An Introduction to School Age Care in Canada, Research Paper Example
Words: 7328Research Paper
The cornerstone to any educational model is undoubtedly the teacher. Education is viewed as an important aspect of a child’s life and is regarded as an imperative characteristic of the psychological development of the child (Lam, 2006). The teacher is the most vital aspect of any educational program and the quality of the teacher is dependent upon their qualifications, which includes the extent and duration of their pre-service field experiences and the characteristics of their ongoing professional development and these factors determine how the after school program is designed as well as how it benefits the community it serves (Decker, Decker, Freeman, and Knopf, 2009).
School-age vision is an effective method to enhance children’s experience with communities, learning, physical education and relationship. Various research studies were written regarding the best methods to be used for developing a school-age vision and a complete program that would suit parental, child and school profiles alike. Bisback & Kopf-Johnson (2009, pp. 81. ) conclude the importance of school-age programs as essential supplementary activities children need after spending up to 6 hours mostly indoors, on limited space and structured learning environment. The latest programs are attempting to create a home-like environment in school, with added comfort, compared to classroom activities and normal lessons, and more freedom, chance to interact and play with each other. Another important characteristic of school-age settings is that they are created to be challenging and interesting for the age group they are aimed for.
The below study is looking to develop a fully functional and well researched strategy for children aged 6-12. The characteristics of the program will be determined by the development stages of children, the demographic attributes of the group, and the most common interest of the children. The program is aimed to provide more physical development opportunities for children, have community building effects and involve parents in the life of the program. The study would be backed up by research studies and publications, as well as personal experiences of the authors.
Key Values for School Programs
School-age programs have multiple benefits for children, educators and parents alike. Children in the first years of school often have difficulties with being restricted to a small space of movement, and they also need to be able to relax in order to develop suitable focusing skills. According to Canadian Institute of Child Health (online), children might develop hyperactivity, emotional disorders, and this affects kids from all backgrounds. Among children aged 4-11, 17% is the occurrence rate of these symptoms among girls, and it is 24% among boys. An after School program can ease the emotional stress and reduce hyperactivity by creating free time, guided and brainstorming sessions, psychical activities and providing a challenging and interesting environment for children as educators plan the program base on their knowledge of child development and observation.
The main expectations for school-age care by parents were surveyed by the Child Care Exchange (quoted in: Neugebauer et al. 2007), and the results show that most of the parents expect the service to provide safety for their children, while they are working. 33 percent of parents expected the homework to be done, while only 8-8 percent of them preferred that their children would learn more about academic curriculum and obtain more comprehensive social skills. The parents’ expectations were somewhat in contrast with schools’ visions, and this indicates that there is a need for effective two-way communication between parents and educators who run the program, and projects that promote parental involvement would be beneficial long term. According to Neugebauer et al. (2007.), “The goals of the school-age providers surveyed do not square exactly with parent expectations. After school programs tend to focus on social skills development, as well as safety and fun, alongside with exercise and recreation.
Educators’ beliefs have an influential role in determining their professional behaviour and affect not only their teaching, but also filter new information and suggest major implications for the functioning of educational innovations and children development (Mohamed, 2006). The qualification, training and motivation of educators ensure that the program is staffed with competent and dedicated professionals (Mpokosa and Ndaruhutse, 2008). These elements have a significant impact on the program’s quality and are an important factor in determining the likelihood that the curriculum will contribute to children’s growth and development as well as their success in school and beyond (Decker, Decker, Freeman, and Knopf, 2009).
According College of Early Childhood Education Standard of Practice, the first standard involves making sure children are being educated through a caring and nurturing relationship that supports learning (CECES, 2011, pp. 11.) Increased responsibility, cooperation, enhanced problem solving, conflict management skills, and being able to answer difficult questions and handle unexpected situations with respect are all important aspects of being an educator. This demonstrates the principles of effective communication, negotiation, and demonstrates the values being taught in a model that is real (Sharp, Ward, & Hankin, 2009). The technology and multimedia available can be used as instructional technology and safe use of the internet can be taught to enhance safety (Sharp, Ward, & Hankin, 2009). Instruction in citizenship through the educational process builds character and modelling these formative traits is important to producing productive citizens with quality skills that will enable them to get stable employment and enrich the economy (Sharp, Ward, & Hankin, 2009).
