Special Events at SWS

Saturday, December 1st 10AM-12PM-OPEN HOUSE for the 2019-20 school year.

This event is for new, prospective students for the 2019-20 school year.  Please help me spread the word about how great SWS is but telling friends and family about this event.  THANK YOU!

Friday, December 7, 2018 6:30PM- The Purplicious Fashion Show

The Purplicious Fashion Show includes a pasta dinner, fashion show, raffle & music from our very own Mr. Benny.  This annual fashion show is in honor of Margaret Rose a former teacher at our school who passed away.  Her family started a memorial fund in her honor.  All funds from this event will go to SWS for teachers to purchase items for their classrooms.

One of our teachers, Chris Mallico is out on an extended medical leave all raffle prize funds collected at the fashion show will go to Chris Mallico to help offset medical expenses.

Let’s make this a successful event for both of these amazing ladies!  Here’s how you can help:

Buy a ticket to the Fashion Show only $20 includes dinner

Buy Raffle tickets only $1 a ticket with many prizes to choose from

Donate a Raffle Basket or Gift Card


Starting in December we will be collecting unwrapped new toys for boys and girls for the TEAM TOYS 4 KIDS-please bring in a toy and put it in the box in the EdWing hallway. THANK YOU!





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Tips for Parents of Preschoolers about Reading


The early years are critical to developing a lifelong love of reading. You can’t start reading to a child too soon!

  • Read together every day.

    Read to your child every day. Make this a warm and loving time when the two of you can cuddle close together. Bedtime is an especially great time for reading together.


  • Give everything a name.

    You can build comprehension skills early, even with the littlest child. Play games that involve naming or pointing to objects. Say things like, “Where’s your nose?” and then, “Where’s Mommy’s nose?” Or touch your child’s nose and say, “What’s this?”

  • Say how much you enjoy reading together.

    Tell your child how much you enjoy reading with him or her. Look forward to this time you spend together. Talk about “story time” as the favorite part of your day.

  • Read with fun in your voice.

    Read to your child with humor and expression. Use different voices for different characters. Ham it up!

  • Know when to stop.

    If your child loses interest or has trouble paying attention, just put the book away for a while. Don’t continue reading if your child is not enjoying it.

  • Be interactive.

    Engage your child so he or she will actively listen to a story. Discuss what’s happening, point out things on the page, and answer your child’s questions. Ask questions of your own and listen to your child’s responses.

  • Read it again and again and again.

    Your child will probably want to hear a favorite story over and over. Go ahead and read the same book for the 100th time! Research suggests that repeated readings help children develop language skills.

  • Talk about writing, too.

    Draw your child’s attention to the way writing works. When looking at a book together, point out how we read from left to right and how words are separated by spaces.

  • Point out print everywhere.

    Talk about the written words you see in the world around you and respond with interest to your child’s questions about words. Ask him or her to find a new word every time you go on an outing.

  • Get your child evaluated if you suspect a problem.

    Please be sure to see your child’s pediatrician or teacher as soon as possible if you have concerns about his or her language development, hearing, or sight.

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4 Ways to Make Halloween Less Scary By Marisa Cohen


Some preschoolers love the spooky spectacle of this holiday (not to mention all the candy!), but others can get freaked out around creepy masks, costumes, and crowds of kids. “Halloween can present a challenge for parents of 3- and 4-year-olds because this is the age when children first truly show an interest in trick-or-treating, and yet they’re still young enough to get frightened or overstimulated,” says Bonnie Zucker, Psy.D., a psychologist in Rockville, Maryland, and author of Anxiety-Free Kids. It’s hard to know how much your child will be up for on Halloween. But you can try to anticipate any potential problems before then so you can keep the day low-key and fun for everyone.

Demystify Decorations

While kiddie parades and preschool parties are pretty tame (apple cider and candy corn, anyone?), it can be nearly impossible to avoid all deathly imagery that appears on front lawns, in malls, and on TV at this time of year. But don’t start mapping a detour around the cackling witches and graveyard scenes in your neighbors’ yards. Experts caution against completely going out of your way to bypass anything that could give your kid the creeps. “That can actually worsen any anxiety a child might be feeling, because it reinforces the idea that there is something to be afraid of,” says Dr. Zucker.

