The composition of the preschool classroom evolves throughout the year to meet the emerging learning interests of its children. The classroom has an open design, with a central rug for classroom meetings. There is a block area with both hollow and unit blocks, dramatic play area with a loft, a reading area with books and pillows, an art supply corner, as well as several shelves and supply bins containing dramatic play outfits, small manipulatives, games, puzzles, and toys. New materials are introduced and rotated throughout the year in response to the children's emerging interests and learning needs. The room contains a bathroom, a row of tables for lunch and snacks, as well as a kitchen for cooking projects.
Children's art, including photography of children, teachers, and families is central to the preschool classroom and can be found displayed on the walls and shelves. Art and construction play an important role in transforming the classroom to reflect emerging themes in the children's play. For example, the class may meet to discuss an interest in outer space and spend several weeks studying images and concepts of space and space travel. Features may be added to the loft to create a spaceship and the walls and ceilings covered in diverse representations of the galaxy. The loft has also recently been a castle, a house, an igloo, and a jungle.
The preschool classroom has two head teachers who serve as mentors to a number of graduate students from the Teachers College community who are working in the classroom on a semester or year-long basis. Given the number of teachers in the classroom, individual attention is able to be provided on a regular basis to address the children’s unique needs. In addition, the teachers and graduate students work together to create a dynamic environment that is conducive to both large- and small-group learning activities.
Teachers take on a variety of roles throughout the course of the day. Teachers may prepare small group activities such as baking, painting, playwriting, and gardening. Children join as they choose to these activities. Often, teachers may be fully participating in a dramatic play episode with the children. They are invited by the children to be full partners in constructing the play. Other times, teachers may be sitting back and recording observations of the children’s activities and interests.
The preschool at the Rita Gold Early Childhood Center is a mixed age, inclusive community that serves children between the ages of 3, 4, and 5 years old. We believe in providing care that serves a wide range of abilities and needs. The philosophy of the Center is woven throughout the curriculum in the preschool room as we place the child at the center of the curriculum and develop themes and project-based work in response to their interests and needs. The teachers and graduate students devote time to observing and listening to the children within the context of a play-based learning environment. From these observations, learning opportunities are constructed to meet a range of developmental needs and skills while also striving to challenge each child. The curriculum is structured to address all areas of development in an integrated model as we believe that a holistic approach most effective when teaching and learning within an early childhood setting.
Some preschool children attend full-time and others attend part-time, with a maximum of fifteen children in the classroom at any given time. Although scheduling varies, during the busiest times of the morning, there are typically two lead teachers, one graduate assistant teacher, and one or more work study or practicum student teachers. The high teacher-to-child ratio allows for careful documentation of the children’s work and play, and frequent communication and collaboration between teachers and families. In an effort to create a sense of community and allow the child’s learning to extend beyond the classroom, the preschool teachers work to involve families and members from TC and the outside community in the curriculum whenever possible.
A typical day in the preschool classroom:
8:45-11:00 Free Play/Project Work
11:00-11:30 Clean-up, Meeting, Transition
11:30-12:30 Indoor/Outdoor Gross Motor Play
12:30-1:30 Lunch, Transition
3:30-5:00 Free Play/Project Work
In addition to the daily events that take place, the preschool is involved in year-long art, swimming, and music programs within the TC community.
Rita Gold Early Childhood Center
Teachers College, Columbia University
525 West 120th Street, Box 98
New York, NY 10027
Phone (212) 678-3013