We believe in the child’s right to play with a tangible sense of adventure, exuberance, and joy. We value the transcendent nature of unrushed, spontaneous play and the powerful inquiries and relationships that are built when children are given uninterrupted time with materials and with each other. Play provides an imaginary world in which children can master skills, can develop deeper understandings of what they observe in their daily lives, and can safely explore issues of power and agency. We believe that thoughtful risk-taking is an important part of the learning process. When given opportunities to challenge their bodies and minds, children develop trust in themselves and expand their self-view of their own capabilities.
We value the peer mentorship that emerges when children of varying ages are encouraged to work together as a community. As members of a group learning environment, children develop a deep understanding of citizenship and social democracy and revel in the joy that is harnessed when they learn from one another. We witness the children’s role as participants within and creators of their own cultural communities. Their spontaneous, invented classroom rituals are passed down from year to year and become a part of our Center’s tradition.
As educators, we strive for collaborative inquiry, observation, and reflection to facilitate the development of a daily program that responds to the social, cognitive, and sensory needs of the individual and group. We observe the children at play and translate it, giving value and language to deepen our adult understanding of their work. We nurture the scientist in the child and the child’s natural inclination toward discovery and innovation. We invite the children to build on and articulate their knowledge through dialogue with art, literacy and sensory materials that provoke their curiosity. We document our work with children and colleagues and the children’s work with each other – our goal is to capture the uniqueness and capability of each child, the value of their words and discoveries, and our teaching practices of observation, reflection, self-assessment, and co-construction.
We strive for authenticity in our interactions with children, in our development of a curriculum that reflects the uniqueness of each group of learners, and in our commitment to reflecting the values of our community in our philosophy and daily practice. We appreciate the ways in which the culture of our community changes with the individuals who inhabit it. We honor our history and yet, every year, we respond to the changing pulse of the new children and families who walk through our doors. We value collaboration in every aspect of our work, including our ongoing dialogue and partnership with colleagues, children, families, and members of the larger college community. We appreciate the talents, diversity and enrichment that our work with the students, faculty and staff of Hampshire College provide for our program. We aim to be a resource for educators and for future educators in training. In our role as teacher researchers, we are charged with the mission of expanding our society’s image of the capabilities of the young child. We advocate for childhood and for the rights of children and actively challenge educational practices that undermine the possibility that children can be agents of change in their communities.
The children who pass through the Early Learning Center will view themselves as powerful and vital citizens, with rights and responsibilities within their classroom, school, family, and larger communities. They will celebrate and experience joy in group accomplishment and in group challenge. They will develop a strong sense of self and an appreciation for their own uniqueness. As life-long learners, the children of the Early Learning Center will embrace the endless possibilities of discovery that exist in that sacred space of listening, wondering, and asking.