University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Program Philosophy, Goals and Curriculum

In their play, children explore, hypothesize, test and repeat activities. They learn how to interact with their environment and with other people, and how to react to different situations. Through teacher guidance, questions, explanations and documentation, children learn many things, including sharing, consideration, and tolerance. They also develop meaningful relationships with other children and the adults who care for them.

The curriculum used at the UWM Children's Learning Center can be defined as developmentally appropriate, emergent and relationship based. Emergent curriculum means that topics for learning “emerge” from children’s interests, teachers’ interests and events in the lives of the children. Emergent curriculum and developmentally appropriate practice builds on the belief that children are competent learners. The best activities are ones that reflect the children’s lives and interests, are child-centered and play-based. Emergent curriculum arises naturally from interactions and situations that occur within the classroom and the lives of the children.

The Children’s Learning Center uses the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards and the Wisconsin Common Core Standards (kindergarten) as the framework for our curriculum. Many philosophies like those underlying Reggio Emilia, High Scope, Montessori, and Magda Gerber also enrich our curriculum and programs. The Center keeps current with the latest research on brain development and technology so that we can further enhance curriculum. Importance is placed on the overall development of the individual child rather than on isolated parts of it. In creative environments children and adults are encouraged to learn and grow.

Documentation and assessment is valued in all of our programs as key elements and a guide for curriculum planning. Through the use of photos, children’s drawings, recording children’s words/stories and teacher observations, we document the children’s work and use it as a guide for future curriculum planning. This documentation provides the teachers, parents and children a means for reflecting on the child’s day. It allows us to look back at experiences and build on interests that arise from their play.

The photo boards you see in the hallways of our Center reflect the daily happenings in each of our classrooms. They tell a story of something special a child or a group of children is discovering about their world.

Program goals in every age group include:

  • fostering social/emotional growth by providing children with a secure and loving base.
  • helping children develop a positive self concept and respect for individual and cultural differences.
  • aiding the development of language, self expression, gross and fine motor skills.
  • encouraging the development of self-help skills which satisfy the children’s increasing need for independence and control over their environment.

The goals for our programs are met by adhering to the following philosophical guidelines:

  • Learning experiences are geared to individual needs.
  • Children are allowed to work at their own pace. They are encouraged to explore and work using their own unique style of learning.
  • Children’s thought processes are stimulated and developed.
  • Mistakes are seen as indicators for future learning rather than failures.
  • Our emphasis is upon learning rather than teaching. The teacher is a guide and facilitator.
  • Children respond positively, productively, constructively and enjoyably because they are trusted and respected by the adults around them.
  • Children operate in a climate of consistent order. With someone in charge, children are able to move, explore, and choose freely.
  • Children learn through real, rather than abstract, experiences. Their learning environments, whenever possible, will be expanded through walks, field trips, etc.
  • Problem solving is suggested more by materials rather than by teachers’ prescriptions.
  • Children must have:
    • Significant options available daily
    • Significant choices in determining their activities
  • Children need to share their overt learning with peers.

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