Early Childhood Pioneers Essay.
Froebel pioneered the view that play acts as an organising function which integrates learning and helps children apply their knowledge and understanding in relation to their developing ideas, feelings, physical bodies and relationships. Froebel thought that schools should be communities in which the parents are welcome to join their children. He believed that parents were the first educators of their child. He thought that children learned outdoors as well as indoors. He encouraged movement, games and the study of natural science in the garden.
He invented finger play, songs and rhymes.
He encouraged the arts and crafts and a love for literature as well as mathematical understandings. He thought that children should have freedom of movement, clothes which were easy to move about in, and sensible food which was not too rich. Foebel deeply valued symbolic behaviour and encouraged this in very young children. He realised how important it is for children to understand that they can make one thing stand for another.
He thought that the best way for children to try out symbolic behaviour was in their play. He thought that as they pretend and imagine things, children show their highest level of learning.
Similarly to Vygotsky he thought that children’s best thinking is done when they are playing. He also designed various items and activities to help symbolic behaviour. He encouraged children to draw, make collages and model with clay. He encouraged play with special wooden blocks (Gifts) and made up songs, movements, dancing AND crafts (occupations). He allowed children to use Gifts and Occupations as they wished thus introducing what is called now free flow play. He emphasised the expressive arts, mathematics, literature, sciences, creativity and aesthetic things.
He believed that each brought important but different kinds of knowledge and understanding. He also place great emphasis on ideas, feelings and relationships. Influence on current practice and curriculum models Most mainstream settings encourage learning through first hand experience and play remains central to provision for children’s learning, including language development through rhymes and finger plays. Most early years settings encourage imagination to flow freely in play, and symbolic play is seen as very important for children’s development.
Early years settings integrate care and education and today this is emphasised more than ever. Children’s development is still encouraged through provision of a wide range of materials and activities tailored to the needs of the individual child. Current best practice still emphasises creativity, science and the humanities and learning opportunities are integrated across curriculum partnerships. Maria Montessori (1870- 1952) Montessori devised a structured teaching programme which she based on her observations of children who were mentally challenged, and she believed she was making Froebel’s work more scientifically rigorous in doing this.
There are Montessori schools in the UK within the private sector. Children are seen as active learners who go through sensitive periods in their development when they are more open to learning particular skills and concepts. Montessori designed a set of didactic materials which encouraged children to use their hands. Her method involves a series of graded activities through which every child progress working through specially designed materials. Each material isolates one quality for the child to discover e. g. size, colour or shape. The materials are self correcting.
Whereas Froebel stressed the importance of relationships, feelings and being part of a community, Montessori stressed that children should work alone. She thought that this helped children to become independent learners. For her the highest moment in child’s learning was what she called the polarisation of the attention. This means that the child is completely silent and absorbed in what they are doing. Montessori did not think there was need for adult correction. The role of the adult was limited to facilitating the child’s own creativity, the teacher is known as directress.
Children are not seen as part of a community but work largely on their own in a quiet and peaceful environment of total concentration. Little parental involvement is encouraged. Unlike Froebel, Montessori did not see the point in play or the free flow. She did not encourage children to have their own ideas until they had worked through all her graded learning sequences, she did not believe that they were able to do free drawing or creative work of any kind until they had done this. The child is thought to solve problems independently, building self confidence, analytical thinking and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment.
There are significant similarities between Piaget’s theory of the stages of cognitive development and the Montessori system’s organisation of students in the classroom. The Montessori system places children into classrooms based upon a common cognitive stage and not by grade level, children are divided into age groups and are presented with activities that correspond to their cognitive ability at that level, this coincides closely with Piaget’s stages of development in which certain cognitive tasks must be mastered during a certain age in order for formal learning to progress.
Furthermore students in Montessori system are placed in an environment that is tailored to their cognitive development, Montessori believed that classrooms should be furnished and equipped in a manner that allows children to explore and interact with their surroundings in a safe and engaging environment. Piaget believed that interaction with one’s surroundings aids in cognitive development in a way that is referred to as schema theory. The Montessori system also provides the necessary growth opportunities as designated by Piaget to progress from one cognitive stage to next.
These four criteria include maturation, experience, social interaction and equilibration Influence on current practice and curriculum models Mainstream provision also sees the child as an active learner and some Montessori ideas and materials are used such as graded sizes of particular shapes, e. g. small, medium and large blocks. Many other aspects of Montessori provision are different from mainstream early years practice. For example mainstream settings emphasise that the role of adults in intervening and supporting the child’s learning.
Current mainstream practice would not usually leave children to work through activities alone but encourages group work and sensitive intervention by adults to support learning. Sometimes quiet concentration is encouraged but according to individual children’s needs rather than basic approach to all learning activities. Current practice would involve parents/carers as partners with a high degree of involvement. Susan Isaacs (1885- 1948) Like Margaret McMillan, Susan Isaacs was influenced by Froebel, she was also influenced by the theories of Melanie Klein, the psychoanalyst, Isaacs made detailed observations of children.
Isaacs valued play because she believed that it gave children freedom to think, feel and relate to others. She looked at children’s fears, their aggression and their anger. She believed that through their play, children can move in and out of reality. This enables them to balance their ideas, feelings and relationships. She said of classrooms where young children have to sit at tables and write that they cannot learn in such places because they need to move just as they need to eat and sleep. Isaacs valued parents as the most important educators in a child’s life.
