The youngest of our students here at Ursuline Academy are filled with the spirit of the very first Ursuline Sisters.  Our program is one of exploration, service, and growth. Our toddlers enter into a new environment that they are quite unsure of. They are welcomed into this new world with the love and guidance of our teachers. Our Early Childhood Learning Center is a safe, loving environment where children can explore and express themselves freely knowing that they can ask questions, investigate, and explore without hesitation. This is the first step that will lead them into a project-based learning environment.
Our toddler investigations begin with the teachers observing and interacting with the children. Each part of the day is filled with wonder, inquiry, and excitement. We start our day with a morning invitation. This invitation may be to ignite a spark of interest, require some higher order thinking, or it may just be to relax and have fun.  Our invitations may be a combination of natural materials, things that you may find around the house, or something as simple as a toy.  For example, a morning invitation of dirt and alligators turned into a trip to the veterinarian’s office for the alligator. “The alligators need medicine right away!” Our invitations allow us to watch and learn different aspects of how the children are developing; whether it be fine/large motor, cognitive, language, math, science or social skills.
Our Morning Invitations are truly just the beginning. An invitation might take us on small group adventure to the garden.  Our garden is shared by all in the Early Childhood Program. Each level has a section that they are responsible for. We meet with the children and introduce the idea of a garden. What is a garden? What can we do in the garden? What would you like to contribute to the garden?  The children love to dig and get messy while discovering bugs, mud, and beauty.  Our garden is filled with beautiful flowers, treasured pieces of art work, vegetables, and a few fairy houses.
Cooking is an activity that encompasses a wide range of skill sets. We have a cooking activity at least once a week, but our favorite cooking activity is when we get to cook on our birthday. The children bring in the ingredients for their favorite recipe. As a school family we freshly prepare the food to be shared. The children learn about math by using measuring tools, science through baking, social skills by taking turns, and community by sharing.

The children are always doing research in their natural environment. The best time to do some free exploration is during our studio time. The studio is a wonderful area filled with many treasures to explore. We as teachers position ourselves in each section of the studio to guide, nurture, and tap into what the children might be thinking. Whether it be housekeeping, the reading loft, science, or the art activities of the day, there are lots of things to explore and investigate, and plenty of opportunities to create masterpieces.

The school year is a developing time to prepare the children by giving them the knowledge to explore and investigate. This will lead them to their future in the Early Childhood Project Approach way of learning.