The Child as Protagonist
Children are strong, curious, and capable of constructing their learning and negotiating with everything their environment brings them. Children, teachers, and parents are the three central protagonists in the education process.
The Child as Collaborator
We believe that education must focus on each child in relation to other children, the family, the teachers, and the community opposed to the child in isolation. Therefore we place an emphasis on small group work. This is based on the social constructivist model that we form ourselves through our interactions with our peers and the environment.
The Child as Communicator
This approach fosters children’s intellectual development through a systematic approach of symbolic representations. This includes words, movements, drawing and painting, building, dramatic play and music, which leads children to develop deeper thinking as they make their thoughts visible through a variety of “languages.”
The Environment as the Third Teacher
The design and use of space is critical in encouraging communication, encounters, and relationships between children. At Bridges, we believe that there must be an underlying order and beauty in the design and organization of all space in a school as well as in the equipment and materials used.
The Teacher as Partner, Nurturer, and Guide
Teachers are partners with each child on a learning journey. To know how to plan and proceed, teachers listen and closely observe children in the classroom. Through inquiry, they explore a world of learning together, while providing many opportunities for discovery.
Documentation as Communication
Documentation shows children that their work – their ideas – are valued. Through our detailed panels the children’s thinking becomes visible. For teachers, the documentation process is a tool for following the children’s interests, revisiting their ideas, and proposing next steps.
The Parent as Partner
Parent participation is considered essential, and it takes many forms. Parents are viewed as partners at Bridges, as they bring ideas and skills to the School, and are able to participate in the exchange of ideas with other parents and teachers.
For over three decades Bridges has been inspired by the Bank Street and Reggio Emilia approach. Since 1991 Bridges teachers have been studying and implementing the Reggio Emilia approach and incorporating it into the school’s curriculum.
Bridges teachers, inspired by the Reggio Approach, create and design curriculum for the Two, Three, and Four-year-old programs. In-house curriculum development is known by many names, all of which embrace the Reggio philosophy:
Emergent curriculum involves listening, documentation, and collaboration, a belief that each child and teacher are a part of the inquiry. It is a belief that questions “trigger ideas” and stir program development.
It is easy to start with a teacher’s lesson plan that directs the curriculum path, but Emergent Curriculum starts with the children’s interests. The teacher does contribute and may even introduce the subject(s) that they think are relevant to the group.
The teacher and children develop a plan based on questions, books, and experiences; they work together, in collaboration.
Children learn in many different ways. A child-centered approach fosters learning through play. Do they really learn through play? Yes! The freedom of interaction with others fosters social-emotional development and self-confidence in a child-centered classroom.
Programs with a child-centered approach encourage children to discover their own interests, with their own words, which help define who they are.
Constructivism Theory Approach/Curriculum
Constructivism is a process of reflecting on experiences and thus constructing an understanding of the world. Learning by doing and hands-on strategies promote inquiry and problem solving.
A standard curriculum is not evident in this approach. The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the “right” answers. Children construct an understanding of the world they live in.
Standards and Goals
Bridges curriculum is linked to the Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards (CT ELDS) and Connecticut’s Documentation and Observation for Teaching System (CT DOTS). The ELDS and DOTS are organized by domain:
- Social and Emotional
- Language and Literacy
- Creative Arts
- Social Studies
The ELDS and DOTS support and build curriculum and assess growth of every child, thus providing a framework to guide “professional learning choices.” Bridges curriculum plans are constructed through documentation, project panels, and classroom observations. CT ELDS and DOTS are referenced regularly in team and parent meetings to develop individual and group learning goals and objectives.
How does NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accreditation make Bridges a better school? Accreditation is not required, Bridges chooses to be accredited. Accreditation is a rigorous year-long exercise of self-evaluation that involves the participation of National Association for Education of Young Children, NAEYC, Bridges teachers, parents, administration, and the Board of Trustees. Accreditation raises the bar for early childhood programs; it requires accountability and self-examination. During the accreditation process, Bridges strives to meet NAEYC’s 10 standards for high-quality early childhood education. More information about accreditation can be found at www.naeyc.org.
We believe that the teacher is a life-long learner and that we learn alongside the children. At Bridges, a reflective practice is central to our daily learning and teaching. Working in teams, teachers accept that there is often more than one right answer.
Within this collaborative environment, our educators work together to focus on thorough communication with each family, innovative and stimulating program planning, and documentation of activities and events within the classroom.
Bridges School is committed to exceptional early education. All Bridges teachers participate in workshops and conferences in the United States and Italy. Opportunities for professional growth are ongoing. This includes weekly team meetings, monthly faculty meetings, visiting other schools, planned professional development, and facilitating educators who visit our classrooms.
The Bridges Faculty Professional Development plan is an important component of Bridges’ culture. Professional development consisting of internal and external courses and training is planned each year for the individual teacher as well as the faculty as a whole. Bridges complies with NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and Connecticut State Licensing staff development requirements. Staff development goals are set in the fall and reviewed again in the spring.
A Reggio Emilia Child Development conference, presented by Bridges Teachers, is scheduled for parents and local teachers annually.
We believe our classrooms and community reflect a respect for human differences. We are committed to human rights and social justice.
Experiencing the Reggio schools firsthand has shaped my path as a teacher and continues to influence, inspire, and guide my interactions with children.
Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach liked to say, “Teachers are professional marvelers and wonderers.” I often don’t know the answer to a question or the solution to a problem. The gift of the Reggio Approach is being comfortable with this type of uncertainty: asking questions, marveling at our surroundings, observing with a sense of wonder, and truly listening to the children.
Bridges School fully embodies this mindset of growth and learning where children and teachers embark on a new adventure together each day.
Bridges believes that the parent, child, and teacher hold an important and close tie. They are meant to navigate the early childhood journey together. As the youngest of our children begin school in the fall, we ask parents to stay as their child transitions into the classroom. As each child moves on to the next program, teachers continue to reach out to maintain cooperation and communication.
Parents play a valued role in every aspect of our community. Bridges offers many opportunities for meaningful involvement, including participating in classroom activities, attending parenting meetings and workshops, serving on committees, supporting fellow parents in conjunction with the Bridges Parents Association, and helping with special school events.