Higher Education Begins In Early Childhood

July 31, 2014

Ann M. Day

Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the opening of our childcare facility, the childcare program at FM, which is operated by the Fulton County YMCA, has grown and evolved into a special place for early childhood education. Originally housed in a college classroom, the creation of our own child-centered facility brought tears of joy to those involved in a dream. The facility was designed to accommodate children ages 3 and 4 in two separate classrooms. Children were free to play in a larger, child–friendly environment inside and a safe, enclosed playground outside. The needs of the college community and the education of young children have changed since 1994 and the program has changed as well.

Formal education begins earlier. The program now accepts children from 18 months to kindergarten. Plans to accept infants ages 6 months to 18 months have been considered. Childcare programs are recognized for their excellence in early education and we strive to provide an education that is superior in all aspects. The attainment of national accreditation by the NAEYC in 2010 was the first big step in assuring that the program is meeting the goal of excellence. The accreditation process requires that a program meet criteria in ten different areas including curriculum and teaching staff. We made changes to meet those standards. Our principal changes were our curriculum and staff requirements. The curriculum was previously created by teachers and was based on free play. We adopted “The Creative Curriculum,” an excellent framework for setting up our classrooms into interest areas and “The High Scope Curriculum” for assisting teachers with specific teaching skills. Each of these curriculums is based on thorough research in the field. To implement our new curriculum most successfully, the teachers possess bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education. The new curriculum still involves play as a developmentally appropriate method for learning.

One of the biggest challenges for early childhood educators is educating the public, parents, and policy makers in developmentally appropriate practices. Most individuals equate early academics with learning to recite the alphabet and counting aloud. Academic no longer means worksheets and flashcards. Trained professionals understand the greater value of learning to think critically through hands-on involvement as when playing with blocks. Highly skilled professionals create environments of play that promote thought provoking, stimulating challenges. Children are encouraged to be active learners as they explore. Teachers ask questions that promote the children to ask their own questions and seek their own answers. Rich language experiences come out of explorations. Childcare teachers have the advantage of time that a two-hour program may not possess. We get to know each child individually and base our activities on what we know about each child. There is no need to prepare for high stakes testing. The result is a classroom that is respectful of culture, individual differences, and styles of learning. The respectful nature of the curriculum leads to teaching the children about self-regulation and focused attention, which are two skills needed for success in school.

As we look forward to many more years of dedicated service to the college community, FM Playmates Child Care Center recognizes that an excellent early childhood experience is essential in shaping a child’s future. We are preparing the children for college. After all, a strong foundation is essential for higher learning.

Ann M. Day is Childcare Director.

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