Learning in real-life contexts

Using real-life contexts in which to develop activities for the play school program is a highly effective way of motivating young learners. Children grasp ideas more easily and more effectively and maintain their interest in school when they have an educational program that enables them to connect their learning to their own lives and the world around them. Our programs emphasize the interconnected learning that occurs when children are exposed to real-life situations and activities in the classroom, home, school, and neighbourhood.

For example, a trip to the grocery store can develop literacy (e.g., reading signs and labels), numeracy (e.g., finding different ways numbers are used, looking for shapes), and social skills (e.g., listening to other people’s ideas, taking turns), and can provide an opportunity to acquire nutritional information.

Mathematics often becomes abstract too early for children. Developing concepts within a real-life context allows children to bridge the gap between the concrete and abstract. For example, children need many experiences of investigating the idea that three blocks and two more blocks make five blocks before they will understand 3 + 2 = 5.

Integrated Learning

Using real-life contexts can lead to more effective integration of learning throughout the preschool program. Integration can provide opportunities for children to explore concepts and to develop and apply skills. There are many models for integration. One model for integrated teaching involves the presentation of concepts to children in a variety of contexts. For example, the mathematical concept of pattern may be presented and developed in activities related to music, stories, fabrics, and natural objects.

Meaningful integration deepens children’s understanding of the skills and concepts in each of the subjects that are involved. Through meaningful integration, children can be encouraged to generate new connections and to expand their existing understanding. Integration also helps children see how the knowledge and skills developed in one area can be relevant to other areas.

Integration of the Arts Across the Program

Effective integration of arts activities across the play school program helps support the learning styles, interests, and strengths of individual children.

Integrating the arts with other areas of learning allows children to make meaningful connections between program areas, and can be highly motivating. For example, important links can be made between music and language development. Children can gain an appreciation of the rhythm and flow of language through song. Musical instruments allow children to experience rhythm and beat and to feel the sounds in rhyming stories, songs, or poems. Drama offers children a variety of opportunities to retell stories using props, puppets, masks, and costumes. Drama also gives children the opportunity to respond in role and to take on roles in which they express different points of view, and thus supports the development of empathy. Creative movement and dance provide a vehicle for response and for interpretation of something children have heard, seen, or felt. Through sculpting, painting, constructing, and drawing, children not only express their thoughts and feelings, but may also articulate their learning about their community and place in the world.

Participating in and responding to appropriate arts experiences gives children opportunities to reflect on their own experiences and those of others. These activities can enhance children’s self-concept and increase their sense of accomplishment, and can help them develop their oral language ability and their ability to respond to others.

The outdoor world also provides an abundance of resources and materials for supporting learning through the arts. Children can discuss the lines, shapes, or textures that they have observed in a field, local park, or school yard. They can listen for different sounds in the environment and watch how animals move, and then imitate the sounds and movements in music and dance activities. They can create art works and musical instruments using found and recycled materials – for example, they can use leaf and shell rubbings in collages.