To find out about the revamp of the Singapore American School’s (SAS) Early Learning Centre we caught up with the school’s Principal, Jo McIlroy, to chat about their summer makeover and their new Reggio Emilia inspired curriculum.
Tell us more about the changes to the SAS Early Learning Centre…
We spent the summer giving the Early Learning Centre (ELC) a total overhaul. The renovation was a huge undertaking but we’re thrilled with the results – as are the parents, and most importantly, our students! We’ve gone from traditional style classrooms to learning hubs. We have created a beautiful, modern learning environment. Our contemporary spaces are filled with gorgeous natural light – it’s made the centre feel very inviting. We have fabulous open spaces as well as some lovely, cosy corners that our little learners adore. The Reggio Emilia approach advocates that the environment is a ‘third teacher’ and that it should spark curiosity and should provoke children’s thinking – so it was really important for us to get it right.
You are inspired by the educational philosophy of Reggio Emilia. What does this mean?
Over the last two years, the SAS ELC team have been researching best practice in early childhood education. We also visited high performing schools in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, to look at what works best. We kept coming back to the educational philosophy out of a small town in Italy called Reggio Emilia. This philosophy believes that children are capable and competent, are full of wonder, potential, and curiosity, and that they learn collaboratively through relationships and meaningful interactions between themselves and the environment. It is project based and concept driven. We wanted to create a learning environment that fosters curiosity and exploration and offers each child the opportunity to learn in a way that works for them.
How have parents reacted?
We’ve had extremely positive feedback so far from our parents. We believe in a strong connection between home and school and that parents are a really important part of the child’s learning experience. We keep them in the loop at every stage of their child’s progress and development. We work on the premise that school is an extension of the home, so we enjoy working with our parents to facilitate that too.
What age range is the ELC program for?
Our students range from three to five years old. Our experience oriented, concept-based approach to learning, means we witness enormous growth in each child over the school year. It’s wonderful to see the sort of critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity that very young children are capable of when they’re given appropriate tools and the freedom to play and learn in the right environment.
So, it’s play-based learning?
It’s definitely not free play – the approach is very structured and intentional. We have worked hard to create a very purposeful learning environment and we a constantly revisiting and reflecting on our set up. We listen to the children and their interests and this helps us shape the environment. Very young children have their own voice – it’s our job to hear it.
Where can parents get more information about the program?
They can head to our website, at sas.edu.sg or make a time to pop in and take a look. And you’re welcome!
Singapore American School
40 Woodlands Street 41
6363 3403 | sas.edu.sg
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