As adults, we don’t operate in a vacuum. Our lives are influenced by the natural world around us and by our community. So, it stands to reason education should function in the same way. Setting children up for future success starts with a holistic approach to education that incorporates the environment – both the natural world and the peers around us.
This kind of education allows children to interact with the environment and learn from it through opportunities, challenges and social development. Holistic learning isn’t just about the ABCs and basic addition and subtraction. It’s looking at how those educational components interact with the other aspects of our lives.
In the holistic approach, educators pay attention to children's physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and personal wellbeing, as well as placing importance on the cognitive aspects of learning. These all provide and place importance on connections to the natural world.
The Preschool of Arts at the Center for Jewish Life in Mount Pleasant is keenly focused on offering young children a holistic approach to learning. The school uses the Reggio Emilia style of learning that encourages curiosity and a child-led approach.
There are a few very important philosophies in early childhood that incorporate a more holistic approach to education, says Rachel Lessard, executive director of Preschool of the Arts. The Reggio Emilia philosophy uses art and nature as learning tools and a way for children to explore the world around them.
“Children are engaged creatively in the environment, and because of this are building relationships with peers and within the classroom,” Lessard says. “They are building a framework that will grow as they do."
Preschool of the Arts provides a holistic learning environment in some essential ways:
Building a strong sense of community engagement with parents, children and teachers.
Nurturing strong connections with nature – children are gardening, getting dirty and exploring the outdoor environment daily.
Respecting the interior lives of children by asking deep questions and providing areas that both stimulate and calm children.
Understanding learning is engaging, emergent, organic, experimental and based on cooperation with one another.