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Features of Different Types of Early Childhood Program Models

Features of Different Types of Early Childhood Program Models

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Choosing a programming model, organizing the environment, and developing a program plan that is responsive to the needs of children, Early Childhood Educator’s, and families is a complicated and difficult process.

ECE’s must consider many elements of children’s development and combine their knowledge of child development with the preferred program model philosophy when planning an environment for children.

It is important to know that many different program models exist and that each program model offers different features.

Class Field trip

We are going on a field trip! Tonight we are going to visit 3 different Early Childhood Programs. Each program is based on a different model or philosophy on how children learn and succeed.

Waldorf Program Mode

Montessori Program Model

First Nations Head Start Program Model

First Stop: Waldorf Program Model

Founder – Rudolf Steiner

Waldorf Program Approach

Curriculum and experiences come from the children and that knowing children well is essential to planning a learning environment that supports children’s whole development.

Suggests that an arts-based curriculum supports children’s whole development, and so image, rhythm, movement, drawing, painting, poetry, and drama are core components.

Because of the arts-based experiences, attention to the environmental aesthetics is necessary.

Contrary to the thinking of many educators, Steiner pointed out that teachers do not provide experiences for students. Adults provide the conditions, such as the materials, space, schedule, and options, but the children lead the program design and implementation.

Frequently asked Questions about the Waldorf Model:

What is Waldorf Education?

Answer: Based on the work of Rudolf Steiner, the curriculum draws on the natural nature of children, with emphasis on children’s learning through imagination and fantasy. Academic content is held to a minimum while art and movement are the core elements of the curriculum

What is the Preschool & Kindergarten Waldorf Program Like?

Answer: The goal of preschool and kindergarten is to develop a sense of wonder in the young child and reverence for all living things. This creates an eagerness for the academics that follow in the grades. The Waldorf Preschool; a time for imitation and play young children live in a rich world of play and discovery. They are completely open and deeply influenced by all that surrounds them. What they see and hear they imitate; unconscious imitation is the natural mode of learning for the preschool child. Everything around the child is absorbed. Accordingly, the preschool is a world of harmony, beauty and warmth.

Toys in the preschool are made from nature’s gifts: wood, sea shells, stones, pine cones, lamb’s wool. The simpler the toys the more active the children’s imagination can be.

Formal intellectual or academic schooling is excluded from the Waldorf Preschool. With an active imagination, energetic physical development, and a true curiosity for the world, children are best prepared for the challenges of formal schooling and later life.

(Paraphrased from the South African Federation of Waldorf Schools)

Preschool and Kindergarten activities include:

storytelling, puppetry, creative play

singing, dancing, movement

games and finger plays

painting, drawing and beeswax modeling

baking and cooking, nature walks

foreign language and circle time for festival and seasonal celebrations

What about the Waldorf Program for Elementary and School-Aged Children?

Answer: Elementary and middle-school children learn through the guidance of a class teacher who stays with the class ideally for eight years. The curriculum includes:

english based on world literature, myths, and legends

history that is chronological and inclusive of the world’s great civilizations

science that surveys geography, astronomy, meteorology, physical and life sciences

mathematics that develops competence in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry

foreign languages; physical education; gardening

arts including music, painting, sculpture, drama, eurhythmics, sketching

handwork such as knitting, weaving, and woodworking

What is unique about Steiner Waldorf education? How is it different from other alternatives? (Public Schooling, Montessori, Head Start, etc.)

Answer: The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands”. The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities. Steiner Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child. By freely using arts and activities in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students, doing away with the need for competitive testing and grading. Some distinctive features of Steiner Waldorf education include the following:

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Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in the Steiner Waldorf kindergarten experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills), and minimal academics in first grade. Reading is not taught until second or third grade, though the letters are introduced carefully in first and second.

During the elementary school years (grades 1-8) the students have a class (or “main lesson”) teacher who stays with the same class for (ideally) the entire eight years of elementary school.

Certain activities which are often considered “frills” at mainstream schools are central at Steiner Waldorf schools: art, music, gardening, and foreign languages (usually two in elementary grades), to name a few. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, because the children respond better to this medium than to dry lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play recorder and to knit.

There are no “textbooks” as such in the first through fifth grades. All children have “main lesson books”, which are their own workbooks which they fill in during the course of the year. They essentially produce their own “textbooks” which record their experiences and what they’ve learned. Upper grades use textbooks to supplement their main lesson work.

Learning in a Steiner Waldorf school is a noncompetitive activity. There are no grades given at the elementary level; the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.

The use of electronic media, particularly television, by young children is strongly discouraged in Steiner Waldorf schools

Tour: Waldorf Preschool:

In Class Discussion

What did you like about the Waldorf Program?

Is there anything you didn’t like about the Waldorf Program Model?

Second Stop: Montessori Program Model

Founder-Maria Montessori

Montessori Program Approach

Montessori’s method requires teachers to conduct naturalistic observations and carefully prepare environments with experiences that become more complex and that are self correcting.

