Early Childhood Learning
Photography provided by Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy
Children are born with an innate sense of wonder and faith. When this wonder is nurtured, children become better equipped to understand and thrive in the world.
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) is a fully-engaged pre-kindergarten – grade 12 learning community that enables students to engage at high levels spiritually, academically and socially.
Step into CHCA, and you will discover an extraordinary, Christ-centered education unlike any within the city, where students have countless opportunities to find their place, pursue their gifts, strengthen their faith and make an impact on our world. For CHCA’s youngest learners, it’s a vibrant and caring learning family where each child is celebrated as a unique gift from God.
In the fall, CHCA will open the doors to a new 22,000-square-foot facility, which will be home to their expanded preschool program for children ages 2-4. Concurrent with the expansion, CHCA has also made significant enhancements to their Early Childhood Program by combining the best practices in early childhood education with the latest research on brain development, and incorporating the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy. Employing a
Reggio Emilia-inspired approach, children explore, discover, question, observe and construct meaning through a hands-on, project-based curriculum. And by integrating scripture lessons with the wonder of exploring God’s world, students are set on a path to build a foundation for lifelong learning and faith. Head of School Randy Brunk says, “This approach will bring added richness and uniqueness to our program, and will enhance student engagement to an even greater degree.” The Reggio philosophy values each child as strong, capable, and resilient, rich with wonder and the capacity for knowledge.
Reggio Emilia inspired schools take a highly collaborative approach to learning. Teachers seek to foster meaningful relationships among children and their peers, their community, and the environment. Reggio is known for its project-based approach to curriculum. Projects are a way of doing work with children that in effect simulate real life. This provides a strategy for introducing students to explore the world around them, while actively meeting academic benchmarks along the way. Children are encouraged to look at the world from different perspectives – to observe, explore, discover, question and construct meaning from their investigations, projects and experiences. Students approach this within the classroom setting, within nature and through community partners.
“What sets a Reggio Emilia-inspired approach apart is that not only do students encounter opportunities, in depth investigations, and hands on experiences for academic benchmarks to be met, but it also lends to fostering and building the intellectual capacity of the child,” says Laura Carr, Director of Early Learning at CHCA. “Children will become critical thinkers, problem solvers, collaborators, negotiators, investigators and so much more through the learning that occurs in the Reggio Emilia-inspired environment.”
Psychologist Loris Malaguzzi founded the philosophy shortly after World War II, when parents in Reggio Emilia, Italy, believed their children needed a new, more stimulating way of learning. Malaguzzi stated that, “a teacher’s goal is not so much to facilitate learning in the sense of making it smooth and easy but rather to stimulate it by making it complex and engaging.”
While each day follows a predictable order and age-appropriate schedule, children are given ample time to make connections within their learning. The teacher evokes learning by introducing “provocations” which spark curiosity. From there, lessons unfold in a discovery process through which teachers guide students to meet their academic learning benchmarks. “Projects are a way of doing work with children that in effect simulate real life,” says Carr. “Children have plenty of time and space to make meaningful connections.” Projects can start spontaneously, posed by an idea or problem, or an experience indicated directly by teachers. “Children can anticipate morning meetings, projects, lunch, rest, snack and specials/enrichment time,” says Carr. “Lessons unfold in a discovery process through which teachers guide students to meet their academic learning benchmarks.”
One of the trademarks of Reggio is the way the schools document the process of the students’ and teachers’ work. Documentation allows for the children’s learning to become visible. It is a process of gathering artifacts from their work, photographs of the children engaged in their knowledge-building process, transcripts of conversations, reflection on the analysis of the collection and the presentation of the collection that makes the children’s learning visible to children and their peers, parents and other visitors to the building. It can then be used for children to reflect on their own work, to connect to and reflect on their peers’ work, to document children’s development over time and to tie to and footnote the academic benchmark(s) a particular lesson is addressing.
“Intellectual goals are balanced well with academic goals,” says Carr. “Mastery in pre-literacy skills and numeracy are useful and essential components to academic growth, but we also seek to support students’ innate intellectual dispositions and their natural inclinations to be problem solvers, critical thinkers, negotiators and answer seekers.”
The physical layout of the learning space plays a key role in learning in a Reggio-inspired environment. Included in CHCA’s expansion, The Atelier is designed to offer children and teachers a creative space to extend and support projects and experiences in the classroom (such as STEAM activities and lab experiences), and to explore and combine many types of materials, tools and techniques. This space of innovation is a place where children develop expressive language skills using countless materials ranging from formal art items such as clay and paint, to various components found in nature.
CHCA plans to fully implement the Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy in the 2017-18 school year. “We know that young brains are intrinsically motivated. Children are enthusiastically engaged in an ongoing way,” says Carr. “Shouldn’t classrooms be designed and orchestrated to maximize opportunities to explore and engage with the concepts and skills most appropriate for success in the 21st century?”
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy is located at 11525 Snider Road, Cincinnati, OH 45249. For more information, call 513.247.0900 or visit www.chca-oh.org.