Written by: Suzanne Vert & Debbie Pedraza, ECE Co-Teachers
At YCIS, there is a large focus on community, how we learn and grow together and creating many opportunities for all students to build meaningful relationships with shared learning experiences. In the ECE, K2, K3, and K4 students come together once a week in an open, safe space to share valuable experiences and to engage with one another during vertical learning communities. A learning community provides our young children the opportunity to work in collaboration and to learn from each other through open-ended and meaningful play. For example, older students may set up an obstacle course outside using a variety of ramps, which the younger students may then use to experiment with rolling different sized balls.
This activity has the potential to allow the older children to model problem-solving strategies as they readjust and modify the ramps in the obstacle course for the benefit of all of the participants. Prior to each learning community time, a team of six K2, K3 and K4 teachers work together to plan which resources and activities will be available in each indoor and outdoor play space to develop language, meaningful relationships, creativity, collaboration and problem solving. For example, in the construction area, wooden blocks, magnetic shapes, and toy animals may be available so children can work together to create a large world using the resources.
During this learning experience, children have the opportunity to practice their language and social skills by encouraging their peers to join the play by handing them resources and by sharing their ideas. When ECE Learning Community time is over for the day, all of the children take responsibility and work together by tidying up the resources into the proper areas and containers, so that the space is ready for the next group of K2, K3 and K4 learning community members.