After school programs play a vital role in reconnecting schools and communities. Programs offer children from 6 to 12 years of age the opportunity to move beyond structured classrooms and engage with their surrounding neighborhoods, organizations, and individuals. Parental involvement in after school programs can make a difference in children’s lives, as well as benefit families, schools, and after school programs themselves. Partnering with families and communities is the second standard because it strengthens the ability of after school programs to meet the needs of young children (ELECT, pp. 5). Encouraging familial involvement brings respect for diversity, equity, and inclusion into the program, adding communal values, knowledge, and strength, which are prerequisites for honoring children’s rights, optimal development, and learning (ELECT, pp. 5). A planned curriculum can also support early learning through play, which is a means of early learning that capitalizes on children’s natural curiosity and exuberance and knowledgeable, responsive early childhood professionals are essential to facilitating optimal use of this important venue for learning during the critical period of early childhood (ELECT, pp. 5).The third standard is establishing a safe, healthy and supportive learning environments and high quality after school programs play an important role in helping children to grow up safe, healthy and educated (CECES, pp. 17).
A growing body of evidence shows the after school approach to learning through fun, engaging, project based education, not only through boosts in school success, but contributes to the development of skills like team work, problem solving, critical thinking, and healthy decision making (Bisback, & Kopf-Johnson, 2007). High quality after school programs that promote personal and social skills were consistently successful in producing multiple benefits including improvements in children’s personal, social and academic skills. Rudolf Steiner took a holistic approach to education when he founded the Waldorf educational system, basing his system on educating the whole child-head, hands, and heart (Morrison, 2009). This educational model is based on anthroposophy, a philosophy that focuses on the spiritual nature of humanity and the universe, eurhythmy, which is movement that makes speech and music visible through action and gesture, respect for development, and nurturing imagination (Morrison, 2009). The Waldorf educational system is appealing to many educators because of its emphasis on educating the whole child, the integration of the arts into the curriculum, the emphasis on learning by doing, and the unhurried approach to education and schooling (Morrison, 2009). School-age programs tend to focus on social skills development, as well as safety and fun, alongside with exercise and recreation. Therefore, the main aims of the below school-age program development project would be to:
- Keep children safe and teach them about staying safe in school and at home
- Supporting student learning
- Community building program
Barriers in providing after school program
There are some barriers in providing a quality after school program such as limited resources for maintaining the program’s physical facilities and equipment, which lead educators to limit the building’s use. Space is one of the major problems in creating an after school program because most of the time you have to share if the plan is to rent the space. Obtaining the funding for such programs is another problem, as there are substantial costs involved in creating a program. There are three major costs involved in the project, which are:
- Start-up Costs and the initial costs associated with planning and readying a program for operation.
- Operating Costs, which include costs associated with running an after-school program on an ongoing basis.
- Facilities-related costs, which typically include rent, utilities, and maintenance; and other operating costs, including supplies, insurance, subsidies and administrative or overhead costs.
Why space matters
The layout and design of afterschool space offers children important cues about what happens in the program. Children will be arriving at the program from different classrooms, sometimes from different schools and they have already had a long day. Some children will be tired, hungry, cranky or lonely. Others will be excited, happy and full of energy. An immediate importance of afterschool space is to offer children a sense of place and an understanding of the values and rules in the program. The space should welcome children of all abilities, be clean, bright and well organized, easy to interpret so that children know where to go, support their growing independence, and provide a place where they can relax and be alone. The Space should contain images of children with their friends and with the staff and look like a place where it is fun to spend time.
