Dartmouth Early Learning Center, 284 Gulf Road, South Dartmouth, MA 02748
Phone: 508-992-1301   Email:
The mission of DELC is to support the essential nurturing and guidance that is
critical to healthy growth and development of young children by offering a rich
home-familiar learning environment where children's curiosity and hunger for
learning are promoted through play, discovery and the arts. Our programs are
designed to help children build positive self-images, develop competence and
positive dispositions toward learning and school, and to learn basic skills of
social living. The work we do at DELC is intimately related in aim, in method, and
in materials used to fundamental assumptions about how, what, and why children
learn. Our constructivist approach is child centered, hands-on and humanistic and
is aimed at the harmonious development of the whole child in all areas. It is
meant to reflect a variety of developmental levels among children taking into
account their many individual characteristics and special qualities. Our emphasis
is on helping children discover and work towards their own style of learning,
construct meanings, and use freedom in a carefully prepared environment.

Our philosophy of education has developed over the twenty years that we have
been teaching young children. While we have integrated the ideas of many fine
educators, we have been most inspired by the Reggio Emilia preschools in Italy
whose aim is to "preserve the spell of the child unbroken." The basic components
of Reggio Emilia include viewing the child as powerful rather than powerless;
using an emergent curriculum that is based on the interests of children; engaging
in projects that are not limited in time or scope; and documenting the child's
progress with words and pictures.

While we design developmentally appropriate readiness activities for our children
to explore, we recognize the educational value of children finding and solving
self-defined problems that arise from child-initiated activity and choices. Through
shared activity and social exchange children co-construct their knowledge of the
world using one child's ideas to develop anothers or to explore a path yet
unexplored. The teacher does not direct children's learning in lock step fashion,
rather facilitates it through the selection of stimulating materials, the arrangement
of the environment, and our day to day interactions with children. Our role as
teachers is to set the stage for learning, to offer encouragement, and to gently
guide the learning and development of the children in our care. We feel that what
really matters in early childhood education is the spirit of the young child that
needs to be nurtured, the reason he/she learns so well. As children become
increasingly institutionalized, it helps to keep in mind that what happens to this
spirit has far more consequences than any specific content in schooling. A
program with this kind of focus sets the stage for positive attitudes about one's
self, about school, and learning is likely to produce children who feel that learning
is enjoyable, meaningful, and rewarding.

It is our firm belief and guiding philosophy that children learn best through play,
and that play is their very significant form of work. Play puts learning in a context
and gives it a purpose. Through play children are given a chance to try out options,
to make meaningful personal choices, to explore solutions to problems, and
practice new skills without getting bored. Children need to play in an environment
rich in resources, to explore, to test, and to learn from feedback on their own
actions. We recognize the intrinsic worth of play and provide ample opportunity,
time, and materials for this purpose.

Our schedule has a built in, yet flexible structure that alternates between periods
of free play, small group activities and special projects, circle time, snack, story,
music, movement, and outdoor play. We strive to create a balance between active
and quiet times, and between self-selected and teacher-directed activities.
Children are encouraged to express their feelings, to develop powers of
concentration, to use their imaginations, to try new ideas, to develop a sense of
independence and responsibility for one's decisions, and to accommodate other
children's viewpoints.

In all of the children's daily activities emphasis is placed more on process rather
than production. Teachers acting as partners rather than as sole imparters of
knowledge, help children develop self esteem and visual awareness as well as
strong social, problem-solving and communication skills. As fellow investigators,
they help children explore and experiment in depth, and express their ideas not
just in words, but in many visual forms that may be more understandable to them,
such as drawing, painting, construction, and creative dramatics.

These goals are best achieved in an educational setting that offers security as
well as challenge. We strive to create a sense of community by supporting the
bond between parent and child by including parents in program planning, by
inviting parents to participate in as many activities as their schedules allow, by
encouraging parents to participate as classroom volunteers, and by sharing our
special knowledge of children in frequent and supportive conferences and group
discussions. In addition to expanding our program offerings, such cooperative
efforts by staff and parents enriches our center and reinforces a sense of
community and an enriched family life.
Dartmouth Early Learning Center
284 Gulf Road
South Dartmouth, MA 02748
Phone: 508-992-1301