Kathy Politz, education consultant for Indiana Department of Education, spoke recently to 32 Clay County childcare providers on the Foundations for Young Children to the Indiana Kindergarten Academic Standards.
Representatives from 4-C Community Coordinated Child Care, YMCA, Brazil and Clay City Head Start, Clay County Even Start, CAPE Literacy Project and preschool, private preschools, daycare providers, Clay Community Schools, Title One and CARS Child Care Network attended the seminar sponsored by Lilly Endowment Inc.'s CAPE grant (Community Alliances to Promote Education).
She said children come into this world eager to learn. The first five years of life are a time of enormous growth of linguistic, conceptual, social, emotional and motor competence.
"Adults have an opportunity and an obligation to assist children in becoming active participants in the learning process throughout their lives. To grow and learn, young children need early childhood settings that support the development of the full range of capacities that will serve as a foundation for future school learning," Politz said.
It is vitally important that all children have learning experiences that are appropriate and based upon current knowledge and research of child development and learning, focused on the strengths, needs and interests of each individual child and respect the social and cultural context in which each child lives. Only after addressing these three essential areas of information and knowledge, can individuals working with young children make decisions concerning appropriate learning experiences she said.
Knowledge of typical development of children within the age span served by any program or home provides a framework from which the adult can prepare the learning environment and plan appropriate experiences. Each child must be viewed as a unique person with an individual pattern and timing for growth.
"Learning for young children is the result of interaction between the child's thoughts and experiences with materials, ideas and people. Participants should be actively engaged in learning activities that reflect and support the Foundations," Politz said.
Effective, quality programs for young children acknowledge and encourage each child's efforts, model and demonstrate, create challenges and support children in extending their capabilities, provide specific directions and instruction and organize the environment in ways to pursue educational goals for all children she said.
From kindergarten through 12th grade, academic standards have been established to promote excellence and equity in education. Standards are a framework and represent the essential content every student needs in order to have a basis for understanding a subject area. At the heart of the effort to promote quality early childhood experiences for all, Foundations to the standards have been developed to support all adults that work with three to five year olds.
The Indiana Foundations for Young Children address all the content areas: English/language arts, social studies, math, science, physical education, health and the arts and reflect the types of experiences and interactions early learners need to develop the Foundation. Each individual Foundation is divided into sections of what you may see the child begin to do, examples of many activities adults can do with children to support growth and learning in each area and a variety of scenarios that adults may be doing that would address each foundation.
The Foundations and experiences are not inclusive but rather a guide that will assist the young learner in preparing for success. These descriptions are not written in any particular order and, because children grow and learn at different rates and in different ways, should not be used as a checklist Politz said.
"Adults have many opportunities to use naturally occurring events to stimulate curiosity and problem solving in order for children to begin to make the critical connection between living and learning," she said.
Politz began her career teaching first grade for the Vigo County School Corporation. She received her Masters in Early Childhood while working as a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. She then taught kindergarten in Vigo County for 12 years and was named Indiana Teacher of the Year in 2000. The next year she served as Teacher in Residence at the Indiana Department of Education, and is currently an education consultant for Indiana Department of Education, Division of Prime Time as well as professional development coordinator for the Indiana Reading First grant.