The privilege of working with young children is one of life’s most rewarding paths. It is never mundane nor dreary but always filled with the excitement of the moment or the possibilities that lie just ahead.
If there is one fact that we have realized over the course of the years, it is that early childhood education done right is an ongoing journey of discovery.
The Okemos Nursery School (ONS) has been in a constant state of evolution since its inception. Within the last few years, we have taken what we believe to be our most amazing and inspiring steps to date.
Our director was fortunate enough to journey - twice - to Reggio Emilia, Italy and study the pedagogy of this insightful approach to early learning at its source. The sense of community, the importance of environmental esthetics, and the “image of the child” as an inquisitive, creative, and competent individual spoke to us at our core.
By melding what was gleaned in Reggio-Emilia with aspects of the philosophies of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsgy, and David Hawkins, along with concepts from Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner (the Waldorf approach) not to mention 30 years of personal experience in early childhood education, we have created a living, breathing, constantly growing and evolving approach to early childhood education.
We are proud of what we have created but also embrace the knowledge that this is a journey of constant discovery.
The responsibility as co-creators of our childrens’ environment is to provide a space that is safe, welcoming, and beautiful. When these primary criterion are met, the children become free to create, to explore, to imagine. Individual potentials are awakened as the child begins to realize the limitlessness of his/her own possibilities. At ONS ideas are supported and attempts are accepted, appreciated, and encouraged. We have found that all children thrive in such an atmosphere of acceptance. Children who realize that they are agents within their own lives carry this competency with them and continue to be confident and eager life-explorers.
The question in such an environment is often “Who are the teachers and who are the learners”? The answer? We all are both.
One of the primary intentions of the teachers at ONS is to allow our children the freedom to discover the world on his/her terms and at his/her own pace. Our daily rhythm is slowed such that the children are afforded the necessary time to see projects through. They are stimulated and enthralled by "provocations" which draw out natural curiosity and creativity. Although academics are not presented as "subjects," the children discover that to successfully convey ideas, many different "languages" must be incorporated into their daily work---painting, drawing, verbal language, photography, reading and writing plus countless more.
ONS also avails the children of specialty programs in French, traditional folk music, studio art, and creative movement. These experiences are presented by area professionals with expertise in each respective field.
We feel that the inclusion of these opportunities as part of our daily rhythm helps to provide our students with an extremely unique, exciting and well-rounded preschool experience.
The child has a hundred languages (and a hundred hundred hundred more) ~Loris Malaguzzi