School-age program development
Developing a school-age program for 6-12 year old children would involve educators and children, as well as parents. The pilot after school program will be designed to accommodate 30 children from ages 6-12 with the ratio of 1 adult to 15 children, with the two adults being early childhood educators (Day Nursery Act (DNA) section: Power of delivery agent pg. 45 Schedule 3). According to DNA (Section: Building and Accommodation), every 30 children need a separate play area, artificial lights, window glasses and proper temperature. The profile of the participating children should be evaluated, and suggestions would be collected in the form of a survey. An initial meeting should be set up, and the demographic statistics would be used to determine the right approach. Before developing a curriculum, according to Bisback & Kopf-Johnson (2009.), the educator needs to learn observation techniques and gain an understanding regarding what is important for families. Other than the analysis of parental and children’s questionnaires, the educator would need to use observations in classroom (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009). Incorporating school topics in after school programs and enhancing learning experience would be possible with the collaboration of all educators and support staff.
The program would need to focus on cost-effective methods to transform the one classroom (currently only used by the school-age program) and the outdoor place into a comfortable environment resembling the home setting. The below review would provide a detailed outline of making use of space, and materials creatively while involving parents and children in the project. Educators would be charged with designing a cozy homelike environment with soft elements, to create a feeling of security and a sense of calmness. In this environment, there would be separate places created for children to be quiet and alone, as well as for active explorers wanting to use their bodies and senses. The program would have a predictable schedule, so children can feel secure, yet maintain flexibility in order to focus on the children’s individual needs, preferences, and interests.
Developing an interesting environment for children can be fun if the educator understands the characteristics of the age group. Teachers must listen to the reactions students give regarding the different activities and receive feedback from the children. If the environment is interesting, negative behaviors can be reduced. The ideal solution is to have a big room in the school environment. To begin the program, the educational professional can ask the children to choose a color for the room, or different areas, and children can get involved in painting the room. According to Vygotsky’s theory, children can do more in their zone of proximal development with the help and guidance of an adult (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009).
For example, some children might be able to paint, some might not; but they would be willing to learn from their peers or the educator. This would be a great learning experience for children with different abilities, and a good exercise to build relationships or share knowledge.
Involving children in arranging the room would give them a sense of ownership, and result in them feeling more connected to their environment. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, by giving them the opportunity to plan for their own program, feeling this sense of belonging within their environment allows them to progress to the higher level of development which is the need to explore and understand (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009).
Helping to create the space would be a great learning experience for children regardless of their developmental stage or capabilities. Children should be involved in the development and planning of their home like areas because it will enhance their ability to rearrange furniture, select colors, and create displays. The indoor space, currently operating as a one-on-one classroom is about 60 square meters and it will be transformed in to an after school program that will support 30 children. In order to transform the inner space into an environment that would resemble home, different areas should be developed, like one area for learning, one for doing homework and supporting each other, and others for meal preparation, relaxation, and playing games as well as watching movies and having discussions. The room will also include a “living room” style chill-out area with sofas, soft furnishing, stools and wall decorations. The entry area would feature a bench with some cushions on it. This area should be the place that educators and parents can have their informal meetings and conversations. A separate community corner in the entry area should also be created to feature the program web, documentations, prints and artwork related to common projects children are participating in during the school-age activities. The community corner would also be accessible for parents and there would be a suggestion box where children and parents would be able to make recommendations.
The indoor community area should reflect the children’s diversity, and one wall area would feature the images of children performing their favorite activities at home. This display would have a community building effect, help educators and other children find out more about the particular child and provide them with opportunities to start a conversation. The images might be printed photos, or artwork and the decision should be made by the educators and children during the community meetings. This would be the place where the daily schedules of the program would be posted as well and the wall would also include rows of hooks for coats or backpacks with boot trays for shoes or boots provided near the entrance.
Kitchen/ Dining Room
In this ideal after school room there would be a small open concept kitchen in the corner of the room and the dining area would be an area between the kitchen and the living room. The dining room area can be used for community meetings about further plans, parental involvement, and to create “surprises” for peers, such as gifts for birthdays, cards, and special occasions or to share good news with others in an organized form. It is important that there would be one “school-age leader” selected from every age group, who would help coordinate the meetings and come up with at least three different ideas every week. The kitchen would be a place where children would take part in food preparation and the weekly responsibilities and tasks would be displayed regarding preparation, cleaning up, and ensuring hygiene. This would allow for messy project on the table and accessibility to the kitchen sink. The serving area would resemble an eating area at home. It is important to teach children about healthy eating habits, nutrition and fruits and vegetables, therefore, some of the values of nutrition and the most important vitamins / minerals and a copy of Canada Food Guide would be displayed in the area. Non-breakable, easily sterilized dishes would be used around the kitchen, It is important that the kitchen would promote healthy nutritious meals and an active lifestyle. Children would be seated in small groups, and disciplines during eating would be displayed on the wall featuring a project the children completed.
