Recent research in neuroscience has shown that children experience more rapid and intensive brain development during the first five years of life, making the period a crucial stage in development and growth.
Developmentally-appropriate practice, or DAP, is a comprehensive, holistic approach to teaching based on child development theories, individually-identified strengths and needs of each child, and a child's cultural background. This system has been proven highly effective in making the most of a child's formative years, and is currently being followed by a growing number of early childhood education centers, including the 9th Avenue School in Bonifacio Global City.
Because of its location at the center of an emerging business district, the school plays second home to children from a spectrum of cultural backgrounds, and has developed highly individualized programs sensitive to children of both Filipinos and foreign nationals. The school has also recently added a class for children with special needs.
"It's very grounded to what we need in our culture," said teacher and co-founder Marilou Zalamea-Acero of her school. "We realize that given the base philosophy that learning is through interaction, hands-on activities, and through play, it evolves as we deal with different groups and communities."
The founders believe in creating a partnership between the parents and the school in order to promote holistic and consistent development for each child. The children of 9th Avenue School are also exposed to a curriculum that highlights environmental awareness and responsibility.
The school's reception area, creatively decorated with recycled materials, combines art and eco-friendliness and serves as a bright welcome to all. A small student-teacher ratio also ensures that the children get enough attention and guidance in order that their developmental needs are met.
The school, launched in June of 2012, is the latest educational endeavor of Teacher Marilou, Teacher Ina, and Teacher Tiffany, all seasoned early childhood experts. Together, the three founders have created a solid program centered on DAP and on what they termed "purposeful play."
"We believe that children learn naturally through play, because when they're playing, they're engaged with the environment, their teacher, and the materials," said Teacher Tiffany. "Through play, they learn so many things -- from their physical to social to language skills -- as well as develop creativity. And what's so nice about it is it's not contrived. It's something the child will learn naturally, without much assistance from the teacher."
Teacher Tiffany described the school's regular preschool programs as a mix of both structured and unstructured play. Structure comes in when the children sit down for "circle time" activities, wherein they sing songs and follow teacher-directed instructions.
"Choice time," on the other hand, gives children the chance to roam around the classroom and keep themselves busy at the different learning centers laid out for them. This is the unstructured part of the curriculum.
"We call our approach 'P.L.A.Y.,' which stands for 'Progressive Learning for Academic Yearners,'" said Teacher Ina. "And although we teach through play, it's actually a very carefully-planned environment and curriculum.”
The children can enjoy the different centers, such as the writing table, which zones in on fine motor skills; the manipulatives table, which focuses on problem solving and early math skills; the art table, which teaches them creativity, symmetry, and aesthetics; and the play dough table, which builds hand muscles and coordination.
9th Avenue School offers regular preschool classes for children ages 2, 3, and 4, and accepts children with special needs. The school also has a part-time preschool program (i.e. 3 times a week), and a class for children aged 18-23 months. An extended-day program provides day care center services to parents and children looking for this sort of arrangement.
Teacher Ina also offers the Orton-Gillingham method of reading, which is a multi-sensory approach to reading and writing intended primarily for children with learning difficulties and for students who want a more holistic reading experience.
"We always invite parents to come and check out the school because the best way to find out if it's a good school is if the kids are happy," said Teacher Ina. And if their big smiles and playful shrieks are any indication, the children of 9th Avenue School sure are.
9th Avenue School is located at the mezzanine floor of the Active Fun Building, 9th Avenue corner 28th Street, Bonifacio Global City with contact numbers (0917)801-PLAY or 8561478. For more information, visit www.9thavenueschool.com or check out their Facebook page.