Educara (Barrhaven Campus), is a Montessori based childcare center operating in Ontario, Canada. Our location, within the same premises as the Barrhaven V!va retirement community, provides us with a unique opportunity for intergenerational participation.
While Montessori based, we fully embrace Ontario Government’s approach to early childhood education. Our pedagogy modifies the Montessori philosophy by incorporating more play-based exploration and experiences and follows the principles set out in Ontario’s How Does Learning Happen? (HDLH) document (The Government of Ontario, 2014). At Educara, we covet respect for all persons, cultures and view children as being competent, capable, curious and rich in potential.
The core of our approach to childcare is providing a safe, nurturing environment that promotes natural development through:
• Belonging: cultivation of authentic, caring relationships and connections creating a sense of belonging among and between children, adults, and the world around them.
• Well-being: nurturing children’s healthy development and supporting their growing sense of self. Rather than teaching, we firmly believe in guiding and following the child’s natural curiosity.
• Engagement: providing an environment and experiences that engage children in active, creative and meaningful exploration, play and inquiry.
• Expression: fostering communication and expression in all forms.
While organized around the foundations of belonging, well-being, engagement, and expression, the Educara program is holistic, melding these separate foundations into a single experience developing the whole child.
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.”
― Maria Montessori
Another very important aspect of the Montessori philosophy is that of the prepared environment. The prepared environment is meant to engage children in active, creative, and meaningful exploration, play, and inquiry. Everything that children come in contact with facilitates and maximizes independent learning and exploration. This is a calm, well-ordered environment that has a lot of movement and activity. Children are free to choose, play, and work on activities at their own pace, experiencing a combination of freedom and self-discipline, guided by the environment.
Our staff adheres to the concept that children must be free to explore and follow their natural interests, thereby developing their potential and increasing their knowledge of the world around them. Within the prepared environment, the child must experiencethe freedom of movement, freedom of exploration, freedom to interact socially, and freedom from interference from others. Most importantly the freedom of choice.
The Educara environment provides a wealth of interesting objects and open-ended materials for children to explore with their senses, manipulate, and investigate. The environment is designed to elicit curiosity, investigation, and provide challenges that are responsive to individual capabilities extending the boundaries of their learning. We also believe that we should use nature to inspire children. before is why natural materials are preferred in our environment. Real wood, reeds, bamboo, metal, cotton, and glass, are preferred to synthetics or plastics.
Child-size real objects are used throughout the environment. Furniture is child-size, so the child is not dependent on an adult for his movement. All tools and play objects such as rakes, hoes, pitchers, tongs, shovels should all fit children’s hands and height, allowing children to use them without frustration.
Educara uses the environment as a microcosm of the world around us. Within this environment, the child begins to internalize the order and structure surrounding him, thus making sense of the world in which he lives. To ensure environments and experiences reflect and are relevant to children’s everyday lives. Educara is committed to connecting with families and communities and inviting their participation in developing the environment.
We provide a social environment that promotes the freedom to interact, where children learn and are encouraged to develop a sense of compassion and empathy for others. The environment aims to optimize the development of social interaction, preparing children to engage and play in group settings.
The purpose of the Educara environment is to develop the whole personality of the child, not merely his intellect. By guiding the child through the five areas of the Montessori curriculum (Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Cultural subjects), the child is immersed in an environment that is at the forefront of the creative work in our classrooms. Through developmentally appropriate, sensorial material that promotes play and inquiry and moves hierarchically from simple to complex and concrete to abstract, children are given the freedom to fully develop their unique potential and increasing awareness and understanding of key concepts, including those associated with literacy and numeracy.
Daily logs and semi-annual progress reports are the key means of documenting and making children’s thinking, learning, and competence visible to children, families, and others. Further to these formal communications. Staff is encouraged to dialog with children and families daily.
Evolving into a good communicator begins with being allowed to express oneself. At Educara, we contend that effective communication is about respect, respecting each other’s personality, and respecting each other’s opinions. Further, communication should be reciprocal – When children experience being heard, they will also learn to listen.
Our programs provide effective, safe opportunities and experiences, giving children positive, reinforcing indicators that they are developing communication skills well, and becoming active members of the community.
Effective communication is not limited to, verbal interactions. Body language, gestures, and facial expressions are also part of the many “languages” children use to communicate. As professional caregivers, we recognize this and provide individualized support for children of all abilities to express themselves and be heard.
The Educara classroom is designed in such a way that all activities gear themselves naturally toward the development of the skills required for communication. Language development is supported in the classroom because of the freedom of conversation allowed to the children. In our environment, encouragement of self-expression is fostered through communication between children and their peers and children and adults. The expression is also improved by engaging and cultivating children’s interaction with stories and books in multiple situations and for a variety of purposes. Circle time, reading areas, appropriate materials, music, art, conversation, and many other activities enhance and support communication and expression daily. By keeping a record of children’s communication, we expand their understanding of previously expressed thoughts and ideas.
Throughout the Educara programs, we strive to include families and community members, finding ways to support and enrich the inclusion of varied language and culture. We welcome diversity.