Introduction

Every parent wants a “Good Beginning” for their child. We understand each child develops to their greatest potential of becoming lifelong learners by feeling a sense of belonging, health and well-being, while being supported by caring, responsive families, educators and communities.

We believe children are curious learners who deserve the highest quality of care to be provided by caring and nurturing educators. Every child is seen as a unique individual with unique ideas, plans and goals. They are valued and seen as a partner in building curriculum.

Together, caring educators work in partnership with families to build relationships through the ongoing conversations that, in essence, emerge from families sharing their knowledge and expertise about their child. We aspire to have open communication and strong relationships, where family members feel welcome to participate in our programs.

Our programming and pedagogy are guided by current practices in early learning philosophy and programming such as; “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years”, “Think, Feel, Act”, and “Early Learning for Every Child Today” (ELECT) documents from the Ministry of Education. We believe that in order to flourish in the early years and throughout their lives, every child’s future potential depends on the following ways of being;

Belonging

We believe authentic caring relationships among children, adults, educators and communities contribute to the healthy growth and development of children. As educators we know parents are a child’s first teacher, educators are the second, and the learning environment is the third teacher. Families are instrumental in assisting with their child’s learning. We embrace the opportunity to discover together alongside a child and their family by establishing a means of communication that reflects each family’s diversity. We are committed to ensuring these relationships have time for growth through creative opportunities for families to share their culture, being involved in community events and by participating in board-level decisions. The quality of this connection is reflective in the responsive relationship educators have with families by inviting them to contribute their knowledge in setting goals for their child/(ren).

Communication occurs on a daily basis in a variety of ways, such as; discussing their child’s learning and development, daily observations, documentation and learning stories, DOKmail, Facebook, phone calls, newsletters, parent nights, surveys, and an interpreter as needed for families where English is a second language.

Through the relationships with their friends children gain a sense of belonging. We encourage our educators to build meaningful relationships with the children, so that the children feel a sense of security with the educators.

Good Beginnings embraces the opportunity to learn and grow by encouraging educators to seek instructional and informal learning opportunities. Good Beginnings provides professional learning opportunities for all employees to attend workshops, training sessions, networking opportunities and conferences. Our organization partners with Early Learning programs throughout the County of Oxford to submit capacity funding proposals to ensure ongoing professional learning regarding reflective practices and collaborative inquiries. The College of Early Childhood Educators regulates professional standards for our educators.

Engagement

Every child has a right to be acknowledged as a respected citizen who is capable of developing his/her own ideas. We believe that quality care means children need unhurried time to explore the world through play and interactions with the people around them. We accomplish this by creating opportunities to help develop social awareness through interactions with other children and supporting adults. Play has positive effects on early learning and development. Research shows strong links between creative play, language, physical, cognitive and social development. Play is a healthy essential part of childhood.

Educators, as researchers, co-plan with children by involving them in the decision making process to have shared input over the direction of their learning. We encourage the children to pursue their personal interests. Activities are planned based on listening to the children’s voices to ensure that their views are heard and valued, and by asking the children questions to have a better understanding of what their intentions are while maintaining an active, mutual participation in the activity (Reggio Emilia inspired).

As co-learners, educators actively engage in learning with children while supporting them to explore their world with their body, mind and senses. As educators ask children questions, they learn how to further enhance children’s interests and curiosities by expanding and scaffolding their ideas and creative learning. Educators are encouraged to engage in reflective practice through daily documentation, observations, reflections, anecdotal notes, planning at team meetings, and through having a curriculum committee with representation from each of the Good Beginnings’ programs.

Good Beginnings strives to have a responsive relationship with families. We believe parents are experts in their children’s learning and feel it is important to be respectful and welcome information shared with the educators. Initial contact with a family begins with a discussion about their hopes for their child, as they begin their journey with Good Beginnings.

Expression

We acknowledge the uniqueness of each child. Educators guide children to explore their own theories through play, and to expand children’s thinking through purposeful play and caring interactions. Play is essential to children’s learning and development. Play helps children to; develop pre-literacy skills, problem solving skills and concentration, generates social learning experiences, and to express their thoughts and feelings. Children are encouraged to communicate and express themselves in various ways. They have the ability to express themselves through their body, words and use of materials such as; loose parts, sensory, dramatic play, storytelling, song, dance, Seeds of Empathy, pedagogical documentation, iPad, and See What I See – photography.

