Activities at Runabouts are play-based, emergent, open-ended, and developmentally appropriate. We emphasize social-justice and anti-bias work.
Play based because children learn best through play. Play provides opportunities for all the “basics” and then some. Play involves exploration, risk, trial and error, concentration, dedication, motivation, negotiation, inspiration, cooperation, and/or leadership… all the things that grow a healthy human, a life long learner, and someone who can accomplish great things.
Open ended means focusing on the process not the product. When I set out a project I don't have an end product in mind. Instead, there are lots of directions projects could take. If I’m patient, often what they come up with is SO much more amazing than what I would have imagined! I provide materials that, for the most part, have lots of different uses. (Called “loose parts.”) I also don’t make models for young children to copy.
Emergent means that it comes from the kids. If they are into pirates, we sing about pirates. If they are into fire fighters, we dress up like firefighters. If they are into dogs, we pretend to be dogs, and play with toy dogs, and read books about dogs. Initially, the things that I provide (the loose parts, dolls, blocks, sensory activities, and art) are based on what I know about kids in general… but I try to pay attention to what the individuals and the group are interested in and incorporate that into the classroom.
Developmentally appropriate means taking a look at brain development and what we know about young children. Focusing on “process not product” is part of being developmentally appropriate. Other ways to make the day developmentally appropriate include: making gathering times short, planning to move around a lot, planning for messes, making sure they can reach what they need, having a rhythm to the day (a consistent yet flexible schedule), hugging a lot, having soft places and things that smell good, having sensory activities every day, etc. This shouldn’t be used to limit children, as they can often do a lot more than we expect, but to meet them where they are. It is a subtle balance between presenting new challenges and being with them exactly where they are.
Children learn reading, writing, math, history, science, etc when they are ready and when it becomes relevant to them in their life. If they are surrounded by people who are learning and thinking, and are given the space, time, and materials to explore their passions, they will learn the basics and more importantly they will learn how to pursue their ideas and to love learning.
Anti-Bias Education is also an important part of what we learn and teach at Runabouts. We openly talk about and celebrate differences. We also talk about injustice, and things we can do to work towards justice. We actively discuss things like: non-binary gender and transgender people, race and racism, class, and GLBTQ issues.
Seasonal I also look at the seasons and what’s going on in the children’s world, and bring that into the classroom in a play-based, open-ended, developmentally appropriate way. For example, around Halloween/Harvest we have pumpkins for painting, drawing on, pounding golf tee’s into, carving, cooking, planting seeds, etc.