While the entire program room would incorporate a home-like atmosphere, there would also be a “living room” for children, and this area would be important for free time, conversations, and also relaxation. This are would feature soft furnishing, seat cushions, a window with curtains, and some natural plants in a different area of the room, some lamps near the sofa and on the shelves as well as a shelf for books. A separate corner of the area would be set up for “quiet activities”, such as reading and community games, such as board, card, and word games. The room would be divided in different areas by using shelves that contain the materials, games and containers organized.
The recreation room would contain a large table and some cabinets to store materials. There would be a sewing machine, wood working instruments such as a saw, a drill, safety glasses, and other tools. Old toasters and other common electronic items can be used as spare parts for children and the children can be allowed to take them apart and explore the design of them. Parents could be a good source for providing recycled materials to the program. Another area would be set up to facilitate drama, art, language, and listening skills enhancement programs and activities as well as a science projects that would also be planned and carried out here. Children would be able to complete various art activities and projects, prepare performances, learn songs and poems, and improve their language skills.
Howard Gardner’s philosophy of multiple intelligences introduces eight different points of intellectual stimulation an educator might cater to during the course of instruction. These eight intelligences are spatial, linguistic, mathematical/logical, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and ecology/environmental (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009). Gardener’s theory states that, while we all have a dominating intelligence, we each possess all eight and, although these intelligences are anatomically separated, they must all work in cohesion, complementing one another as we develop skills or solve problems (Brualdi, 1996). This theory also acknowledges that culture does play a major role in the development of these intelligences and that all students will enter the classroom with a different set of developed intelligences and intellectual strengths and weaknesses, therefore it is best for educators to include different materials and fabrics that are relevant to children’s culture in the group such as baskets, games, music instruments and loose parts such as rocks from another countries. Cultural kitchen utensils and serving dishes can be included in the kitchen as well.
The optimal program for children in the target age range should incorporate aspects from each of these learning systems to promote optimal learning opportunities for all children.
To incorporate the constructivist theories, children would be allowed to roam at their own discretion amongst the assortment of hands-on play centers set up to encourage active participation. These would include Lego blocks and lots of other loose part section, a table with modeling clay on it along with multiple bookshelves with assorted books on a wide variety of topics, and a musical area with various instruments as well as recorded music the children can play and listen to.
This area is a very important part of the room because some children like to charge their energy after a busy day in a quite area like their own bedroom. Some shelve and big natural plants can be used to create this area. To make this area more cozy and comforting bean bag chairs can be included. I would create at least two quiet areas in the room.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough room for study area, although one of the quiet areas could easily serve this purpose when necessary. There would be a cabinet desk in the entry area with a computer and some organized files in the file holder underneath and above the cabinet.
The school-age program would also be able to make use of the outdoor space provided by the school, and this would be a place where children can go right after school to “let go” and have some fun after sitting in the classroom all day (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009, pp. 108). Steen Esbensen, professor of the University of Quebec, spent years researching playgrounds, and suggested the following zone layout:
- Manipulative /creative play
- Physical play
- Exploration and natural elements” (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009, pp. 109)
As this after school program is located in a school, there is already a transition area. I would negotiate with the principal to let me make some changes to this area to make it more welcoming for children. There would be couple of benches on both sides of the entrance with flower pots and plants on the side of each bench.
Pathways would be created to divide the areas of the yard. The sand area can be near the grass area so children can play ball and engage in gross motor activities. There would be a water hose near this area for children if they need to use it in the sand and make mud. The path way would separate the quite area from the dramatic play area. Planting some bushes and sunflower seeds will create privacy between different areas of the yard. Some benches would be located preferably in shady area. Stumps and big rocks are natural elements that can create different perspective in the yard and can be used for sitting. I would plant some trees to create shade for children to sit and relax there and even play card games, puzzles or engage in art activities.