That doesn’t mean you should take your tyke into a haunted house that will scare the bejeezus out of him, but you can help familiarize him with the scary stuff. “Take mini steps. Go to a Halloween store. Find pictures of people in costumes online, or go to a local farm stand that has some decorations up,” suggests Dr. Zucker.

You can also desensitize your preschooler by doing a crafts project that portrays a scary character in a fun way, say, carving a smiling pumpkin or making crepe-paper ghosts.

Chill Out on Costumes

Posting an adorable photo on Facebook of your little one dressed as a pirate or a bumblebee the day after Halloween can be a rite of passage. But don’t be surprised if your preschooler upends that plan by suddenly refusing to get into character on the big day.

Last Halloween, my friend Deborah Starr, of Ithaca, New York, was delighted when her two daughters decided to make their own cupcake costumes out of pillowcases, tin foil, and fabric paint. But when Halloween rolled around, 3-year-old Dina wouldn’t wear the costume. “She loved making the outfit, but she had no interest in actually wearing it,” Starr told me.

Dina was just being a typical fickle pickle. “Preschool-age children are very changeable — they may be excited and absorbed by something on Tuesday and completely over it by Thursday,” says Susan Engel, Ph.D., professor of child development at Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and author of Real Kids. Not only have their interests moved on, but they may also decide that the costume is too itchy, that a heavy cape keeps them from running around, or they just don’t feel like putting on a hat that day.

If your child balks at wearing the costume you made or bought, offer a compromise — she can take it to school and put it on there for the class party, or she can wear the superhero boots but skip the cape. If she still won’t budge, then let it go. “Save your power struggles for more important things,” says Dr. Zucker.

To avoid disappointment, it’s best not to spend a lot of money on a costumein the first place, since there’s no guarantee she’ll actually wear it. Working with what you have at home — turning a favorite pair of overalls into a train-conductor costume or pairing jeans and a cowgirl hat from the dress-up box — may have better results, since your child is already comfortable wearing them. And remember, flexibility and on-the-fly creativity can go a long way. “When it was time for trick-or-treating, we just put a winter hat we had that looks like a strawberry on Dina’s head and we called it a costume,” Starr recalls. “She was happy, and it was cute!”

Unmask Goblins

Even if your child is only interested in dressing as an innocent puppy, there may still be lots of other people around him in elaborate face paint, scary masks, and creepy costumes, which can unnerve even the coolest cucumber of a child. “Last year my 9-year-old daughter dressed as a witch, which involved black lipstick and other dark makeup, and my 3-year-old was completely freaked out by her,” reports New York City mom Katie Reeves. “She refused to go trick-or-treating or anywhere near her until she took the makeup off.”

Although a preschooler may be aware that his sibling is underneath the grisly disguise, it can still be a difficult concept to get his head around, says Dr. Engel. “Research shows that young children can have trouble distinguishing appearance from reality, so it’s very common for kids ages 2 to 4 to be freaked out by masks or makeup — even their own,” she explains.

Rather than trying to tone down any big siblings‘ costumes, Dr. Zucker suggests letting your child be involved in the transformation, so he can absorb the fact that the scary witch is just his silly older sister. “Not only should he watch his sister put the makeup on, but he could participate, putting a few dabs of lipstick on her,” says Dr. Zucker. Visit the costume store together, and show him that masks are really nothing more than plastic and paint. Of course it may also help to limit your trick-or-treating to the daylight hours — even an innocent pumpkin costume can look a lot scarier in the dark.

Adjust Expectations

Your child may be thrilled to get a chocolate bar at the first two or three houses on your block, but by house number four, she may be done. “That’s fine–she still gets the experience of trick-or-treating,” says Dr. Zucker, who suggests having a backup plan: “If you have an older child who wants to stay out longer, you can take your preschooler home to hand out candy while your partner or another parent keeps going with the older one.”

