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Tinkering, Art & Twos: Exciting Changes in Early Childhood

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Big changes are afoot in Heathwood’s Early Childhood Learning Center! Most notably, a major donation from Heathwood parents Mike and Summer Tourville is allowing us to create a new Tinker Lab and Art Studio, and to provide teacher development opportunities that will turn the ECLC into even more of a center for the Reggio Emilia-inspired learning that has been a hallmark of Heathwood’s early childhood program.

The addition of a 2-year-old program in the 2016-17 school year means Heathwood will be putting even more emphasis on an early childhood curriculum that educates and inspires the very youngest learners. The ECLC’s Reggio Emilia-inspired approach does that by tapping into each child’s innate curiosity to foster intellectual self-confidence and a love of learning. Teachers work with children to discover and explore their interests, and are highly attuned to many different ways in which children can express their understanding: not just verbally or in writing, but through artwork, construction projects, group play, and more.

That’s where the Tinker Lab and Art Studio will have an impact—both will significantly enhance opportunities for ECLC students to learn through hands-on experience and to express what they’ve learned through the things they create. Their creations will also give ECLC teachers even more insight into each student’s interests, talents, and habits of expression. That in turn will help students develop the confidence and engagement that will help them succeed when they enter the Lower School and will allow ECLC teachers to share a lot of information about each child’s learning style and interests with Lower School teachers.

In the Tinker Lab, students will be able to explore subjects like physics, math, and engineering in a very tangible and engaging way—by taking things apart, putting them back together again, poking at them to figure out how they work, and building their own original creations and exploring what they can do. It’s the kind of experimentation that inspires creative thinking and combines abstract thought with hands-on experience. The opportunities, says ECLC Head Amanda Cox, “are endless. Children will have the chance to take risks, design, and create as they become strong scientific thinkers.”

In the expanded art studio, students will likewise have more opportunities than ever to get creative, and teachers will have more opportunities to learn about individual students through the art they create. “The art studio will give us a dedicated space that will allow our children to cultivate their creative thinking,” says Cox.

The other significant change in the ECLC this year is the Kindergarten’s move to the Lower School, which, says Cox, makes sense from a curricular perspective. “The  Kindergarten students will have the best of both worlds,” she notes, “as they will participate in Early Childhood activities such as Habitat Day, Tinker Lab, and Art Studio, but will also have the resources available in the Lower School. And as we plan Lower School curriculum, we have found it important to have the Kindergarten teachers’ voices and excitement for teaching and learning in our conversations. So moving Kindergarten to Lower School is an exciting change for us.”