All incentives for the Best Beginnings STARS to Quality System, including STARS incentives and workforce incentives, are subject to eligibility requirements as outlined in policy and are dependent on funding.
Programs can access STAR kits online. STAR Kits are tools to assist in understanding and preparing for the criteria at each STAR level. Resources, samples, and tools are provided as part of the STAR Kits to support coaching needs, program improvement needs, and tracking or monitoring of progress.
Developmental Screening for STARS to Quality Programs
The Early Childhood Services Bureau’s initiative to implement developmental screening in early care and education programs will identify and support individual child development, promote family engagement, and enhance program quality. The developmental screening resources on this page will help you identify the right developmental screening tool for your program, develop or improve your screening process, take advantage of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s information and resources, and prepare for positive communication with families. For more information, visit www.mtecp.org.
Higher Education Grants
Grants are awarded to University of Montana – Western, Flathead Valley Community College and Dawson Community College to provide Early Childhood courses in regions where this type of training is currently unavailable, or in underserved communities around the state.
More information is available: https://dphhs.mt.gov/ecfsd/ChildCare/stars
Meet Janet Jolley
Tell us a little bit about your background…
My name is Janet Jolley and I’ve been an Early Childhood Educator, both teacher and administrator, for a little over 41 years. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. I taught children ages 2-Kindergarten and have been a director for a client based Early Childhood Center, a Montessori School and now Salish Kootenai College Early Learning Center in Pablo, MT. I was born in Long Beach, CA and moved to Camarillo, a small town in Southern California. I grew up 20 minutes from the beach, surrounded by strawberry fields and avocado orchards. It was the most perfect childhood I could have asked for and every day I feel grateful for this wonderful foundation for my life. I married my husband Scott in 1981 and this year we celebrated our 41 years of marriage. Scott brought four children to our family and we eventually added 2 more (3 girls and 3 boys). The majority of our children, 8 grandchildren and one great granddaughter, live in Colorado. Our youngest son Sean lives in Oregon and visits as much as possible. We moved to Colorado around 1992 and lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. I followed my husband to Ronan about 5 years ago. He was born in Montana, adopted by wonderful parents and his first home was at Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge. Scott’s parents moved back to Ronan 34 years ago. He has been their main caregiver for the past 13 years. His father passed away 7 years ago at age 100 and his beautiful mom Barb just turned 100 this past July. I’m grateful to still have my sweet mom in my life. She lives in Colorado Springs and I try to visit her as often as I can. Needless to say, my family is very important to me. My favorite hobbies are anything to do with water and sand. I have recently learned to kayak and paddleboard. I love taking pictures of nature and animals. I am also an avid reader and am never without a book. I dislike cooking, shopping, and laundry.
Describe the work you do with families and children…
Throughout my career, I have been involved with education for children ages 0 – 8. Since January 1997, I’ve been blessed to be a part of the team at SKC Early Learning Center, located on the Salish Kootenai College Campus. Presently I am the director. We offer care and education for children ages 6 weeks-6 years. Our primary clientele are the Salish Kootenai College students and staff (preference going to students). We do take children from the community as space permits. Our center is licensed for 41 children. This will be the first year we provide infant care. Our curriculum is a combination of Reggio Emilia approach, Montessori inspired and Highscope. We believe in teaching to the needs of the individual child, so we develop and design our environments based upon the interests and needs of the children in our care. We work to partner with the families as they attend school/work so they know their child is receiving a quality education, while being loved, nurtured and supported for who they are. We offer monthly family events with training and a meal. We teach Salish in our classroom and work to provide a culturally supportive environment for the diverse families attend our center. Our school serves as a lab school for the students in the Early Childhood and the P-3 degree programs at the College. We are a licensed Child Care Center and we participate in the STARS to quality program which helps our school to continue to improve and offer high quality care and education. We are presently STAR 4 rated. We participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and provide nutritious high quality meals including breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack. Our center follows the college calendar, and we are open from mid-September until June.
What do you think people misunderstand about the work being done with children age 0-5?
My goodness, where do I begin…I think there is still the perception that Early Childhood Education is babysitting, daycare, a placeholder until children are ready to go to real school where they will learn all they need to know. The lack of awareness of the development happening to the whole child from 0-5 (brain, physiological, social-emotional, language etc.) is the foundation for learning, emotional health and wellness and physical development. The fact that children’s brains during this time develop connections faster than any other time in their lives is misunderstood by most people. I believe it has to be our job as Early Educators to teach parents, other caregivers and society in general that what we are doing in our field is essential to give children the best foundation possible for a healthy, fulfilled life.
How would you describe the most important work that needs to happen for young children?
I feel that society still doesn’t value the importance of providing high quality care and education for all children. Because they devalue early childhood educators and won’t pay them a living wage, teachers and caregivers are leaving the field at an alarming rate. The number of people
who are entering the field has been declining for the past decade. It is essential that the Federal government, States, and the population in general recognizes the critical state Early Childhood Education is in at this moment in time and work to reverse what is happening in the field through funding. There needs to be funding for salaries, new early childhood schools, and support for all families to pay for the care. From my point of view, unless this is made a priority quickly there won’t be the ability to reverse the trend and health and safety of America’s children will go back to a time parents were forced to leave their child with just anyone.
If you could change one social factor impacting families and young children, what would it be and why?
I would have free childcare for all children. We know that many families don’t make enough money to pay for childcare at the same time they don’t qualify for grants to help pay for care. Many times, the cost of childcare for a family can be as much as a monthly mortgage or more if they don’t get subsidy. For many families the choice to work or not comes down to the cost of care for their children. Also, the cost of care for many families means that they may not have enough money for food, clothing, shelter and medicines. In my mind there is a lack of equitability and access to childcare based on income which should be addressed by provided free care for all.
The work has many rewards-what are some of the challenges and how do you deal with them?
There are many challenges in the Early Education field. Right now, lack of qualified staff or even candidates is the most difficult. It affects everything we do, including and most importantly, providing care for children. I have always believed that the team of people you work with and the relationships that you build with them, makes dealing with the challenges of the job easier. Everyone brings strengths to a team, and when you have a strong team of teachers who respect each other and feel respected, they will work together to overcome challenges. Recognizing that every staff member’s job is essential and not one person is more important than another creates respect. The team supports one another through flexibility, creativity, laughing together and sometimes sharing tears together. Having a shared vision and knowing that everyone is rowing in the same direction to get where we want to go helps when things become overwhelming. I’m grateful to work with a team like that in my center and at the Education Department at Salish Kootenai College.
What do you feel you personally get from working with families and children
I want to say that after 41 years I still love teaching. Every child and family that has touched my life through my career, has added to who I am as a person. I hope each day that somehow what I do during the time I’m with the children adds something positive to their lives. I hope the time that they spend in school helps them learn to love who they are, empowers them to go into the world feeling confident and love the adventure of learning. That process fills my bucket.
Working with amazing, creative people sparks my creativity which brings me joy.