And remember, a 3-year-old who doesn’t want to participate in the Halloween activities this year will be at a completely different developmental stage next year–she may become the 4-year-old who dresses like a ghost and runs around shouting “boooo!” And what a great Facebook photo that will make!


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How to Help a Child With Separation Anxiety in Preschool

Separation anxiety disorder in children who are heading off to preschool is extremely common. If your tot is struggling with the new routine or feeling anxious, follow these strategies for saying goodbye without tears.

The start of preschool is a milestone that’s often anticipated with great excitement and joy, but also with lots of crying, uncertainty, and heel digging—from both kids and parents! “For children, the main source of anxiety around entering preschool is that they have absolutely no idea what to expect,” says Katrina Green, a certified early childhood and early childhood special education teacher at the Just Wee Two program in Brooklyn, New York.

“They have spent the first three to four years learning the rules and routines of their family life and they are completely unfamiliar with the new rules and routines they will encounter. For parents, the main source of separation anxiety is worrying that their child will feel abandoned.”

Read on to learn the best ways to help a child with separation anxiety and to successfully start this new school adventure—together and apart!

Be Consistent

Many moms may see their child have a bad first reaction to preschool and immediately decide to pull him out of the classroom. But that’s a bad idea: “It denies the child an opportunity to learn how to work through negative feelings and sets a precedent of not having to face problems,” Green says. Instead, consistency is key when it comes to making preschool a part of your child’s new routine. Simply going together on a regular basis will provide your little one with a strong sense of anticipation. Keep your goodbyes short and sweet so that your child knows what to expect but doesn’t prolong your departure. When you pick him up at the end of the day, reinforce the idea that you came back, just like you said you would. This way, each day’s drop-off won’t feel like you’re both starting teary and upsetting goodbyes all over again.

Get the Teacher Involved

Ideally, your child’s preschool teacher will be a warm, caring, and experienced individual who can anticipate her students’ needs. But since she is new to you, too, brief her with necessary information that will help her and your child get to know each other better. “It’s helpful for me to know as much as possible about a child’s home life in order to ease their transition into preschool,” Green says. “Their eating, sleeping, and toileting patterns are just as important as knowing their favorite color, what games they like to play, or what songs they like to sing. It also helps to know what techniques the family uses to calm a child down when she is feeling upset or anxious [so I can] try to replicate those techniques in the classroom.” Be sure to let the teacher know about any medical issues, such as food allergies.

Prepare a Comfort Object

Have your child bring a little reminder of home to the preschool to ease his separation anxiety and reassure him. If he doesn’t have a favorite doll or blankie, even a beloved book or a sippy cup filled with his favorite drink can do the trick. “I had a child enter my preschool program who was experiencing major anxiety,” Green reveals. “In the beginning, we encouraged him to bring photos of his family and items from home. He filled an entire Whole Foods bag with toys from home!” Comfort objects may seem like small stuff to you, but they can provide a real sense of security to kids in an unfamiliar environment. “Children almost always outgrow the need to bring a comfort object to school,” Green says. “However, children may feel the need for comfort objects at school (even if they are separating with no problem) when transitions are happening at home (such as a new baby, a move, or Mom or Dad starting a new work schedule).”

Don’t Sneak Away

It might be tempting to bolt from the room, but your little one will feel more afraid if you suddenly disappear. “Moms should never be ripped away abruptly from their child,” says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., child and family psychotherapist and the author of The Self-Aware Parent. “Develop a good-bye ritual. This could be anything you and your child decide on, such as a special hug or handshake followed by a “See you later, alligator!” Once you’ve said your goodbyes, it’s best to skedaddle so that your child doesn’t become preoccupied by your presence. Seeing her involved in an activity is a good cue that it’s time for you to go.