I would negotiate with the school principal to make the outdoor storage available to the program. One area of the storage room would be designated for the program. The area and the program equipment would be marked to be more accessible for children.
Outdoor materials/ activities
A play house or a gazebo in the yard would support the needs of children who want to have quiet time. Bikes and riding toys with helmets, scooters, hopping balls and large bouncing or exercise balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, and parachutes would all be readily available for cooperative games. Ideally, the dramatic play area should be near an electric outlet so that children can use electric devices for playing music or if children want to put on a show, such as an air band. Some fabrics, cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, construction material, building material, and a variety of loose objects are needed for outdoor play. There would be some flower patches and pots in different areas of the yard, such as by the sides of the benches, away from the areas where children would play ball games so they would not be damaged, but would still provide aesthetic and aromatic attributes to the play yard.
The activities would include role playing games, outdoor activities that involve thinking and dramatic features, like playing “I spy” or acting out an “animal” while the other children try to guess would encourage students to use their logical and imaginative skills. There would also be materials to engage in other creative activities, like building with outdoor “blocks” or creating images in the school yard using chalk, which would also encourage teamwork, a sense of belonging, and the ability to collaborate creatively, which is extremely important during this phase of childhood development. The basic and cost-effective activities would include making use of the school’s sports equipment, such as skipping ropes, basic hopscotch painted on the school yard floor, and the large green area for ball games. Structured schedule of physical play, like “catch”, ball games, Frisbees, netball and races would be scheduled during the daily program. Some children would prefer free play while others would like to practice dribbling a basketball, badminton, or tennis. The activities would be monitored by the educators, and the supervision of children would be provided at a 1:15 ratio (DNA, Section ratio).
In wet weather, or unsuitable conditions, physically challenging indoor activities would replace outdoor sports, such as Twister, dance and movement, and some physical and game activities like basketball. A small school garden, made available on an area of 20 square feet, would be created so the children would be able to learn about different plants, seeds, wildlife, and the environment. Encouraging the children to take care of the garden by watering the plants allows educator to become good role models and they can involve the children further by asking for their help to plan the layout of the flowers and vegetables in it. By doing this, children learn how to become responsible and carry out their plan. During planting and taking care of the garden, the educator can cover a number of topics from soil formation and the rock cycle to the parts of a plant and how to keep them growing strong.
This program focuses on observation, recording data and getting our hands dirty as they learn about agriculture, nature and how things grow. This supports Bandura’s Social-Cognitive theory of learning as children are paying attention and observing the educator’s behavior and the process of gardening (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009). This area would also have a composting box, where children can put all the organic waste from the kitchen, such as banana peels, tea bags, and food scraps. The responsibility for composting and monitoring would be assigned to different pairs of children, chosen from groups every 2 weeks, and they would be required to fill in a weekly report regarding what has been put in the compost. The pair would consist of one older student and a younger student, which gives the older child the opportunity to scaffold the younger one regarding how to take care of the environment (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson , 2009).
The philosophy of an emergent curriculum encourages educators to use their knowledge of child development and to consider children’s previous knowledge and interests in the process of planning for the program. Observation and assessment of children would be done regularly in order to find out their areas of interest and need and community meetings would provide the opportunity for students and educators to talk about their experiences during the week. Some yoga movement would be incorporated into the beginning and middle of the meeting to help children relax and focus. Then the curriculum can be developed during the meeting using the feedback from the students’ participation and their opinions. Every child would be given ten “thumbs” every week, and they would be able to place them “up” or “down” next to the activity they would like to provide feedback on. The suggestion box would also be monitored by educators, and the most commonly occurring topics would be brought up during the weekly meetings (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009). Aspects of the curricular agenda that would be mandatory would include the following:
- The educators must provide opportunities for children to develop curriculum activities. This can be done during community meeting and will allow them to develop a sense of ownership of the program, develop responsibility, and select activities that reflect their interests as they help plan and lead activities.
