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  • This Preschool Believes in Play So Much It Has Like a Free Toy Store for Its Teachers!

    Here’s how one preschool anchors its instruction on the power of play.
    by SmartParenting Staff .
  • The countless materials found at Miriam College-Child Study Center’s Instructional Materials Center is a testament to the importance of play in educating preschoolers.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Miriam College-Child Study Center

    Instructional Materials Center. You can’t help but raise your eyebrows at the name when it is described as one of the happiest places at Miriam College’s preschool, the Child Study Center (CSC). But when you visit you immediately get why it’s popular, not just among teachers. 

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    As the name suggests, IMC, as it is known on campus, is where CSC's preschool teachers get their supply of educational materials and tools to perform their job. You're thinking paper, crayons, and a few books, right? Well, not quite.

    Like a toy store

    The IMC has conservatively 100,000 items in its space. Under its custodian of two years, Genibeth “Jean” Libradilla, it is organized and managed like a toy store. Teachers go around and choose materials to borrow with shopping baskets and karts. Aside from the preschool staples such as puzzles, toys, and flash cards, the IMC has alphabetized bins, different costumes of biblical and storybook characters, uniforms of community helpers, wigs, musical instruments, and many more, shares CSC principal, Amabelle “Mobsy” Cariño.

    “Anything that would give children meaningful opportunities to ask questions, explore, investigate, discover, collaborate with their classmates, problem-solve, create, and innovate, or anything that sparks joy, wonder, and curiosity — we have them at our IMC.”

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    The challenge, Libradilla says, has always been how to categorize the materials properly. Under the category of animals alone, there are rows and rows of drawers of birds, farm animals, wild animals, animals and their young, insects, sea animals, and alphabets with animals. Under each category are those made of rubber, fabric, plastic, wood, etc. Will it be more logical to put all animals made of the same materials together or organize them according to species?

    Just when Libradilla thought taxonomy was behind her, she found herself coming up with new categories — like dolls that can be used in water activities and those that can’t — so finding items will be more accessible for the teachers and her as well.

    Just like a big toy store, the teachers of the Miriam College Child Study Center need baskets or strollers to conveniently choose their instructional materials for the week.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Miriam College-Child Study Center

    Power of play in teaching

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    The IMC might seem like a toy store, but what it truly represents is how the preschool uses the power of play in teaching children in their formative years.

    “Children learn best through play and creativity so all materials that we have support that. As a whole, our teaching-learning environment includes child-friendly learning areas, natural green spaces, and age-appropriate materials that promote effective communication and collaboration skills, creativity, and critical thinking,” says Cariño.

    The IMC is there as well to compliment the CSC curriculum, which emphasizes the need for children to engage in diverse activities that give them meaningful opportunities to interact and collaborate with their peers and teachers.

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    Different kinds of building blocks made available to preschoolers allow their imagination to soar.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Miriam College-Child Study Center
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    Several factors have to be considered before acquiring new instructional materials. It is not so much about purchasing the latest that is out there but focusing on how the materials can support joyful and creative learning, meaningful student engagement, and authentic assessment.

    “The best materials are developmentally appropriate, open-ended, gender-fair, and do not need batteries,” says Cariño. “Open-ended materials like blocks, costumes and props, stuffed toys, scarves, and feathers are also great because these allow both teachers and children to think out of the box as they use them in many different ways.”

    Joyful learning

    The IMC is open for faculty use every day, and teachers may go there anytime to choose the materials needed for the week.

    “One dollhouse, 6 hand puppets, 7 pieces of vegetable toys, 10 pieces of fruit toys, 5 small trays (labeled # 1-5), and a green medium basket #39.” It is a typical list of materials Ana Karolina Corpuz or “Teacher Inna” often needs to borrow at IMC.

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    “Depending on the topic for the day, my list usually varies. Whatever I need to borrow, three things always hold true — IMC is like a teacher’s haven where we just ‘shop’ for whatever we need without having to pay, all things are labeled and organized very well, and everything found in the IMC brings so much joy in the hearts of the teachers and students alike.”

    For a teacher, having a place where she can get all the tools she needs to be creative with her lessons every single day is bliss.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Miriam College-Child Study Center
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    The IMC is an answer to the complex demands of educating preschoolers to address their multiple developmental needs.  It gives the teachers more time to focus on planning and carrying out their learning activities without worrying about the availability of materials, explains Cariño. 

    “We want to provide our teachers with learning materials so that they do not have to buy them with their own money.  These readily available learning materials are treasures for both the teachers and the students. We’re all about joyful learning.  Happy teachers make happy children, and happy children make happy teachers.”

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