Avoid Comparing Your Child to Others

Don’t chastise your toddler and say, “Nolan doesn’t cry when his mom leaves.” “Honoring your child’s process is the best way to make the transition to preschool as smooth as possible,” Green says. Don’t worry — eventually your child will outgrow the separation anxiety. “The child who never cries when his parent leaves him may act out the scene over and over again during play to process his feelings. Another child may need to cry at every separation for a while in order to work through his feelings,” Green says. “It’s okay to keep leaving the child if he keeps crying,” Green continues. “A complete and successful transition into school can take months, especially if there are family vacations or breaks from school, when children often regress, or if there are changes happening at home.” But in all her years of teaching, Green hasn’t encountered one student couldn’t overcome his separation anxiety.

Resist Surprise Visits

Once you’ve left your child, resist the temptation to go back and check on her, and don’t phone the school every hour. “If you’re always checking up on your child, you risk the reciprocity of your child checking’ on you constantly,” Dr. Walfish says. “It is extremely helpful for moms to develop a team approach with their child’s teacher. This way, mom can feel safe and confident that her child will be well cared for when she is not there.” Trust the teacher and trust yourself; have confidence that you made the best decision and chose the best preschool for your child.

Give Yourself a Pep Talk

Come up with a mantra such as, “This is best place for [your child’s name]” or “Bringing [your child’s name] here is the right decision” to remind you of why being apart is good for both you and your child. Then, keep repeating it as often as you need it! Kids can pick up on your mood, so if you’re nervous and anxious when you drop your child off, he will likely take on your attitude. Remain calm and be upbeat, even if you don’t feel 100 percent cheerful. But if your little one does pick up on your worries, just continue to provide him with reassurance. “Remind him that you will always return and that there are people at school to keep him safe,” Green says. Always remember that starting preschool is a positive step for both you and your little pupil.

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Welcome to Susanna Wesley School 2018-19 School Year

We are so excited to begin our 2018-19 school year!  Thank you for entrusting your precious children in our care.  The teachers and I are getting ready for your arrival and have some special events planned.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

6:00PM-6:45PM-Seminar on Separation Anxiety

Please join Linda Flach, M.Ed.  ECCP Senior Consultant Lower Naugatuck Valley Parent Child Resource Center.  Linda will share her knowledge and answer your questions about separation anxiety so you and your child can make a smooth transition to school.

6:45PM-Back to School Night-This parent only event will inform you of our school’s policies, you’ll meet our PTO and Enrichment Specialists and then you will be to able go into your child’s classroom, meet the teacher & hear the goals for the school year.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


9:30AM-10:30AM 2’s & 3’s students  11AM-12PM 4’s & PreK students

Tuesday, September 4th & Wednesday, September 5th

Meet Your Classmates Day

AM sessions: 9:30AM-10:30AM in your child’s classroom

PM session: 11AM-12PM in your child’s classroom

We all look forward to a wonderful school year!




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Ready for Kindergarten?

Ready for Kindergarten?

Five teachers tell you what preschoolers really need for next year.

If your child’s preschool years are coming to an end, your thoughts are probably turning toward kindergarten. But is your child ready to move on to the “big” school? What skills do kindergarten teachers expect their new students to have? To help answer those questions (and ease your mind), we’ve asked highly regarded kindergarten teachers from around the country to share their insights on helping your child gain the right mix of kindergarten-readiness skills.

The skill sets they are looking for might surprise you. Because of the national focus on improving education and meeting standards, you might think that it’s most important for children to enter kindergarten knowing their ABCs, numbers, shapes, and colors so they can keep up with the curriculum. While teachers would love children to come in with some letter and number recognition, they don’t want you to drill your kids on academic skills. There are equally — if not more — important readiness skills that set the stage for your child’s learning. Raising an eager learner is the goal, and it can be achieved easily through play and day-to-day activities.

What follows are the top readiness skills that kindergarten teachers look for.