- Make sure the activities you offer are fun and engaging, no matter what they are designed to teach. Most children are tired after a long day at school, and they will be best able to absorb the content of a lesson if it looks more like play and less like a traditional classroom lesson.
- Consider the needs of the children, their families, and community
- The afterschool hours provide an ideal time and place to get children excited about learning to pursue their own interests, and it helps them develop self-confidence as they explore new talents in areas that may not be addressed by the regular school curriculum.
When an educator plans a physical activity, it must be age appropriate and based on the children’s actual abilities. The teacher can include cooperative games in the program instead of competitive games organized using the children in the group and can include games from all around the world to make sure multicultural aspects are included in the program. This will support the stage of development according to Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory, which is “Industry v. Inferiority” (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009, pp. 42). Active learning would be an integral factor of every lesson plan and the adaptive process would be carefully nurtured. Assimilation, accommodation, and the proper establishment of equilibrium, as Piaget provided in his theory of Cognitive Development, are important factors that would be carefully monitored on a daily basis by discussing what was learned that day in a group environment (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009).
Opportunities for social interaction are consistently presented for social, linguistic, and mental development. Each child’s zone of proximal development is assessed and scaffolding opportunities would gently and consistently be presented to support independent play. Valuable experiences such as problem solving, rich play, collaboration with peers, opportunities for emotional and social development, outdoor/physical activity, and the arts would be supported and encouraged to promote healthy development in all these areas (ELECT, 2007). National governments, international organizations, and specific circumstances continually set new goals, such as gender parity by 2005 and universal basic education by 2015 (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009). Inclusive education, increased accountability for achieving learning targets, the development of learners who are self-managing and independent, skilled in critical thinking and problem solving, and equipped with life-skills, as well as the preparation of learners who are competent for knowledge-based economies, and capable in the use of information technology are all attributes of the purpose for the expansion of educator’s the roles to include social work within their repertoire of skills, ensuring the creation of the strongest program possible (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009).
In my opinion using one’s imagination helps develop critical thinking and initiative skills, which can be used more and more when children get older because it helps them learn to plan and make decisions while learning how to express their ideas. In addition to developing critical thinking skills, using one’s imagination makes learning fun for children. According to Erikson, if children are able to initiate the program, they develop a feeling of competence and belief in their skills, which will lead to the development of ”Industry” (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009, p. 42). When children receive proper encouragement and reinforcement from their educator, they will have a strong sense of self and a feeling of independence and control. In addition, children would be provided with opportunities to develop their cognitive and language skills, while learning more about communities, responsibilities, and their peers. The curriculum plan would attempt to encourage creativity and engagement through drama, science, and art projects so that students are given more opportunities for understanding and comprehending the subjects learned during the class.
Children in the age group 6-12 are in need of social skills and the short and long term curriculum projects would be developed to promote small group work, individual projects, and larger group discussions alike (ELECT, 2007). The inclusive environment and the home-like setting of the chill-out area would endorse openness, honesty and support and this helps children develop good self-esteem through effective feedback and communication, encourages collaboration, and teaches children how to accept others (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009). Piaget (1964) focuses on the cognitive development of children, and the school-age group would like to enhance interaction with the environment as a development model, while the adaptation of rules and structures would also be promoted by the educators. Between ages 6-12, Piaget (1964) determined the development stage as “concrete operational thought stage”, and this means that promoting organizing thoughts and ideas, creating connections between objects, focusing on dynamic transformation during learning and enhancement sessions should be beneficial for the cognitive development of children. Creativity, drama and science would have to be included in the curriculum in order to support this stage of development.
Partnering With Families
Partnering with families is an important aspect of becoming a successful educator and helps the teacher include diversity in the classroom that will benefit both the families involved and the students through inclusion of their culture in their education. Educators must be able to engage in meaningful communication, which will help them establish and build respectful relationships with families that enable children to enjoy and benefit from early learning opportunities (Bisback, & Kopf-Johnson, 2007). Adhering to the following program protocols will help educators construct programs that will help them amplify families’ involvement in their children’s early learning and development:
- Connect families to community resources and work together with families and other professionals to support all children’s learning and developmental needs
- Engage in an ongoing exchange of information with families
- Review children’s developmental progress with parents
- Link with communities to expand opportunities for children and their families
- Connect families to community resources and services as needed and support dual language and mixed culture families by inviting them to take part
- Make extra efforts to ensure families who are newcomers to Canada can find information and services that they need
- Follow-up on referrals
- Share new information with families
- Connect families with each other, particularly those that share the same language (Bisback, & Kopf-Johnson, 2009).