Children are supported in actively engaging in learning while exploring the world with their body, mind and senses. The indoor/outdoor environments are co-constructive by the adult and children to create a diverse space that invites open ended materials for periods of uninterrupted play. By creating a home like atmosphere enriched in diversity, we are building an environment that is a natural third teacher. These experiences assist with fostering the children’s exploration, play and inquiry.

As co-learners in a play based environment, educators invite children to join in small/large group time, and provocations based on their interests, to increase opportunities for children to enjoy achievement based on their own interests, knowledge, and ideas through investigation and research.

We aim to continuously review and reflect the strategies implemented in our program statement, ensuring it meets Good Beginnings’ best practices and the requirements of the Minister of Education’s Policy Statement on Programming and Pedagogy. Survey input provided by families, colleagues, and community partners is taken into consideration regarding the direction of future strategic planning that occurs at any decision making level (i.e…Board of Directors, leadership meetings, team meetings, various Good Beginnings’ committees).

Well-Being

As researchers, educators co-plan with children to create opportunities to ensure that the children are developing a sense of self, health, safety, nutrition and well-being. Educators also create a physical environment that supports participation to create capable, competent and curious children, rich in potential. Our daily routine provides an environment that is reliable and emotionally safe. Children’s schedules are based around the child’s individual needs.

Educators follow the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Education, Oxford County Public Health, Canada’s Food Guide and the Healthy Indicator Tool. Educators perform daily child health and safety checks, safe supervision of children, Program Quality Assessment, School Age Care Environmental Rating Scale, Rosie Observation Scale for Inspiring Environments, playground inspections, sanitation and disinfection procedures, and emergency procedures. Every employee has a Criminal Reference Check, including a Vulnerable Sector Check and is trained in Standard First Aid, including Infant and Child CPR.

Research currently identifies an increase in the level of anxiety being observed by children of various ages. Quite often the energy being burned by the child may occur with or without the child or educator knowing (Resource: Dr. Stuart Shanker). Educators help children to learn what it feels like to be calm, and help children to develop strategies that help them get back to calm when they feel themselves becoming agitated. Educators encourage children to problem solve independently. The educators use their knowledge of child development, and research to distinguish between “misbehaviour” and a “stress behaviour” pertaining to a child.

Educators are encouraged to ask the question “why” when seeing a change in a child’s interactions, and to use the “Five Core Steps to Self-Regulation,” as outlined by Dr. Stuart Shanker, as a guide.

Five Core Steps to Self-Regulation by Dr. Stuart Shanker:
  1. Read the signs and reframe the behaviour (Resource: the six steps to Conflict Resolution, HighScope).
  2. Identify the stressors (i.e. visual clutter, tone of voice, and look on face).
  3. Reduce the stressors (Resource: Circle of Security – who is the child’s “safe haven”?).
  4. Become aware of when you’re overstressed (Resource: Second Step).
  5. Figure out what helps you calm, rest, and recover (Resource: Resiliency – Reaching In, Reaching Out).
Educators implement “The Six Steps to Conflict Resolution”, to guide them in assisting children with problem solving.

Step 1: Approach calmly, stopping any hurtful actions.
Step 2: Acknowledge children’s feelings.
Step 3: Gather information. Find out what happened.
Step 4: Restate the problem.
Step 5: Ask for ideas for solutions and choose one together.
Step 6: Give follow up support as needed. Make sure everyone is happy with the solution.

To best support the child’s individual needs, we aim to develop an intentional program plan and daily routine that supports learning, by implementing indoor/outdoor play, active play, rest and quiet time to best support the child’s individual needs. As pedagogical leaders, we provide the children with time and space for playing and learning to happen. From the start, play based educational activities are planned based on the children’s interests and individual needs to foster the children’s exploration, play and inquiry. Continuous learning naturally flows between the indoor/outdoor environments. Transitions and interruptions are limited to provide a loving and warm atmosphere.