Enthusiasm Toward Learning
Solid Oral-Language Skills
The Ability to Listen
The Desire to Be Independent
The Ability to Play Well with Others
Strong Fine-Motor Skills
Basic Letter and Number Recognition


Enthusiasm Toward Learning
“I look for those qualities that prime children to be successful in school,” says Kim Hughes. Does the child approach learning enthusiastically? Is she eager to explore and discover? Does she ask questions, take initiative, and persist when tasks are difficult?

“Parents can set aside a little time each day to investigate the world with their preschooler and answer those endless questions,” says Sandra Waite-Stupiansky. As you drive or walk along in the park, point out your child’s surroundings — the different trees or the various birds at the feeder. Demonstrate how things work. “You’ll help your child develop beginning science skills — the ability to form a hypothesis, test it out, and come up with new questions and theories,” Waite-Stupiansky explains. “The more kids notice, the more curious they’ll become. And we’ll be building on that curiosity in kindergarten.”

Solid Oral-Language Skills
“Children need wide background knowledge about their world and the words to go with it,” says Lisa Mosier. “I want to know where they’ve been and what they can talk about.” You can help build language skills by taking your child to many new places and giving him words and descriptions for what he is seeing. At the zoo, explain, “There’s a tiger. See how he has stripes and looks different from the lion?” Mosier says these experiences have a huge impact on literacy. “If you’re reading a book about zoo animals and it says ‘Look at the tiger,’ and you can’t tell the difference between a lion and a tiger, then you won’t have the background knowledge to help you tackle the word. When children come to words that they don’t know, they won’t be able to make a good guess because it isn’t in their vocabulary.”

Research shows that one of the best predictors of later reading success is a well-developed oral vocabulary in kindergarten. “PreK kids are learning vocabulary at the rate of five to six words a day,” says Waite-Stupiansky. “It’s just amazing how they will retain words if you use them several times in context and conversation.”

The Ability to Listen
Children’s literature is a rich resource for expanding language. “We expect parents to be reading to kids every day,” says Jayne C. Isaacs. “I can tell which children have been glued to the TV or computer for hours at a time. When we read them a story and ask them to tell us in their own words what they liked or remembered, they’re unable to do so.” Besides fostering vocabulary and comprehension, reading develops the attention skills necessary in a kindergarten classroom. “Listening is a key part of school behavior,” Isaacs notes. Students must be able to concentrate on what the teacher is saying, listen carefully for directions, and tune in to the sounds in letters and words.

“The more animated you are as you read, the better you’ll focus your child’s attention on what she’s hearing,” says Armando Argandona. Use different voices for the characters. Promote critical thinking by asking questions like, “Why do you think that happened?” and “How would you feel if that happened to you?” and “What do you think will happen next?” Engage kids by inviting them to clap or stomp when they hear a rhyming word, and letting them finish sentences in familiar stories. Books with rhyme and repetitive refrains (like those by Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss) help kids predict what’s coming and detect consonant sounds at the beginning and end of words, which fosters phonemic awareness—the ability to hear and break down the subtle sounds in words. Your child won’t be able to read the word “cat” until she understands that it actually has three sounds: “cuh,” “ah,” and “tuh.”

Singing fosters pre-reading skills too. “Take turns substituting new sounds in nursery rhymes and songs,” suggests Mosier. For example, transform “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to “Dinkle Dinkle Dittle Dar” or “Zippety Doo Da” to “Bibbety Boo Bah.”

The Desire to Be Independent
Encouraging self-help skills is an important step to preparing your child for kindergarten. “It’s amazing how many kids come to kindergarten not knowing how to hang up a jacket,” says Argandona. It might be quicker for you to do it, but “independence is critical for helping your child adjust to school,” he emphasizes. Teachers expect children to:

  • Get coats on and off and hang them up
  • Follow simple two-step instructions such as “take off your boots and put on your sneakers”
  • Go to the bathroom and wash their hands
  • Blow their nose and cover their mouth when they cough
  • Fasten and unfasten simple buttons and snaps
  • Eat neatly and pour into a cup
  • Open up a juice box and get the straw in.

