The Gayle Johnson Cohen Early Childhood Program educates children from 33 months through age 5. Our teacher, Dan Estey, draws on the best practices from the Reggio, Montessori, and Creative curriculums. He organizes the classroom as a laboratory for discovery where each child is provided the opportunity to learn through their own individual path. Children are given time and space to learn at their own pace. Each class embarks on a journey together, learning about community, Judaism, and how each individual’s essence can strengthen the group.
Dan understands that the most important work of young children is learning self care and the skills of living in community. Dan explains each activity and all of its component parts in the realization that what is second nature to an adult or an older child is often entirely new to a young child. He gently teaches how to wash hands, how to manage toileting, and how to take toys out and put them away. He waits patiently for each child to get herself ready to go outside, to open the food in her lunch, and to clean up after play time, understanding that the purpose of the time is to complete the task. The task is not simply a bridge to the next real activity.
Dan allows the curriculum to emerge from the interests of the children. He also allows plenty of time for the children to explore the world around them through books, toys, and real world experiences, and provides them with all the tools important for self expression. He listens carefully to each child’s story, suggestions, and perspectives, knowing full well that each child’s perspective is as fully significant as his own. Through this process, children develop a sense of themselves as competent, worthy, and ready to approach the next hurdle life presents.