Mile Square Early Learning Center established in 1979, has offered neighborhood children and their parents daily, dependable and safe early childhood educational experiences. Through the years the notion of child care has changed to reflect developmentally appropriate practices much like it is implemented at Hoboken Public School District Early Childhood Program. A new level of service is now emerging with parents and educators expecting child care centers to provide educational tools and concepts formerly taught in kindergarten or even first grade. It is no longer acceptable for children to just “play”. Our parents, like most parents, want the best for their children, but what is really the best? We have found, and educational research has supports the idea, that an individual developmental approach to learning best suits the needs of very young children. We take into consideration that play is the vehicle used by our children to learn complex concepts and skills.
We have tried very much to satisfy the yearnings of the parents, and the public school’s expectations; yet, Mile Square continues to keep its original philosophy that children learn best through play and hands on activities. We offer two structured curriculums that are research based and developmentally age appropriate.
- The “Creative Curriculum” is used for children younger than 3 and/or for children in our Preschool Toddler Program.
The “Tools of the Mind curriculum”, selected by the Hoboken Board of Education, is used for 3 and 4 year olds.
We continue to present an environment that fosters creativity using the resources at hand, and the diversity of the multicultural atmosphere that is both, the Center’s and Hoboken’s strong point. Opportunities for learning are readily available in such an urban environment, and we utilized them whenever possible. This type of collaborative effort, with other community agencies, has proved very fruitful to our educational philosophy and has enabled our staff to enhance their classroom teaching ability by attending workshops, seminars and training.
We attempt to provide a stimulating environment but also realize that often too much stimulation is as bad as too little. Children today have very hectic lives and busy schedules, in some cases even chaotic lives. We try to tone it down by presenting an aesthetically pleasing environment and through our selection of educational materials, books, and activities.
Our classrooms have a light and airy atmosphere. Colors are subdued and the furniture is meant to be used by active children. MSELC has classrooms divided into areas of interest and a great deal of books, puzzles, manipulative and concept games. Learning centers are set up to give the children choices. The children are allowed to choose from among a variety of interesting activities. We encourage children to choose and use artistic expression to solve problems. Children have daily opportunities for art at the easel, drawing, coloring, pasting, and cutting as well as pre-math and science activities.
A great amount of time is spent on language development and literacy activities. Children experience poetry and rhyming (pre-reading skills) as well as numerous language charts, daily story time, dramatic play and the learning of songs and fingerplays. Our focus is on readiness skills for reading and speaking (for kindergarten entrance), emphasizing the importance of listening, talking, and role modeling for our children.
The classrooms are “print rich.” Everything is labeled. The children’s names appear many times in the classroom. We expand verbal capabilities by encouraging children’s conversation at meal times, Circle Time, and Dramatic Play. Children’s work is labeled using their words to express their ideas. Children begin to use language expression to help diffuse anger. Children learn to speak and talk about their feelings.
Children have many opportunities to enhance math and science skills by using their environment, weather charts, graphs, and surveys. Daily outdoor activities and special trips allow the children to expand their experiences.
Children playing with blocks teaches balancing, measuring, and geometrics as well as math concepts. Sand and water table play, enables children to learn about pouring, measuring, science etc. Puppets, dolls, housekeeping and dramatic play encourages creativity and develops language skills. All are readiness concepts, and yet they require no flash cards or ditto sheets or drilling children in boring circle time activities. The experience of the staff at Mile Square enables us to advance the notion that children need guidance but can really teach themselves through an appropriate environment with willing and creative teachers.
A collaboration between parents and staff is needed to help the children learn how to make decisions and to regulate their behavior, preparing them to be successful lifetime learners. The point of early childhood education is to allow the child to develop natural areas of interest and comfortable learning styles.