Children will interact with materials described as work tasks. Children are given the choice of material that they wish to explore, and the adult demonstrate the steps to be carried out when using the new material. Then the children may use the materials, which focus on daily living, sensory, academic, or cultural and artistic experiences.

An example of a work task in a Montessori classroom is polishing shoes. On a child-sized tray, the adult organizes the buffing cloth, the polish, and the shoes. The adult demonstrated to the children what each cloth is for, how to open the polish, how to dip the cloth into the polish, how to apply the polish, how to buff the shoe and to reapply polish. Once the demonstration is complete, children my pursue the work task independently.

Frequently asked Questions about the Montessori Model

What is Montessori Education?

Answer: Montessori is a philosophy of education popular throughout the world that encourages and supports the unfolding of a child’s maximum potential by assisting the child to educate herself at her own pace.  Its main beliefs are:

each child is a unique individual and has the ability to explore her own capabilities given the right environment;

children have sensitive periods for learning (i.e., for language, order, movement);

very young children learn through their unconscious absorbent minds;

observation is crucial;

appropriate developmental environments and expectations are essential.

The philosophy respects the individuality of the child, her freedom and choice within limits.  The role of the adult in the environment is to assist the child to meet her needs thus leading her to explore her identity, independence and realize her full potential.  An environment is prepared to guide the child in self directed activities with hands-on sensory activities.  The concrete materials require movement and the use of his hands to develop his mind.  The philosophy respects the natural abilities and progression of each individual child’s development.

How does Montessori differ from traditional education?

Answer: Montessori education differs from traditional education in many ways but probably the most fundamental difference is that Montessori is child-centered whereas traditional education is teacher-centered.  Please see the list of comparison below that has been adapted from the American Montessori Society:

Montessori Education

Traditional Education

early start in school (2-3)

late start in school (5-6)

3-year age range per class

one age per class

freedom to move about &choose work

seated at desks

community atmosphere

little socialization

individual lessons

large group lessons

self-correcting materials

teacher as source of answers

natural, logical consequences

rewards and punishments

longer free work periods

frequent interruptions

enhanced curriculum

limited curriculum

progress of student as test

peer comparison as test

emphasis on learning

emphasis on grades

emphasis on individuality

emphasis on conformity

progress at individual rate

annual promotion

emphasis on “self”control

teacher as disciplinarian

PEACE in education

corporal punishment

strong school/home ties

little parent involvement

observation based progress reports

graded report cards

child centered schedule

adult centered education

Why does Montessori have mixed age groups?

Answer: Mixed age groups free children to enjoy their own accomplishments rather than comparing themselves to others. Older children provide leadership and guidance, and benefit from the satisfaction of helping others. Younger children are encouraged by attention and help from older children. They learn through observation of older children. At the same time, older children reinforce and clarify their knowledge by sharing it with younger ones. Children easily learn to respect others, and at the same time develop respect for their own individuality. This interaction of different age children offers many occasions for building community, as well as nurturing the development of self-esteem. This encourages positive social interaction and cooperative learning.

With mixed age groups and individualized teaching how do Montessori teachers keep track of all the children?

Answer: The Montessori method is based on scientific observation. A key aspect of a Montessori teacher’s training is learning how to systematically observe when a child reveals an especially strong interest towards a piece of knowledge or skill. Teachers observe for children’s independence, self-reliance, self-discipline, love of work, concentration and focus. They also observe for the mood of the class – an overview of the mood of the whole class as well as the mood of individual children.

In addition to keeping observation notes, teachers keep records of lessons presented to individual children and record children’s progress in working toward mastery of skills.

Is there too much individual work in Montessori? Do children learn how to get along with others?

Answer: Montessori children are free to work alone or in a group. Although younger children do often choose to work alone as they master challenges, there are many aspects of Montessori schools that help children learn to get along well with others. They learn to share. They learn to respect each other’s work space. They learn to take care of materials so other children can learn from them. They learn to work quietly so others can concentrate. And they learn to work together with others to take care of the classroom. As they get older, most children choose to work in small groups.

Tour: Montessori Preschool

How are Waldorf and Montessori Models Different?

Please take some time to read the following article titled Waldorf vs Montessori. How are the programs the same? How are the two different?

Dear Class:

If you are interested in learning more about the Montessori Method please take sometime and enjoy the information provided below: The Video is a youtube video so some of your computers may not open it up.

Montessori Video:

The Montessori Method-The Classroom:

Head Start Approach:

The Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve initiative is designed to prepare young First Nations children for their school years, by meeting their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs.

This initiative encourages the development of projects that are comprised of the following program components: culture and language, education, health promotion, nutrition, social support and parental involvement.

The program encourages the development of locally controlled projects in First Nation communities that strive to instill a sense of pride and a desire to learn; provide parenting skills and improve family relationships; foster emotional and social development and increase confidence. It is also designed to assist parents enhance their skills which contribute to their child’s healthy development.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Aboriginal Head Start Model

First Nations Head Start Standard Guide

What is the objective of Aboriginal Head Start?

