At Tree of Life Learning Center we believe that the children, teachers, parents, community and environment are all part of the curriculum. We create a curriculum that cultivates young children’s cognitive, physical, social, emotional, academic, and spiritual development through multiple integrated disciplines. Our teachers support children’s learning through play and developmentally appropriate activities.
Play-Based and Academic Learning
We create a curriculum that balances play-based, academic and values-based learning. Children learn academic skills through a combination of child-directed play, as well as teacher-directed activities. The academic component of our program continuously builds over the course of your child’s years here at Tree of Life.
Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum
What does “developmentally appropriate” mean? Developmentally appropriate means molding our curriculum, lessons, and environment based on what the children are capable of cognitively, physically, and emotionally at a specific stage in their development. Not all children develop at the same rate, so often there’s a range of abilities that are considered developmentally appropriate for each age.
Developmentally Appropriate skills for one child may be very different than that of another child in the same classroom, so educators often make small (or sometimes large) changes to the way they teach concepts to different children.
Our great student-teacher ratios allow us to adapt our curriculum for children who may need additional support or for children who may need more of a challenge. Every child progresses at their own rate across all areas of development and our program is designed to meet the needs of the individual child.
Our curriculum encompasses the following components:
Zoo Phonics® is a multisensory language and literacy program that teaches children vocabulary development, articulation, letter and sound recognition, reading, writing, spelling and more through phonics and phonemic awareness. We believe that every child learns in their own unique way and Zoo Phonics® helps support this philosophy by using all the senses: “phono” (hearing), “oral” (speaking), “visual” (seeing), “kinesthetic” (moving), and tactile (touching) to teach children language and literacy – a whole brain approach.
The Zoo Phonics® program assigns an animal, a sound and a body movement to each letter. The animal is drawn in the shape of the letter for ease of memory. This approach creates a concrete connection between the sound and shape of the letter. Initially, the emphasis is put on learning lowercase letters because they make up 95% of the text we read. They learn uppercase letters later on in the program. Zoo Phonics® helps benefit children that may need more support, yet it continues to challenge the children that are ready for more.
Themes & Letter of the Week
Along with the Zoo Phonics® program, we have monthly themes. Our themes incorporate holidays, events, seasons, and important topics such as: our senses, health and nutrition, all about me, dinosaurs, experiments, clouds, or volcanoes. We also observe the interests of the children and incorporate them into the curriculum. If we build the curriculum around their interests, they become an active part of the learning process and they won’t even know that they’re learning!
In addition, we will be introducing one letter of the alphabet per week. We practice reading, writing, spelling and articulation with each letter through developmentally appropriate activities, games, and projects. We may search for words in books that contain the letter of the week, find the letter in nature, or discover which items in the classroom contain the letter sound. These fun activities help develop letter and sound recognition. Creating fun and engaging learning experiences helps the children develop a deeper love of learning! Even though our focus is on a particular letter each week, we are constantly incorporating all of the letters of the alphabet into our curriculum.
Spiritual and Values-Based Learning
We celebrate both Jewish and American holidays and encourage families to share their cultures, rituals, and customs with the classes. This is one of the many ways that we try to bridge the gap between school and home, while also teaching the children to value differences.
Our program cultivates social-responsibility, independence, positive self-image, and respect for themselves and others. Our Jewish-based values are taught through modeling, reinforcement, and understanding. For example: the way you treat yourself and others, how you choose to solve problems, the way that you respond to adversity, how you carry yourself even when you think no one is watching, or how you take care of others and the environment when you receive nothing in return. These are the values that largely define you as an individual and that is why we focus so much of our program on building these skills! By teaching children to think beyond themselves, they gain a better understanding of the world around them.
It’s All About the Process
Our role as educators is to create a program that fosters, supports, and guides children’s learning and development! By teaching children to question their environment, they are learning how to think critically and problem-solve, which are necessary life skills! We strongly believe in focusing on the process of learning, rather than the final product as a way of supporting children to become independent learners. The process looks at what the children are gaining from the experiences. For example, a painting activity is not about the beautiful picture at the end, it is about the way a child learns to hold the brush, move it in different ways, and create different colors by mixing paints. The process of learning engages them in trial and error, requires them to be active and hands-on, and it provides a sensory-rich environment. It also encourages imagination, builds confidence, self-esteem, and enhances overall development!
The Second Classroom: Outdoor Play
We have such a beautiful outside space, and we like to think of it as the second classroom. We eat lunch outside every day as a whole school (weather permitting) . This is one of the many ways that we help to form our strong sense of community! We have an outdoor art studio where children can engage in a variety of art projects and techniques such as: Jackson Pollack (splatter painting), Michelangelo (painting upside down), Degas (pointillism), Monet (watercolors, blending colors) and self-portraits. The Art Studio is also a place for children that may need a quieter activity that day, a place where they can create and engross themselves. Children can also been seen participating in manipulative play with blocks, wandering around the play yard drawing on clipboards, engineering with pipes and gutters, playing games, engaging in sports, dancing to music, or digging in the garden. We will often bring our daily lessons outside, exploring and engaging in the natural environment!