Parents and families provide the primary learning environment for children of all ages and the functionality of the parental or adult structure within the familial unit increases the likelihood that the child will also function better exponentially (Bingham & Abernathy, 2007; Morrison, 2009). It is important to know the family structure existent in each child’s life in order to relate to their individual needs. A student from a single parent family would not necessarily have the same needs as a child from a two parent family and a male child being raised by a single mother might have a need for a male role model in his life, which may affect his behaviour. As an educator, it would be important to know this so as not to prematurely recommend he be placed in special education due to his behaviour alone.
An increasingly growing body of research indicates that when parents participate in their child’s education, its result is an increased gain in the child’s skills and attainment of developmental milestones in their early years (Bingham & Abernathy, 2007). Knowledge of the child’s familial circumstances allows the educator to be able to recommend appropriate strategies and services that can be helpful to the entire familial unit (Bingham & Abernathy, 2007). This holistic approach to addressing the needs of children and their families allows the early childhood professional to address an array of social concerns simultaneously and provide educational support to encourage literacy, health care, nutrition, obesity prevention, abuse prevention, proper parenting techniques, and healthy living (Morrison, 2009). The increasingly diverse familial structures, such as teenage parents, single fathers, same sex parents, and working parents present new and unique challenges to the educator (Morrison, 2009). The different kinds of familial units require professionals to develop creative ways to ensure the parents are included in the learning experience of their child.
The ELECT document has developed a principal for parent involvement that highlight the importance of two-way communication with families, parenting, and the parental role in student learning, volunteering, school decision-making, and community collaboration. Weekly newsletters, multi-cultural fairs, and inclusion of bilingual literature in the curriculum are all examples of ways to extend diversity within the classroom and include families into the educational process. As we live in a multi-cultural community it is very important to bring these cultures to the program. Educators can plan a cultural events such a pot luck party once a month and families get to bring their cultural food and activities for the others. This support Vygotsky’s Socio-cultural Theory that emphasizes on the fact that learning is happening in social context and not in isolation (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009).
Parents would be involved in selecting the right activities for their children. They would be able to “pop in” any time and speak to one of the educators, or place their suggestions in the box. In order to facilitate diversity of children, suggestions would be sought from parents from ethnic groups, or those whose children have any type of special needs. The community building benefits would use the facilitated power model, when community meetings would be held, and responsibilities would be shared, to develop the sense of ownership in children (Bisback & Kopf-Johnson, 2009). Children who would be given responsibilities would be able to cope better with stress, academic requirements and relationship problems (CICH Profile, nd.). This would also allow parents to better their relationship with their children, especially the ones with special educational needs, which is a necessity, since “…according to one study, 93% of parents of children with special needs reported moderate and high tension as a result of juggling work and family responsibilities” (CICH Profile, nd.).
However, when effective communication channels are set up between the educators and parents, many of the problems would be easier to solve, and parents would get detailed reports containing relevant information about the development of their children. On the other hand, by creating a file for each child and placing information about the child in it would also allow parents to support educators in their work. For example by simply writing: “Tom likes working with saw, but can get scared of insects” would help an educator to create a relevant profile for the child.
Role of School in Supporting the Program
Supporting student learning encompasses students being involved in high-quality after school programs that reflect the educator’s understanding of the nature of education and such learning enables educators to become better teachers, which will also help the children become better students. It is important that teachers know and are able to communicate details regarding the nature and benefits of education so they are better equipped to provide guidance in this area. Helping children develop a love of learning and education is one of the main functionalities of teaching and it is vital that teachers know how to foster this quality in young children and adolescents. Explaining how various factors, like race, gender, and special needs affect the educational experience of the children involved makes educators able to address these issues and remove these circumstances as factors in their classrooms. Teachers also need to be aware of important issues, like faith and culture, and how they affect the student’s ability to learn and the effectiveness of the educator’s teaching style, allowing the teacher to adjust to compensate for the needs of the student.
