While holiday cheer is abundant at the Adult Learning Center, the holidays can be a tricky time for our youngest clients. The Early Childhood Adventures Program (ECAP) is home to over 60 children ages 6 weeks to pre-kindergarten. Most come to the ALC Monday through Friday where they take part in a curriculum designed to stimulate their physical, social, emotional and language growth through play. And while you may think the holidays would provide the ultimate play time, the teachers and staff at the ECAP have to be very careful this time of year. The diverse population of the students requires the staff to use thought when celebrating the holiday season.
To begin with, ECAP has a multicultural policy specifically addressing the diversity of the group and how they will approach their students. The policy states, “The Early Childhood Adventures Program is committed to multi cultural education. This means that we share a commitment to human rights, to the dignity of individuals, and to social justice. We strive to create a program that truly reflects the lives of our children, families, staff, and community.” That all comes to the forefront when the holidays arrive. Director of ECAP, Jane Marquis notes that while everyone wants to be decorating, celebrating and spreading cheer, “we typically think about whose needs we are really meeting when we consider our activities this time of year.”
Marquis also uses the guidelines set by the NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In their literature about celebrating the December holidays they state child care facilities should, “help the children explore the similarities and differences among family holiday celebrations, whether it is the same holiday or different holidays. The aim is for children to understand that families are different. Each family’s way of celebrating works for them.” It is important to note that the NAEYC is the group which offers accreditation for child care facilities and the ECAP program at the ALC is fully accredited.
While making sure everyone feels included is important this time of year there is another issue facing the staff of ECAP in December – the excitement issue. As adults sometimes it s difficult to focus when all around you are blinking lights, music and sugary treats. Imagine how hard it would be for a preschooler. Over stimulation can cause students to feel as if they have been thrown out of their normal routine. Marquis and her staff consider this issue before planning parties and crafts that might seem innocuous and fun, but underneath could cause some serious issues for their tiny clients.
And while this all sounds like there is no fun to be had, the opposite is true in ECAP. Marquis has planned an amazing curriculum that gives students a chance to celebrate, learn and grow during this frantic time of year. Preschool and PreK are planning Balsam tree bough painting, making grape vine wreaths to celebrate circles and enhance fine motor skills, and creating pine cone bird feeders made with suet, lard and bird seed. The culminating piece is the placement of 2-3 fir and balsam trees in our greenhouse on Dec. 20th to last for the winter months. Their feeders will hang on these trees and children will spend the winter learning about woodland animals and their need for food in the winter months. Additionally, PreK is exploring a few winter holiday celebrations from around the world. The children have a put up a beautiful bulletin board celebrating Kwanzaa.
There is no shortage of celebration at the Adult Learning Center, but it is tempered and thoughtful. This is just another reason why the Early Childhood Adventures Program remains one of the most respected child care facilities in the city.