She spoke to them on the radio, and she wrote for parents in magazines. Isaacs encouraged people to look at the inner feelings of children. She encouraged children to express their feelings. She thought it would be very damaging to bottle up feelings inside. She supported both Froebel’s and Margaret McMillan’s view that nurseries are an extension of the home and not a substitute for it, and she believed that children should remain in nursery type education until they are 7 years of age. Isaacs kept careful records of children, both for the period they spent in her nursery and for the period after they had left.
She found that many of them regressed when they left her nursery and went on to formal infant schools. Modern researches have found the same. Influence on current practice and curriculum models Mainstream early years settings today give opportunities for children to let off steam in controlled way through vigorous physical play and encourage controlled expression of feelings through language and imaginative play. Play is still seen as central to learning and parents/carers are seen as partners. Careful observation of children and accurate record keeping is emphasised in early years settings.
Many countries throughout the world do not start children at school until age six or seven years and many early years educators in the UK argue that this should be the case here. Margaret McMillan (1860-1931) Margaret worked in the Froebel tradition. She believed in active learning through first hand experiences and emphasised feelings and relationships as well as physical aspects of movement and learning. She believed that play helped a child to become a whole person and was an integrating force in learning and development. McMillan was a pioneer in nursery education.
She believed in the introduction of nursery schools as an extension of home and as communities in themselves. She emphasised the value of the open air and introduced gardens for families to play and explore. She believed in partnership with parents who developed with their children in the nursery environment. McMillan was the first to introduce school meals and medical services and stressed the importance of trained adults to work with children. Influence on current practice and curriculum models McMillan has had a powerful influence on the provision of nursery education in the UK and many of her principles are widespread.
At present time children are given access wherever possible to outdoors areas and encouraged to make gardens and use natural materials. Early years settings give opportunities for children’s physical, social, imaginative and creative play and encourage expression of feelings. Active learning is encouraged through provision of a wide range of materials and equipment together with a skilled and qualified workforce. McMillan’s views on the nursery school as a community are followed through today as parents are invited into schools and seen as partners in the care and education of their children.
As well as being a community in itself, early years settings extend provision into the community and become part of the community. School meals and medical services are now an accepted part of provision. Learning theories and Play The importance of Play, the environmental factors and the view of the child as an active learner are also reflected in the social constructivist model. Similarly to the pioneers of play, Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner saw the child as an active participant in their own development and learning. Piaget
stated that children passed through a series of stages of cognitive development always in the same order but at different rates. He emphasised that the child was an active participant in their own learning and development. According to Piaget children had schemas or patterns of behaviour that are part of the child’s powerful drive to understand its experiences. Piaget believed that young children in preoperational stage began to think and represent actions with symbols and judged situations on what they could see not being able to conserve, he also prescribed them as egocentric and felt that they learned by discovery.
Whereas Piaget saw the child as a solitary learner, Bruner and Vygotsky similarly to Froebel stressed the importance of the role of adults and interactions in play. Vygotsky emphasised the role of adults in helping children learn. He identified the zone of proximal development and believed that the adult role was to intervene and help children to move into the zone of actual development and the cycle goes on. Bruner believed that children learn through doing, imagining what they have been doing and then turning what they know into symbols such speech, drawing and writing.
Bruner saw the adult as important in supporting children’s learning especially when informal, everyday interactions are utilised to help children make sense of the world. Influence on current practice and curriculum models Current practice acknowledges the role of schemas in children’s learning and development. Different types of schemas were identified by early years practitioners, teachers and psychologists, such as transporting, orientation, enveloping, horizontal and vertical schemas. Social constructivism (reflecting many of the early childhood pioneers’ ideas) is widely acknowledged to underpin and influence mush early years provision.
It emphasises that children have different and distinct ways of thinking, behaviour and feeling at different stage of development and that children’s thinking is different from adults. Children are seen as active agent in their own learning, adults observe and assess children, work closely with the child, support their learning, extend play opportunities and parents are involved as partners. Carefully structured and well resourced learning environment are essential including the indoors and outdoors to encourage
exploration and discovery with a balance of adult structured activities and play and learning opportunities freely chosen by children. Current principles and Curriculum models High/Scope curriculum model High scope is a structured programme developed in the 60s in the USA and now extended for use with preschool children and babies. Some mainstream settings in the UK use the High scope approach. The High/scope is based on well accepted educational principles: Active learning: the child is encouraged to become an active learner involved directly in their own learning.
Personal initiative: the child is encouraged to use personal initiative to plan, do, and review their own learning. Consistency: children need consistent stable daily routines and organised learning environment to help their confidence and independence. Genuine relationships between practitioners and children Appropriate curriculum designed to provide key learning experiences. The EYFS Curriculum The principles of good practice in early years provision have integrated many of the key features of the work of the early educators.
Currently is general agreement about what constitutes a good practice and these ideas have been drawn together in the curriculum guidance for the foundation stage in England. The key areas are Adults and children, the curriculum and the environment. Children and adults: Children are active learners, they engage with adults, materials, events and ideas in immediate, direct and meaningful ways, adults are skilled and trained and understand how children learn and develop. Children are viewed as a whole and their individual needs are met. Adult observe and assess children’s progress and are able to respond appropriately.
Imagination and symbolic play are seen as very important. The curriculum: There is a balanced between adult initiated and children self chosen activities, well planned and purposeful play is seen as the most important vehicle for learning. A brad balanced, well panned relevant and appropriate learning curriculum is provided, a wide range of activities and equipment is available indoors and outdoors and the equality of opportunity and access to learning for all children are essential. The environment: A well organised, safe, stimulating, secure and reassuring environment is provided and positive relationships with parents are maintained.
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