This approach also acknowledges that culture does play a major role in the development of these intelligences and that all students will enter the classroom with a different set of developed intelligences and intellectual strengths and weaknesses, therefore it is best for educators to structure presentations in a manner that will engage most or all of the intelligences (Brualdi, 1996). Multiple intelligences would be incorporated into the lesson schematics by presenting the directive in various formats, such as explaining it verbally as well as with audio and visual aids, interactive tools that require the students to physically participate, puzzle areas, reading and writing assignments, arts and crafts centers, pretend play areas, and activities that require students to work together. This theory describes a student’s cognitive ability in terms of several independent but relatively interactive cognitive capabilities and, rather than design eight different lesson plans for all eight intelligences, instruction would provide rich learning experiences and nurture each student’s combination of intelligences and would be formatted and implemented on a daily basis. Valuable experiences such as problem solving, rich play, collaboration with peers, opportunities for emotional and social development, outdoor/physical activity, and the arts would be supported and encouraged to promote healthy development in all these areas (Turnbull, Turnbull, & Wehmeyer, 2010). This would be supported by the method of organization for the curriculum and classroom, as demonstrated by the open design of the classroom floor plan (see Appendix A), which is structured to facilitate ease of access to all classroom materials for every student, including those that may be mobility impaired. The school would also support the program by providing healthy after school snacks for the attending students as well as access to the gym and playground facilities and the equipment under the supervision of the qualified professionals facilitating the program.
Inconsistencies within and between these approaches were shown create their own pressures on schools and their leaders. The worry is that the cumulative demands and resulting fragmentation and incoherence could undermine the capacity of schools. In order to meet the heightened, multiple expectations now placed on schools, as well as to have engaged teachers, it is argued that schools need to become learning organisations, consciously and continuously pursuing quality improvement. Within schools that are learning organisations evolve new types of relationship between students, teachers and leaders based around a reasonably common set of characteristics that include a trusting and collaborative climate, a shared and monitored mission, taking initiatives and risks, and ongoing, relevant professional development.
If the after school program is in a school environment, a collaborative relationship is required between the program and the school. The principal actions and leadership sets the stage for success of this relation by helping the program builds bridges between organizations in the community to provide funding and resources and to offer activities of interest to children. The school should be fully aware of the activities within the after-school program and recognize that afterschool activities can serve as a different way of reaching students. In support, the school can give indoor and outdoor storage area, outdoor material, indoor toys, accessibility to gym and photocopy room to the program. The principal can encourage the school council to give some funding to the program for field trips and inviting other communities to the program. A regular meeting between the school and the program leader would support their reciprocal relationship and they will have same mutual goals such as helping children with behaviour problem or if the child needs improvement in some class subject. In this case the educator can pair the child with a strong student in the group for some support and scaffolding which is happening in an unstructured and relaxing environment.
The educator is the most important part of any educational program, which is why it is vital that highly qualified professionals are employed as facilitators of after school programs. The primary goal of the early childhood educator is to meet the child’s needs in “culturally and developmentally appropriate ways” (Morrison, 2009). Fostering a positive relationship with the family also helps the educator develop the best and most effective individualized plan for the child’s care and education. These interactions create alternative perspectives by which the educator can re-examine their approach to create learning experiences for the child based on the child’s familial background and their cultural diversity (Norris, 2010).
The development of the above school-age project would require some changes to accommodate the program; however, the authors of this study have not estimated the cost of the equipment needed. Before finalizing the plans, the school would need to consult with parents and educators, who are interested in actively participating in setting up the program and supporting the leadership with ideas and their experience. In order to create a successful community in the school that feels like a real second home for children, there is a need for inclusion, organization and effective communication.
[Adapted from: The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) outline of quality afterschool programming. Standards for Quality School-Age Care developed by the National School-Age Care Alliance (NSACA).]
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