Experiential Learning, developed by David Kolb and informed by Piaget, recognizes that knowledge is continuously gained through both personal and environmental experiences. Children are active and engaged learners; constantly researching and experiencing the world in order to make sense of their environments. Reflection is a crucial part of the experiential learning process. The teachers at Seedlings to Sunflowers recognize the importance of facilitating reflection and using it as an opportunity to help support our learners in developing critical thinking skills. As such, our teachers are often asking “why”, “how”, “how can we do it differently or the same” as they investigate experiences with the children. Reflection is always patient, encouraging and intentional with the goal of expanding the child’s learning and interest.
Each classroom is created around developmental milestones with materials that allow creativity, movement, community building, exploration, imaginary play and nature based investigation. We invite children to participate in the classroom community by building traditions into their day which include morning welcome, daily job assignments, community meals and closing meeting. Through this process children become connected to the center and in turn take greater ownership over care for the space and for each other.
The Circle of Courage is a model of child empowerment supported by contemporary research, the heritage of early childhood educators and Native philosophies of child care. Circle of Courage is encompassed in four core values: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. The central theme of this model is that a set of shared values must exist in any community to create environments that ultimately benefit all.
The Circle of Courage is a philosophy that integrates the best of Western educational thought with the wisdom of indigenous cultures and emerging research on positive youth development. While the four dimensions of the Circle of Courage can be described individually, they must be viewed as one.
Each person strives for mastery for personal growth, but not to be superior to someone else. Humans have an innate drive to become competent and solve problems. As such our classrooms, greenhouse and playground offer a multitude of opportunities to practice repetition and to overcome challenges. Our teachers encourage children to observe and listen to others—our classroom communities are an opportunity to learn from each other.
Each child is encouraged to develop a sense of independence by taking on new challenges and exploring new things. Our main goal is to provide a sense of security; promoting comfort in order to support the development of self-confidence. Children will be encouraged to make decisions, solve problems, and show personal responsibility. Teachers model nurturing, provide positive feedback and provide our children with opportunities to develop an understanding of right and wrong.
Lakota Anthropologist, Ella Deloris, described the core value of belonging in these simple words: “Be related, somehow, to everyone you know.” We view Seedlings to Sunflowers as a center which reaches beyond the children and holds the family as well. Children attending our school will interact with every teacher and will have the opportunity to engage with children from each classroom. Our goal is to build community both within our walls and outside of them. Our efforts to build community will engage children in volunteer projects, food drives, random act of kindness and connecting to community members who are in community service positions.
The act of generosity is modeled in each interaction we have. Children need opportunities to engage in helpful and thoughtful behaviors. By helping individuals and groups who live in their immediate world, children develop and strengthen a helpful inclination. Children who have a strong sense of generosity are empathetic toward others and want to help others. Teachers will reflect acts of generosity in moments of sharing, taking turns, helping a friend and problem solving during conflict.
Our garden to table program is focused on hands on learning for children in our care ages 6 months and beyond. This is an opportunity for children to learn about the life cycle of food, healthy eating habits and the practice of basic meal preparation. The children in our older classrooms will be active participants in making snacks for the school and engaging in special cooking activities.
Our 18×24 Greenhouse will be open year round and will allow children to have access to warm soil every day.
We serve breakfast, lunch and two snacks to those children enrolled in our food program. Food is prepared daily and a menu will be distributed at time of enrollment. To the extent possible, our menu consists of fresh, whole grain and organic ingredients. Our culinary program is a focal point of our center and all children will have the opportunity to visit the greenhouse, plant seeds, tend to gardens, harvest fruits and vegetable and cook community meals for the school. We will teach the importance of healthy eating and educate children about sustainable food practices.
Leftover food products will be used in our compost when possible.
Gardening and growing food can touch an all areas of education and development. It is our belief that the greenhouse can be used in art projects, learning about science, mathematics, movement (both gross motor and fine motor), etc. When children know where their food comes from, they’re more apt to be adventurous and curious about different flavors. We are excited to honor this part of development and look forward to cultivating diverse palates among our little ones.
Nutrition is also an incredibly important part of development in young children. The first few years of life is an opportunity to pack the body full of food loaded with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics and more! We will be working to make sure there are lots of healthy fats on board for developing brains and that the array of food choices are always supporting immune health, the ever-developing nervous system and growing bodies.