By Melissa Schoorman
At Toorak College, we understand that children are inquisitive and curious in nature; constantly seeking ways to make meaning of their world. We appreciate that the early years of schooling are the foundations on which children develop habits, participate without reservation and prosper in a breadth of experiences that serve them well for the rest of their lives. It is a unique stage where young minds learn and see things for the first time.
Research explores the importance of play for a child’s overall wellbeing, maturation and imagination. Play is closely associated with the development of intellectual, social and emotional skill sets. Studies also show that children who can read, write and perform basic computational mathematics tasks by the time they reach Year 3 have helped to lay the foundations for success later in life.
So how do educators ensure that children in our early years program gain the right combination of play-based learning versus intentional, explicit teaching?
At Toorak College, we design our program at a holistic level as well as focus on the intricacies of what happens each week, each day and in each session.
Our educators plan a plethora of physical and non-physical play-based activities that pay homage to the needs and attention span of three and four-year-olds. These activities require children to explore, imagine, discover and create. Simple provocations are set up in our studios to engage our children.
Our educators also ensure a mix of independent play and group play sessions to develop a sense of identity as well as learn team spirit. Perspective, empathy and emotional self-regulation are all key strategies that need to be addressed and scaffolded during play.
Engaging in play from an early age can also assist the development of literacy and numeracy skills. At Toorak College, we place importance on the explicit teaching of English and Mathematics alongside a series of play-based learning and guided instruction to develop these skills. Our goal for the children is to be confident when articulating their knowledge as well as having an in depth understanding of how to transfer their learning across range of contexts.
In 2019, we will be complementing our program by introducing a diverse range of specialist classes to assist each child’s academic and personal growth.
Children will be immersed in specialist subjects each week to challenge their current understandings and be a catalyst for questioning and discovery. These offerings include: Health and Wellbeing, Performing Arts, STEM-X, Language and Cultural Appreciation and Creative Arts. These experiences are underpinned by the five Learning Outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework (1) Children have a strong sense of identity, (2) Children are connected with and contribute to their world, (3) Children have a strong sense of wellbeing, (4) Children are confident and involved learners and (5) Children are effective communicators.
We believe the balance of play-based learning coupled with explicit teaching of skills offers the desired outcome; a culmination of outcome-rich learning and aspirational young minds.
Melissa is head of Wardle House and deputy principal at Toorak College.