“Some children are so dependent on their parents that they expect the teacher to do these things for them,” says Hughes. “But when you have 20-plus kids in the room, it’s hard to worry about wiping noses!” However, she notes that tying shoes is a developmental skill that often doesn’t come until the first grade. If kids can’t yet tie their shoes, Hughes suggests sending them in slip-ons or sneakers with Velcro fasteners.

The Ability to Play Well with Others
Your child will need your assistance refining essential social skills such as sharing, compromising, turn-taking, and problem-solving. “Children are naturally egocentric at this age, and we don’t expect them to be able to share everything,” says Waite-Stupiansky. “But by the time they reach kindergarten, they should be able to express their feelings in words and begin to understand that two people can use the same thing at the same time.”

If you and your child are building with blocks and he reaches for one you’re using, Hughes suggests you first encourage your child to ask, “May I have the block?” Then model sharing by saying something like, “I’m glad to share my block with you.” When you notice your child sharing with others, celebrate it by saying, “I’m so proud of you. It’s really hard to share your favorite doll, but you were able to do it. Good for you!”

On play dates and park outings, stay within earshot so you can help kids problem-solve when conflict occurs, Hughes recommends. If your son gets in a power struggle over a toy and can’t seem to work it out, step in and say, “It looks like we’re having a problem here. What can we do about it?” Encourage him to come up with possible solutions, offering your own suggestions, if necessary. “Help kids understand the feelings of others,” says Hughes. “I want them to know when a friend is sad by looking at her face and seeing that her mouth is frowning or her eyes are crying.” This nurtures compassion and empathy, values that are prized by kindergarten teachers.

Strong Fine-Motor Skills
Your child’s hands must be strong enough to master coloring, cutting, pasting, and holding a pencil — fine-motor tasks that kids use every day in kindergarten. “By week one, we’re already writing a letter of the alphabet,” says Argandona. “If kids can’t hold the pencil correctly, they will fall behind.”

To hold the pencil the right way, kids need to develop the small muscles in their palms and fingers. Hughes suggests giving your child a pipe cleaner and some Cheerios (or similar, colorful cereal) to make bracelets. “It requires you to pinch with your fingers,” she explains, the same motion needed for grasping a pencil. Or ask your preschooler to mist your houseplants with a spray bottle, an activity that boosts both writing and scissor skills. Scribbling in clay with fingers is a fun alternative to doing it on paper and especially helpful for kids who are resistant to writing and drawing. (A child can practice cutting the clay into small strips too.)

“Offer writing utensils in a variety of sizes and shapes,” advises Hughes. “Some people think that fat pencils are easier to hold, but that’s not always true. For a child with weak hands, a smaller, shorter pencil might be easier to manage.”

Basic Letter and Number Recognition
Kindergarten teachers believe that it is their responsibility to teach kids letter sounds and how to write, but they do hope incoming students can recognize most letters by sight. They also hope children can count to 10, identify numbers 1 to 5, and know some shapes and colors.

But teachers don’t want you to quiz your child or use workbooks, flashcards, or phonics kits. “So much learning can happen without quizzing or sitting down with a pencil,” says Isaacs. The lessons unfold naturally as you and your child sort Legos by color or shape. Your daughter practices counting as she doles out pretend cookies for the dolls in her tea party. Your son builds letter recognition while scrambling alphabet magnets on the fridge.

“Every outing is a spontaneous opportunity to learn,” Isaacs adds. Play guessing games like, “I spy with my little eye something with the number 3.”

Teach by “immersion” and “show kids how letters are all around us,” says Mosier. “Say, ‘Hey, that spells K-Mart. Let’s spell it together. K-M-A-R-T.'” Point out objects that contain the letters in your child’s name.

Most important, always keep the focus on fun. “Relax, and enjoy your children,” Mosier says. “Read, play, and go places. And talk the whole time you’re doing it!”

Meet the Teachers

Armando Argandona has been teaching for 25 years. He is president-elect of the California Kindergarten Association and a master teacher for California State University at Domingus Hills. He teaches kindergarten at the Ford Boulevard School in East Los Angeles, CA.