Our teaching approach is an emergent curriculum based on HighScope and Reggio Emilia. Good Beginnings uses the HighScope curriculum, a high quality researched approach which encourages children to become strong independent learners. This curriculum aligns with, “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years.” Research shows that children learn best when they are actively involved with meaningful activities with people and things, centred on their own personal interests. The HighScope curriculum calls this approach “active participatory learning”. Educators are given planning time daily to reflect and review their observations on the children and their interests. This enables them to be able to plan for the next day, to further enhance children’s interests and curiosities by expanding and scaffolding their ideas and creative learning. Based on the children’s interests, educators introduce new materials, equipment, and toys, as they are placed into the learning environment.
We are driven to create an environment that invites community partners to actively participate within the child’s environment, and invite their support and sharing of resources.

Two of our Child Care Centres and thirteen of our School Age Programs are located within schools, one within a community centre, and one within a retirement facility. Partnerships and relationships with school personnel and facility employees are very important for our professional success and community partnerships.

Community outreach ensures that we are using evidence-based approaches in meeting the needs of children (i.e. Ministry of Education’s, “How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years”, “Think, Feel, Act: Lessons from Research of Young Children”).

Educators and families are kept informed through partnerships with; local school boards, the County of Oxford Public Health and Emergencies Services, The United Way, Oxford Early Learning Associations, Quality Child Care Committee, Ontario Early Years, and the Oxford Mentor Network.

Specialized agencies support the inclusion practice of children through A Child First, Applied Behaviour Analysis, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Child and Parent Resource Institute, Children’s Aid Society, Fanshawe College Woodstock/Oxford Reginal Campus, Oxford Elgin Child and Youth Centre, Thames Valley Children’s Centre, tyke TALK and Woodstock District and Developmental Services.

Good Beginnings provides mentoring opportunities through student placements and volunteers (ie. High School, College, University, Family Literacy Day, Relay for Life).

Good Beginnings recognizes the value of investing in children, families and educators, to provide diverse experiences each and every day to “ensure opportunities for optimal learning and healthy development”, (“How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years”).

We continue to do our best to be a part of a resource of people working together, sharing knowledge, learning from others to achieve intentional relationships of mutual respect with children, families, educators, and the community.

Websites of reference we encourage you to view for further information:

Minister of Education’s Policy Statement on Programming and Pedagogy
http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/programCCEYA.pdf

“How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years” HDLH
http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/pedagogy.html

“Early Learning for Every Child Today” ELECT
http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/oelf/

“Think, Feel, Act: Lessons from Research of Young Children”
http://www.ontario.ca/edu

HighScope Curriculum
www.HighScope.org

Ontario Reggio Association
www.ontarioreggioassociation.ca

Glossary Of Terms

Anecdotal Notes – recording information about a particular event or experience after it happens, details of an observed event

Collaborative Interests (Inquiries) – building and integrating new knowledge and understanding

Pedagogy – the practice of teaching/learning

Pedagogical Documentation – documentation that has learning as its focus, and to determine what a person is capable of without predetermined expectations

Provocations – means of provoking further action, something that arrives by surprise and sparks interest

Reflective Practice – a process by which you stop and think about your practice, analyze your decision, and draw a theory

Scaffolding – a concept that is built upon a previous learning structure, thereby ensuring its stable integration into the child’s knowledge or skill base

Seeds of Empathy – a program designed for Early Childhood settings to foster social and emotional competence and early literacy skills and attitudes in children three to five years old while providing professional development for their educators

Self-Regulation – the ability to adapt one’s emotions, behaviours, and attention to the demands of the situation

HighScope Active Participatory Learning – a program where children; choose to pursue their own interests (well-being); are able to explore their environment freely choosing to manipulate many open-ended materials (engagement); children are encouraged to think and talk about what they learn (expression); educators interact with the children, they help to expand the learning process by guiding children in problem solving. Educators act as partners with the children in the learning process (belonging).

  1. Materials
  2. Manipulation
  3. Choice
  4. Child Language and Thought
  5. Adult Scaffolding