Answer: To provide First Nation children with the opportunity to develop their physical, emotional and social needs in a culturally relevant environment. The goal of Head Start is to provide all children with a safe, nurturing and enjoyable learning environment that supports their development with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their present environment, in school and in life.

Does the Head Start model see Parent(s)/Guardian(s) as important to a child’s learning?

Answer: Head Start will provide First Nations parent(s)/legal guardians/extended family with assistance and support in acquiring good parenting and life skills through activities such as workshops and information sessions. Parent(s)/legal guardian(s)/extended family are important partners in the process of planning and implementing a curriculum, and are crucial in reviewing the effectiveness of it.

What does a Head Start Curriculum Include?

Answer: It is recommended that First Nations Head Start projects establish a curriculum that reflects the developmental needs of the children of the program as well as the six program components: nutrition, education, family involvement, social supports, health promotion and culture and language. Development of a curriculum may also include input from an early childhood education specialist, parent(s), Elders, cultural advisor and/or other appropriate resource person(s).

A curriculum may include, but not limited to the following components:

provide opportunity to learn through play

provide a balance of structured learning environments and natural environments

provide opportunity to enhance school readiness skills and cognitive development

supports fine and gross motor development

uses lots of teaching materials including, but not limited to age and culturally appropriate books, videos, computer programs, toys, guest speakers

provides learning experiences through food preparation and through sampling a variety of nutritious foods including traditional foods

encourages role playing and dramatic play

encourages conversation and language skill development

provides the opportunity for the children to express their feelings, concerns, ideas and fears

provides learning experiences that are age and developmentally appropriate and respective of the individual child

provide learning experiences that are culturally appropriate

provides opportunity to further develop socialization skills

provides learning opportunities to develop child awareness of safety in the home, at school and in the community

allows for creative expression through art, music, dancing, singing and storytelling

provides opportunity for sensory learning including touch, taste, smell. sight and hearing

provide both indoor and outdoor activities and learning experiences

Components of Quality Programs

In Class Activity

Your friend is returning to work after having been a stay-at-home parent. You have been asked to visit a child care center for this friend to determine if it is a quality center, one that you would recommend for her child. What indicators or aspects of quality will you be looking for?

Quality Indicators

Quality Indicators are predetermined outcome measures used to determine the level of quality to be achieved or that has been achieved.

Indicators of Quality

Personal suitability and educational preparation of early childhood educators

The Canadian Child Care Federation indicates the need for early childhood educators to have experience and formal post-secondary studies in early childhood education.

ECE participate in continuous learning that supports their ares of interest, specialization, or identified needs.

They mentor new ECE entering the field

Early learning and child care environments

Early learning and child care programs “respond to children’s needs by offering continuous opportunities for learning and nurturance.

The goals of the service or determined by the needs of the children and the shared philosophies of parents and care providers.

All practices that take place are based on sound child development theories and practices.

Group size and ratios

Small group sizes support the quality of interaction among children, peers and adults, and they provide more opportunities for each child to have a one-on-one conversations with ECE’s.

Adult interactions

The early childhood educator develops and nurtures an “open, friendly and informative relationship with each child’s family and encourages their involvement.

ECE’s believe in mutual respect, trust, and co-operation among colleagues, peers, families, and community partners.

Health and nutrition

Effective health and nutrition principles and practices are role modeled on a daily basis


ECE’s examine indoor and outdoor play space and programming strategies to ensure that safety practices are being followed, while allowing and encouraging children to take safe risks.


Early learning an child care staff form partnerships among parents, colleagues, all levels of government, training institutions, and provincial, territorial, and national organizations related to early learning and child care.

Respect for cultural values and diversity

Early learning and child care settings incorporate family and community cultural attributes into the program.

Assessment and evaluation

Early learning and child care programs establish a process for evaluating and assessing all aspects of their program delivery. Action plans are developed, implemented, and evaluated at frequent intervals as a way to monitor the intended change in practice.

Family support

Early childhood educators respect and support the needs and attributes of families

Elements of Quality Environments

Traditionally three critical elements were used to identify quality Early Childhood Programs:

the adult/child ratio

the number of children in a group

the staff’s professional education

Types of Quality

Structural Quality

adult/child ratio’s

maximum group size

educational training of the staff

Process Quality


developmentally appropriate activities

caregiver consistency

parent involvement

warm, sensitive & nurturing care giving

Caregiver Characteristics

Education & Experience – includes ongoing professional development

ECE’s who have post-secondary education in ELCC tend to be more responsive to the children, provide children with stimulating activities that are developmentally appropriate & support the parents

Stability & Job Satisfaction

caregiver continuity is important for infants & toddlers because they are in the process of forming attachment relationships

ECE’s that are satisfied with their new jobs are more likely to provide encouragement and guidance.

Contextual Factors


directors/coordinators administrative style and the organizational climate


working conditions such as paid preparation time, opportunities for professional development and appropriate adult child ratios

government regulations and funding

community relationships

family involvement

Engagement | Exploration | Application | Connection | Top

created 12-Oct-2009

modified 04-Nov-2010




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