Enrollment season is here again, and for new parents, that comes with the daunting task of having to pick which preschool fits their child best. With the rise of non-traditional schools, it’s best to keep informed on how these differ from traditional schools.
The Creative Children Learning Center (CCLC) in Project 4, Quezon City is one example. A well-known progressive school in the northern Metro Manila area, it offers a "developmentally appropriate program, dedicated to addressing the needs of the whole child.”
It’s all very conceptual. How does the teaching style of a progressive school actually translate into everyday learning?
SmartParenting.com.ph sat down with Teacher Ina Estrada-Tulio, directress and founder of CCLC, to tell us about her preschool and its adapted teaching style.
“The main pride and backbone of any progressive school is its ability to provide individualized teaching,” explained Teacher Ina. This means that the school “must be able to address and cater to the needs of each child.”
To put it simply, Teacher Ina explains that every child is unique. One pupil might be excelling at learning the alphabet but lag a little behind in social skills, while another might have it the other way around. It’s the preschool’s job to address these needs in a manner that’s both age appropriate and interesting. And for that, the school must have the right tools.
“You have to have the resources, the materials, to provide each child whether it’s in their language skills, cognitive skills, writing skills or social and emotional skills. The school must be able to provide for those specific needs of the child.
“There are no two kids who develop at the same time in any area. So if you are providing them with the same materials, then how are you addressing the development of the other children? If one child is already writing and one is only beginning to trace, then I can’t give both of them the same materials,” said Teacher Ina.
An Integral Part of CCLC: The Resources and Materials Teacher Ina has a room entirely dedicated to all kinds of materials, stocked to the ceiling with everything from puppets, letter and color blocks, books, costumes, and there’s even a box for four different kinds of scissors.
“The basic step in writing is to develop the fine motor skills, meaning developing the muscles of the fingers,” explained Teacher Ina. “So we develop them with exercises like cutting.”
Most young children, when given the instruction to tear a paper using their hands, will be unable to do so. It might not be complicated to us adults, but for children the task is usually already too complex for their little fingers to do. “They’ll start to tear it up and then they just pull it out of frustration,” explained Teacher Ina. To illustrate her point, she shows us some of the materials they use:
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The first pair of scissors has a second set of finger holes attached to the back of the first so that the teacher may guide the student. This is to introduce the child to the “scissor motion”, the action of putting the forefinger and the thumb together. The second pair looks more like pinchers and is designed to be easier to use than regular scissors so that the child gets used to cutting on his own. The third looks almost like regular scissors, only that the finger holes are bigger, making the scissors usable whichever way they hold it. The fourth is the one we're familiar with.
How it started Teacher Ina graduated with a degree in Psychology and took up a Master’s degree in Child Development. She taught in different preschools with different teaching styles from traditional to Montessories and Progressive schools. It was when she worked at the Disney Children’s Center in Burbank, California that she fell in love with the teaching method using the progressive style of teaching.
Having worked there for 10 years, she decided to bring the Disney preschool here in the Philippines. With the preschool’s permission, in 2006 she was allowed to put-up a Disney Children Center replica -- everything from the teacher-student ratio of 1:5, the size and the look of the classroom and down to all the materials, including the paper, is exactly how you would see it in the Burbank preschool.
“That was the agreement: if I could do it, then it’s a done deal,” said Teacher Ina. For that, she was granted access to the exclusive distributor of all the materials used in the Disney preschool.
Outside the nursery 2 and kinder classrooms at CCLC. A kiddie picnic table lies in the sun under a tree
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Slides and a playhouse at the CCLC playground
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A different view of the playground and classrooms
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Teacher Ina Estrada-Tulio, directress of CCLC
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Teacher Ina during our interview
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After dismissal, CCLC students play with school materials while waiting for their fetchers
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One student enjoys putting a wooden puzzle together
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CCLC's nursery classroom
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On the wall are arts and crafts creations by the students.
"It starts with imagination. That's why we don't have products that have a specific ending. Let's say they want to color or create a turtle artwork -- we will expose you to books that show what a turtle looks like, but come arts and crafts time, each child should be able to express what they interpret a turtle to be. Do what you like! Some have 10 eyes or some walang paa (have no feet) but that's okay. Thats how we develop your brain. There are no right or wrong answers."
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Also on the wall are letters that resemble animals
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These plates introduce the child to lines and curves commonly used in writing the alphabet, said Teacher Ina
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These wooden letter blocks familiarize the child to a letter's shape by letting him guide the ball using the magnetic pen, said Teacher Ina
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Teacher Ina has several of these traceable giant letters
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Games to familiarize pupils with shapes and colors
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A simple word and picture game
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More games to familiarize pupils with shapes and colors
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Puppets representing different professions
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Teacher Ina also has access to children's Disney character costumes which she lets the children wear during Drama Day. This is the one of Snow White