Toddler 3

Young children are eager to ask questions, conduct their own investigations, and make decisions about their activities. As part of the Project Approach in the Toddler Three Class, teachers observe and build upon the interests of the children. Teachers gain this information through the discussions, play, and artwork of the children. It is then the teachers’ job to provide children with materials and opportunities to construct their own knowledge. As children initiate what learning takes place, they develop their confidence as lifetime learners. Before addressing academic concepts like the alphabet and numbers, young children must learn to interpret their unique experiences in order to develop an intellectual “habit of mind,” or a disposition to theorize, analyze, hypothesize, and synthesize the world around them. Children must learn how to make predictions, grasp consequences of actions, persist in seeking solutions to problems, and speculate about cause-and-effect relationships. A curriculum should provide contexts in which these intellectual dispositions can be strengthened.

The types of activities that benefit young children involve singing, listening to and reading stories, building structures, painting, participating in dramatic play, among others. When children are curious, absorbed, and interested in topics, the benefits of the Project Approach are realized. When children initiate, investigate, and follow through on their interests, that sense of curiosity and love of learning develops strongly.

Example of a Toddler 3 Project: Job Investigation

Phase One
We asked our toddlers to go home and ask their parents about their jobs. Each child made a video in which they explained what they think their parents’ jobs are. At the end of each video, the parents specified what their job really was. We watched these videos together as a class and became curious about certain jobs.
Phase Two
We took a field trip to the school’s library to do research on different jobs. We looked at books about fashion designers, detectives, athletes, and more. As part of our research, we took “notes” on our clipboards of what we found to be the most interesting.
We also interviewed someone very important on our school’s campus about the job that he has: Mr. Donnie, Ursuline's Facilities Manager. Before interviewing him, we made a list of questions we wanted to ask him. The list included the following:

“Do you help people?”
“Do you make rainbows?”
“Do you get milk from a cow?”
“Do you fix stuff?”
“Do you fix lovies?”

We learned from Mr. Donnie that his job is called “Facilities Manager” and his job is “to make sure that everything at Ursuline works.”
After exploring different types of jobs, we decided to take a vote on which job we’d like to learn even more about. The children “voted” by placing a photo of their face next to the job that they were the most interested in. Choosing from doctor, athlete, teacher, construction worker, and hair stylist, the majority of the children chose hair stylist.
To investigate what being a hair stylist is really like, we watched videos of hair stylists, read books about hair salons, and practiced cutting yarn as though it were hair. We discussed the importance of safety when it comes to cutting hair, and why only real hair stylists can cut hair. We talked about and explored different tools that hair stylists use like curlers, combs, scissors, and smocks.
During small group and studio time, the children’s dramatic play involved these hairdressing concepts. The children used blankets as capes and pretended to style each other’s hair with feathers. Their vocabulary expanded with the use of new words: shampoo, haircut, hair stylist, hair salon, scissors, cut, style, manager, customer, hair color, trim, and more.
Phase Three
As a final concluding event of this investigation, our class observed a licensed hair stylist, Toddler 2 teacher Mrs. Eve, give our teacher Miss Emily a hair cut. We asked Mrs. Eve questions like, “Why do you cut hair?” and “How do you cut hair?” Mrs. Eve explained that she went to a special hair stylist school to learn all about cutting and styling hair. We observed how carefully she trimmed Miss Emily’s hair.