By: Naimah Wade, with contributions from G. and L. Davis, Y.N. Curry, K. O’Donovan, V. Tawile, and R. Fakhoury
Teachers can foster diverse skills and abilities in early childhood classrooms by including creative experiences that intrigue children, encourage problem solving, evoke curiosity, inspire initiative, and challenge children’s thinking. But those these skills and abilities cannot be developed without excellent educators. When we visited the program where we eventually enrolled our daughter, it was a conversation with Ms. Charlotte Brown that really sealed the decision to place our daughter in the program. Every day for the next three years, we dropped our daughter off, knowing that she was in a great classroom with a teacher who cared holistically about her well-being, including emotional, social, cognitive, and physical aspects. Our expectations were exceeded as Ms. Brown led our daughter's preschool class through a phenomenal and creative learning experience about outer space.
The children’s learning experience included in-class telescope observations, a field excursion to a planetarium, child-made planets and stars, and special guest speakers. The exploration culminated in the children's creation of a space museum in the classroom displaying the artifacts the children made, along with insights they gained during the project. The children took so much pride in learning about the planets and the stars and in building and painting a rocket ship that could seat four children. They even wore astronaut costumes while giving their families tours of their museum.” To add to the in-depth exploration, this learning experience was conducted around the same time that Ms. Brown was preparing for an NAEYC reaccreditation visit. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have had this love of curiosity and exploration imprinted on our daughter.
Another parent spoke about Ms. Brown’s enthusiasm for incorporating her students’ interests into her teaching:
In the transition [from preschool] to kindergarten, I have come to appreciate just how special a teacher Ms. Brown is. The rocket ship exploration that began with the children’s interest is one excellent example of Ms. Brown’s enthusiasm for teaching and her commitment to fostering learning in her students. The class went from a cardboard box that they imagined to be a rocket ship to learning the names of the planets, to looking at the images of Scott Kelly’s year in space, to taking a trip to the planetarium, and finally, to creating a classroom space museum complete with a constellation of stars and all of the planets. This example of exploration goes a long way toward showing Ms. Brown’s enthusiasm for her students’ interests. Furthermore, Ms. Brown’s engagement with the children's families turned a small classroom activity into a weeks-long exploration that inspired increased engagement and volunteer opportunities for parents. —K. O’Donovan
Other families shared their perspectives on Ms. Brown’s innovative approach to creative learning:
Ms. Brown was able to capture the attention of preschoolers for months while investigating outer space. Initially, my 5-year-old was focused solely on building the rocket ship and wasn’t as interested in other parts of the exploration. Thanks to Ms. Brown, that did not last long. He became very excited about making the planets, stars, and space suits. Although he wasn’t accustomed to collaborating with other students, the exploration taught him self-discipline and how to interact with others to accomplish goals together. While nurturing creativity, Ms. Brown helped strengthen each child’s curiosity, social and emotional development, and learning. —V. Tawile and R. Fakhoury
There is no questioning Ms. Brown’s dedication to early childhood education—not only to the program, but to the individual families as well. I was amazed by how she modified the whole focus of the learning experience to cater to the children’s interest in space and science! It was a true learning and teachable moment that lasted several weeks—the children were so interested and intrigued, they forgot that they were learning! —Y.N. Curry
Our son has hearing loss and wears a hearing aid. We wanted a teacher who would comply with his needs and be patient as he adapted to a new environment. From our first visit, Ms. Brown showed such initiative and compassion. The amount of time she put in with her students was well appreciated, and the rocket ship investigation went far beyond what you’d expect, allowing each child to excel and enjoy the experience. —G. and L. Davis
Charlotte Brown is a remarkable preschool teacher at the Wayne State University, Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute Early Childcare Center (MPSI-ECC), an NAEYC-Accredited early learning program. She is a truly dedicated teacher whose commitment to excellence should be admired, because it models the behavior and embodies the standards of high-quality, authentic teaching that NAEYC ascribes to. This kind of environment is only possible when there are resources and support from the top, so we also extend gratitude to Ms. Karagatsoulis, the center director, for the support given to teachers to innovate and explore.
Charlotte Brown’s achievements have been recognized in NAEYC’s Member Spotlight feature, and she will be highlighted in the March 2017 issue of Young Children. Read more.
The Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute Early Childcare Center at Wayne State University has been an NAEYC-Accredited program for over 10 years. NAEYC Accreditation of Early Learning Programs uses a set of 10 research-based standards to collaborate with programs to recognize great work already under way and to work together to understand and address areas for improvement. This process actively transforms the culture of an early education program into a strong, positive place where families are proud to bring their children and where teachers and staff are committed to and excited about providing young children the best early care and education possible.
Related Resources: Want to explore best practices for fostering creative learning? Check out NAEYC’s newest resource, Nurturing Creativity: An Essential Mindset for Young Children’s Learning.
Naimah Wade is the Program Manager, Harris Literacy Program at Wayne State University.