Kim Hughes has been teaching PreK and kindergarten for 21 years. She serves on the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and is a PreK/kindergarten teacher at Project Enlightenment, in Raleigh, NC.

Jayne C. Isaacs has been teaching kindergarten for 35 years and has served on her school district’s Diversity Committee and Early Intervention Committee. She teaches kindergarten at the Great Plain School in Danbury, CT.

Lisa Mosier has been teaching 4- and 5-year-olds for 21 years. She received an award from the National Center for Learning Disabilities and currently teaches at the Frances Starms Early Childhood Center in Milwaukee, WI.

Sandra Waite-Stupiansky has taught kindergarten for the last 8 of her 27 years as a teacher. She is co-author of several Scholastic Learning Through Play books and teaches kindergarten at Edinboro University’s Miller Laboratory School in Edinboro, PA.

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Reggio Emilia Approach Gives Students a Voice in the Curriculum

When Newsweek magazine recognized Reggio Emilia in the early 1990s as one of the top approaches to preschool education in the world, the groundbreaking philosophy soon became more popular across the United States, including in a growing number of public schools.

Named after the Italian town where it originated, Reggio Emilia is an innovative approach to teaching preschoolers and kindergarteners that may seem unstructured and slightly out-of-the-box, but it works. It’s a form of negotiated learning that encourages the students to create the curriculum. Teachers are seen as co-learners and observers, and the environment itself is a “third teacher.”

It’s not a traditional classroom with assigned seats and roll call. Art hangs at the children’s eye level, and they can easily see where supplies are in the class and are encouraged to use them.

“The Reggio Emilia approach is an example of how teachers can engage children in creative and meaningful learning activities,” explains Shyrelle Eubanks, senior policy analyst at the National Education Association. “We would like to see more young children in schools have opportunities to learn using developmentally appropriate approaches like Reggio.”

The Maplewood Richmond Heights Early Childhood Center in Maplewood, Missouri launched their own Reggio Emilia program in 2005. The school’s administration and teaching staff, says Brenda Fyfe, Dean of the School of Education at Webster University, both believe that “children should have a voice and a sense of agency in negotiating the learning process, and have the right to engage in experiences that are meaningful to them. ” Webster University, a partner with the Early Childhood Center, is a leader in bringing Reggio Emilia to St. Louis-area schools.

“They understand that children and adults learn through an active process of exploring their world together, exchanging ideas, and learning from and with each other,” Fyfe adds.

In Heather Bailey’s kindergarten classroom in Mapleweood, children climb in and out of a cardboard box with a large umbrella sticking out of the top. The inventive contraption is a “hot air balloon,” the recent topic of their class discussions. They chart maps of their hot air balloon journeys and share stories of their make believe travels.

Bailey incorporates Reggio’s “hundred languages,” a metaphor for the way the children express themselves. The languages include writing, building, sculpting, and dramatic play. “Play isn’t something we do to take a break,” she says. Bailey tries to include play in learning, whether it’s creating a story while sculpting clay figurines or learning how hot air balloons are able to travel before building their own full-size model.

“I’ve learned about harnessing the power of play. You need to give children the opportunity to play, and it needs to be intentional. It’s student-led and teacher-framed.”

Ann McLaughlin, another teacher at Maplewood, shares the benefits of the Reggio approach: “Children gain a sense of autonomy. It’s a hands-on learning experience, and they develop hands-on skills. They’re engaged in real-life situations and have fun and enjoy it.”

The students are seen as important members of the community, and they often take walks through the neighborhood to learn about the world around them.

McLaughlin and Bailey also frequently turn the students’ curiosity and questions into guided science experiments. Bailey elaborates, “There’s a lot of collaboration and teamwork because you can’t do the work yourself.”

The transition from negotiated learning to tradition classroom learning has not been an issue for their students.

“The Reggio approach equips them to use problem-solving strategies,” says Bailey. “The children have a strong sense of self, and they construct their own knowledge and do it well.”

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