We believe that play is the best tool for young children to explore and think about the complex world in which they live. Our teachers plan a balance of individual and group activities based on careful observation of each child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. For much of the day, children are free to choose from a rich array of activities designed to deepen their understanding of world, improve their ability to communicate their ideas and feelings, and foster warm relationships with their peers and caregivers.
We engage each child’s innate curiosity about the physical world with ongoing sensory explorations of nature and science, and we support children’s creative development with art, music, dance, and dramatic play that encourages individual expression. We develop the skills shown to lead to later school success through an informal environment that is print, number, and language rich and that responds to each child’s desire to learn and converse. We start in our infant room with caregivers who carefully support each child’s verbal and non-verbal attempts to communicate. By the preschool years, we introduce sound recognition (phonemic awareness), letter recognition, counting, and sorting.
Our program provides many opportunities for children to practice the social skills they need to have a successful experience in kindergarten and beyond. Particularly in our youngest classrooms, we believe that care should be based on relationship planning, not lesson planning. Each child is assigned a primary caregiver to ensure his or her needs are being met by the program. We plan age-appropriate activities and use conflict resolution techniques that promote cooperation and empathy. We find that children thrive when we listen to their concerns, encourage them to listen to others, express their feelings and solve their own problems within clear and consistent limits, and help them find constructive ways to be together.
We also consider care-giving routines, such as eating, toileting, washing and napping, to be important learning settings, where children can create trusting relationships with caregivers, learn about health and safety, practice physical skills, and develop a sense of autonomy and competence.
The Cabrillo College Children's Center brings together families and teachers from a wide range of cultures, family structures, languages and economic backgrounds. Our diverse community offers many opportunities to think about and discuss what it is like to grow up in a multicultural society. We strive to be a full inclusion program for young children of all backgrounds and ability levels. We want everyone to feel safe enough to share their talents, hopes, and values, while learning to celebrate the abilities and cultures of others. We do not avoid talking about the larger social issues that can make caring for children difficult: commercialism, violence, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and bias based on gender, language, disability, class, or family background. We engage children in this conversation by using age appropriate language and activities that teach about respect, fairness, and appreciation of diversity. Our focus is on helping children learn about and enjoy each other’s similarities and differences. We consider parents and other family members important partners in this learning process. This approach, called an “anti-bias approach”, can be seen in the books and pictures we choose, our parent meeting topics, the way we help children resolve conflicts, and the way we invite every person’s family, culture and languages into the classroom. We want everyone, adults and children alike, to deepen their understanding and acceptance of one another.
Children learn best when the adults in their lives cooperate on the important job that they share. Parents are experts on their child, their values and their family. Teachers have broad knowledge about child development and what activities will enhance development for children in the age group they teach. Together, parents and teachers have much to offer each other. An equal partnership, where each person shares and learns, can form a loving, consistent team that eases the transition from home to school and back again.
Growing up in an environment with more than one language can enhance children’s brain development and foster acceptance of diverse cultures. Since English and Spanish are the two main languages spoken in our community, we are dedicated to becoming a bilingual Spanish/English program.
During a child’s early development, it is important that communication take place in the language he or she understands best. Children who are taught in their first language can transfer their skills and knowledge into another language once they have mastered their own. Children who do not have the opportunity to become fluent and literate in their home language will often not develop the skills needed to succeed in another language. We support the development of each child's home language, and because we live in an English-dominant community, we also support all our children’s acquisition of English.
Cabrillo College supports the Children’s Center for two reasons: to provide child care for student and staff families and to give students in the Early Childhood Education program a place to practice the teaching methods they are learning in classes. ECE Students can participate in the classroom as part of our student teaching program and our advanced student intern program. We are also used as an observation site for numerous other Cabrillo and UCSC classes, and we are a demonstration site for the Program for Infant-Toddler Caregivers, which brings visitors to us from across the state.