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For Early Childhood Education

A Closer Look at the Normalcy of Early Learning in the Time of COVID

When it comes to early childhood education, the COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasized what a critical role early learning and child care programs play for young children and their families.

Many people know places like The Malvern School were among the first to adapt to provide in-person learning and care in the time of COVID. However, parents often wonder what early learning really looks like in practice today.

The truth is, the normalcy far outweighs any changes (whether it’s modified activities or mask wearing mandates per state licensing guidelines) as we continue providing loving, supportive, developmentally engaging and fun experiences for all of our friends. Here’s a closer look.

A Sense of Belonging
According to Christle Seal, The Malvern School’s Director of Educational Programs, the classroom community is key to early learning now more than ever.

“Our teachers have always focused on the social-emotional development and support of young children; however, the ever-changing COVID world can be very stressful for them. Their routines are inherently different and their outside social network, even with family members, has likely changed,” she says. “Building the classroom community is key to helping children feel a sense of belonging. This not only underpins children’s ability to learn effectively but also contributes to their overall well-being.”

At The Malvern School, our classes are close-knit at a time when that is critical. While high-fives and handshakes are sidelined for the time being, our teachers use a variety of strategies to help children build and maintain meaningful connections with one another.

One of those strategies is an emphasis on sharing. For example, during Morning Meeting in our Pre-K and Preschool classes, a few children each day may be invited to be “sharers” who have the spotlight to contribute thoughts or stories related to a teacher’s question. The class is then invited to ask their peers questions about what they have shared.

“Children love to share stories about things that happen at home, something new they have, if they have plans for the weekend, the list goes on,” says Christle. “It’s a great way for children to relate to one another and bond.”

Creating this environment where children feel safe and comfortable is also important when it comes to helping them learn to manage their emotions – which is especially crucial right now.

“Learning about big and small emotions, and how to express them productively, has been an increasingly important part of our daily lessons,” she adds.

Some Adjustments, Same High-Quality Learning Experience
In addition to our enhanced Health & Wellness protocols, Malvern School teachers quickly adapted classroom learning to the pandemic environment to ensure they deliver the high-quality learning experiences families have come to expect from The Malvern School.

“Our teachers have done an excellent job of planning engaging lessons that meet both age-based developmental targets and the current COVID-19 safety guidance,” notes Christle. “This often entails minor adjustments to group sizes, spacing or games and activities that our friends know and love.”

Whereas children may have made sculptures in playdough pre-COVID, now they may create their own playdough for a single use and take it home instead of keeping it at school to reuse. Or children may experience a similar lesson, such as a yoga story, and just have more distance between friends or have the lesson outdoors.

“It’s been exciting to see our teachers get even more creative with learning that can be done with extra time outdoors,” she adds.

Going outside to retell a story with actions, reviewing number recognition by jumping from numbered mat to numbered mat or taking part in a messy science experiment are just a few examples of how Malvern School teachers are bringing more learning outdoors.

“While certain things may look or feel a bit different than before, one thing is for sure: children are continuing to thrive at The Malvern School,” Christle concludes. “The laughter, smiles, learning and growth we see in our friends reinforces that school is just as fun and engaging for them as ever.”

 

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