“The child has a hundred languages but they steal ninety-nine. The school and the
culture separate head from the body. They tell the child: to think without hands, to
do without head, to listen and not to speak, to understand without joy, To love and
to marvel only at Easter and Christmas. They tell the child: to discover the world
already there, and of the hundred they steal ninety-nine. They tell the child: that
work and play, reality and fantasy, science and imagination, sky and earth, reason
and dreams are things that do not belong together. And thus they tell the child that
the hundred is not there. The child says: No way. The hundred is there.”
                                               
                                                            --- Loris Malaguzzi

Education is an experience with many dimensions. It is more than growth in skills and
factual knowledge. It is growth in self-confidence and self-esteem. It is growth in the
ability to imagine and create. It is growth in the awareness of others and their needs.
The Dartmouth Early Learning Center Primary Grades Program is aimed at
supporting the integrated development of the whole child by fostering cognitive,
aesthetic, democratic, emotional, social, and physical learning blended together. We
recognize that children grow as a “whole”, not one dimension at a time or at the same
rate in each dimension. They are individuals who have differing needs, interests,
learning styles, and levels of maturity. It is our belief that young children learn skills of
all sorts if the skills are taught in a relevant context as the need for them arises while
children are engaged in meaningful play or projects or as teachers expand or extend
children’s activities to include such experiences. Our teaching philosophy is based on
the belief that it is the teacher’s role to plan the environment to create a variety of
interesting and exciting learning opportunities that are meaningful and
developmentally appropriate, and that for optimal learning to occur, teachers need to
strike a balance between directed and self-initiated learning. Academic and social
learning should be appropriately encouraged, but  not given priority over children’s
individual needs. This philosophy has its roots in Dewey, Vygotsky, and Piaget who
wrote how children actively seek to make sense of their world. When children are
encouraged to ask questions that have relevance to them or identify topics for
investigation they become generators of knowledge rather than passive recipients of
information.

Young children learn at different rates and in different ways. The Primary Grades
Program extends the learning that has begun in preschool and kindergarten into
grades one through five. Children of this age learn best when they feel secure and are
allowed to make mistakes without fear of criticism. This respect for children’s errors
creates an atmosphere where they dare to take risks, approximate, self-monitor, and
create meaning. To further meet their needs another aspect of our primary grades
philosophy is the notion of "continuous progress." We look at what children can do as
opposed to what they can’t do. Teaching and learning tasks are responsive to the
previous experiences and rates of progress of each child regardless of age. The goal
is to let children progress according to their individual rates of learning and
development without being compelled to meet age-related achievement expectations.
The teacher demonstrates through daily interactions that everyone can learn and that
learning is meaningful and rewarding.

Another feature of our Primary Grades Program is that children’s learning is not
compartmentalized into artificial subject matter distinctions. Long blocks of time are
provided to bring naturally related subjects together to engage children in hands-on
activities that allow them to try different ways of doing things. Learning materials and
activities are concrete, real, and relevant to children's lives. Students manipulate
objects in learning centers while learning reading, writing, math, science, drama, art,
social studies, and music. Learning is dynamic and challenging as children and
teachers interact and collaborate together to gain new understandings and
discoveries. This approach helps children discover on their own how much they really
know and duplicates the conditions for natural learning.

Creative expression is a vital part of every child’s life. An emphasis on children’s
symbolic languages in the context of a project-oriented curriculum is another feature
of our program. The desire for expression through art and music is both an inherent
need and a natural outlet for feeling, thinking, and conceptual and symbolic
development. We place a high value on using art experiences not only as a way to
integrate subject areas, but also as a way to help children learn how the mind and
hands can work together to create meaning and understanding. The power of the arts
to enable every child to believe in him/herself through the power of self-expression
cannot be underestimated.  Believing in your own power to create develops positive
feelings about self and confidence in one’s learning potential - the confidence to be a
problem solver with a positive can do attitude.

Recognizing that age is a crude indicator of what children are ready to learn, DELC
has implemented a multiage K-5 primary program. Multiage grouping of children
allows us to better organize our curriculum around students and their learning.
Students of different chronological ages are intentionally assigned to the same
classroom to take advantage of the heterogeneity of experience, knowledge, and
skills of the children in this age range. By creating a classroom climate that is non-
competitive and that encourages children to learn from one another as well as from
the teachers  we hope to increase the sense of family with in the class and encourage
children with different levels of knowledge and experience to learn together. Research
on cross-age interaction, peer tutoring, and cooperative learning indicates a variety of
developmental and educational benefits. One of the benefits of mixed-age groups is
that they provide a context in which older children’s dispositions to nurture can be
strengthened. Mixed-age groups also provide social and intellectual benefits. In
mixed-age groups, younger children are capable of contributing to far more complex
activities than they could working by themselves. Both older and younger children
benefit from discussions centering on tasks which one understands better than the
other. One of the assumptions of our mixed-age philosophy is that the wider the range
of competencies in a mixed-age group, the greater will be the participants
opportunities to develop relationships and friendships with others who match,
complement or supplement their own needs and styles and the more models there
are from who children can identify with and learn. In our view, the greater the
difference among children in a classroom, the richer the learning environment is for
everyone.

The program nurtures the continuing growth of children’s knowledge and
understanding of themselves and their world in a safe, caring, stimulating
environment where the child grows and learning flourishes. Evidence of what a child
can do is collected frequently. The teacher uses this information to decide which
activities the child should undertake next. Assessment tools include checklists,
written records, anecdotal notes, videotapes, and samples of the child's work.

Parents are the child's first and most important teachers. Accordingly, parent
involvement is encouraged on all levels as teachers and parents work closely
together to create a sense of community and a climate of trust and success for the
child.
Primary Grades K - 5
Dartmouth Early Learning Center
284 Gulf Road
South Dartmouth, MA 02748
Phone: 508-992-1301
Email:
michael@delc.us
Dartmouth Early Learning Center
284 Gulf Road
South Dartmouth, MA 02748
Phone: 508-992-1301
Email:
michael@delc.us
Dartmouth Early Learning Center
284 Gulf Road
South Dartmouth, MA 02748
Phone: 508-992-1301
Email:
michael@delc.us