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Proposal for effective early childhood programs for children with culturally diverse backgrounds.
For years, researchers from various fields of study have examined early childhood
education programs in an attempt to match necessary academic and behavioral skills required to experience success in the preschool classroom (Alexander, 2015). These key components are the basis of major movements and key reforms for early childhood education (i.e., Early Head Start, Head Start, Universal Preschool) because they have been shown to have a significant impact in predicting children’s future success in their academic, professional, and personal lives (Cunha & Heckman, 2010). But what about including diversity into the curriculum of early childhood programs? While doing some research in the county that I reside in, I could not find any programs that provides cultural diversity into the curriculums of early childhood programs. A good curriculum and school should provide children with not only foundational academic skills on which they can continue to build, but a sense of belonging within their learning environment. I believe that creating culturally diverse programs into the curriculums will not only help children develop cognitive and social skills but also give them a positive attitude toward learning, hard work, and school.
Florida adopted the Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards in Fall 2017. The standards and benchmarks reflect the knowledge and skills that a child on a developmental progression should know and be able to do at the end of an age-related timeframe. The Office of Early Learning (OEL) submitted the Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards – Birth to Kindergarten (2017) for use in the School Readiness (SR) Program and the Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards – 4 Years Old to Kindergarten for use in the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program to the State Board of Education for approval in November 2017. The standards and benchmarks can assist teachers in planning instruction and discussing expectations and growth with a child’s family. However, the disadvantage to this is it creates a cookie cutter curriculum that applies to all children and does not provide an individual plan that is tailored to a child’s cultural background. In Florida the standards for 4-Year-Olds to Kindergarten are grouped into eight domains of early learning and development requirements. They are:
- Physical Development
- Approaches to Learning
- Social and Emotional Development IV. Language and Literacy
- Mathematical Thinking
- Scientific Inquiry VII. Social Studies
- Creative Expression Through the Arts
By examining one early childhood daycare facility, there curriculum was designed to prepare children for early literacy and to enhance the age-appropriate progress. By following this curriculum, children are expected to meet the performance standards that prepares them to be ready for kindergarten based on the statewide kindergarten screening. The curriculum addresses the areas for school readiness that involves:
- Gross Motor Development
- Pre-Scissor and Cutting
- Marker/Crayon and Easel Painting
- Sensorimotor and Dramatic Play
- Structured Construction Play
- Patterning Development
- Writing Development
- Math, Science, Health, and Safety
- Concepts in Cooking
However, there is nothing in between that is created to address diversity within the classroom.
A curriculum can be used in a variety of ways to help strengthen a child’s learning environment; the first of which being to help parents, caregivers and teachers create intentional and appropriate experiences for young children based on each child’s developmental accomplishments. The second way that the curriculum can be used is for helping teachers understand what young children may be able to do, while providing appropriate and inappropriate expectations. The curriculum and the programs it adopt can also be a useful tool for enhancing the experiences of children with special needs based on the understanding that all children develop at a different rate and/or sequence and have diverse backgrounds. The curriculum should create a common language for parents to understand and teachers to ensure an enriching set of early experiences based on nurturing relationships, feeling of belongingness and active exploration. It is important for all educators to have an understanding of cognitive learning theories, and their students. An early childhood teacher who has a basic understanding of human development in general and child development in particular (Gauvain & Perez, 2015) is more likely to prepare, plan, and develop activities that are developmentally appropriate and best fit children’s learning needs. This strengthens and provides the teacher the knowledge of correct expectation for a child and the child’s family.
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