Emmerick Street Preschool Philosophy and Practice
We welcome and respect the perspectives and acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Gadigal and Wangal people.
Who we are and what we do
Emmerick Street Community Preschool has been educating local children since the 1970’s. We are situated in Lilyfield, in the Inner West of Sydney, in the Eora nation, home of the Gadigal and Wangal people. The preschool has a rich history of bringing local families together to support and nurture children and their learning. This legacy still informs our philosophy and practice today, and we hope it will continue to inform our culture for many years to come.
Why we do what we do
Our experiences in early childhood can shape us for the rest of our lives, influencing how we feel about ourselves, how we relate to others, how we learn and solve problems, and how we cope with risk and change. At Emmerick Street, we nurture each child’s sense of belonging, creativity, curiosity and independence, helping them to meet their immediate challenges, as well as prepare them for those they will meet in the years ahead.
We believe that young children flourish when:
- they have positive relationships and know they belong,
- they are treated with respect and are recognized as individuals,
- they are free to discover more about their world through play,
- they have plenty of space and a rich variety of stimulating materials to engage with,
- they are allowed to make mistakes,
- they are able to interact with and care for their environment,
- they are taught in small groups by highly trained, experienced educators in a well-established team,
- their families have strong relationships with their educators and with other preschool families,
- their educators communicate clearly about their progress and needs, and
- they know they are valued members of their local community.
Our program reflects these beliefs in the practices described below.
How we view children
All children are capable and resourceful explorers, who are able to learn about the world by using their own initiative. At Emmerick Street, we challenge the children to experiment and solve their own problems, as well as to participate in the running of the preschool. We believe that strong relationships with educators and other children help them to think and act independently and allow them to accumulate the skills they need to be ready for school. However, we also believe that childhood is a stage in its own right and not just about preparation for the future. The best way to prepare a child to be 5 is to let them be 4 for a whole year.
We also understand that each child is unique, with a different family and cultural experience, and with different abilities and talents. We therefore value each child as an individual and adapt our program to their needs, to allow them to explore their interests and draw on their strengths, give them courage to try new things, and celebrate their unique identities.
We strongly believe that early childhood education works best in partnership with families and we do our best to foster positive relationships with the important people in the children’s lives, to extend their sense of belonging from home to preschool. To facilitate this partnership, educators are always available to discuss children’s progress with their educators. We also communicate with families through our newsletters, the curriculum program and through the children’s online and interactive digital portfolios.
If children feel a strong sense of belonging, they are free to engage in the activities around them and to learn from their peers and teachers. As the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) says, positive relationships are the foundation of that sense of belonging. We therefore put an enormous effort into helping children form and maintain strong bonds with the staff and with other children, modeling positive relationships, and welcoming families to the preschool community. We support open communication, respect and encouragement as effective social skills.
Play and the Program
Preschool children learn best when they are interested and having fun, so we offer a play-based program, which allows the children to explore their ideas and imagination, engage their creativity, practice and develop skills, create new knowledge, and learn about their world. As the ELYF says, ‘play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover, create, improvise and imagine’. Our educators follow and extend on ideas raised by the group as well as initiate new experiences for them to explore. This provides a balance between child and teacher lead experiences and allows the children to encounter narrative, language, music, art, spatial awareness and early numeracy in ways that sustain their interest.
Our programing is based on the ELYF, but we are also influenced by the knowledge, philosophy and practices of the Reggio Emilia Schools, Gardener’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence, Sir Ken Robinson’s work on the importance of creativity in education and Social Constructivism that sees learning as social. We aspire to use Ann Pelo’s practices of collaboration and presence with children and families and incorporate Richard Louv’s advice on the importance of connecting with children in the natural world.
The Preschool building is a freestanding cottage with a spacious play area at the back. Apart from Morning Meeting, which is structured group time, the children are allowed long periods of uninterrupted play, where they are able to choose what they want to do. Inside, we set up learning spaces they can go to Home Corner, the Construction Room, the Book and Puzzle Room or the Art and Craft room. Outside, they can play in the sand and water pit, in the garden, on the climbing frames, in the antique metal ball, in the outdoor digging area, or have a chat to the preschool’s guinea pig. Educators balance this free play with planned and spontaneous small group experiences throughout the day. Both internal and external areas are natural and homely, with special touches like family photos, natural colour schemes, in turn children feel responsible, calm and comfortable in a space that they can own.
Health and Wellbeing
We believe in supporting children to live healthy, active and fulfilling lives by caring for themselves and their environment. This message is woven through the program and the children’s daily routine in a myriad of ways including cooking healthy food, eating morning tea/lunch together as a community, practising yoga, and encouraging them to adopt habits to promote good hygiene. Our staff supports this by being healthy role models for the children and helping them to care for preschool environment too, particularly the Preschool’s guinea pig, kitchen garden, compost and worm farm.
Our educators are recognized as a vital part of our community and we value them as professionals and role models as they support the children’s learning. As a small preschool, we are very aware that the quality of staff and their ability to work as a team has an enormous impact on the effectiveness of our program. Our highly trained and experienced staff currently includes three university-trained Early Childhood Teachers, and a well-established support team of teacher’s aids. Each group has 24 children per day, and is taught by two Early Childhood Teachers and qualified educators.
There are many opportunities for families to engage with the Preschool and each other at Emmerick Street, which has always been a community based Preschool. The Preschool is managed by the Director and a volunteer parent Management Committee and we also welcome parents to come and share their skills with the children. All families are required to help at working bees and fundraisers, which are wonderful occasions for families to get to know staff and each other.
We aim for our Preschoolers to feel a “sense of belonging” to their broader community too. This is achieved through short outings within our community. Throughout the year, small groups of children visit host children’s houses for ‘home visits’, which supports childrento feel a greater sense of belonging as their friends and teachers get to know them better. We also have incursions where we welcome special guests, such as grandparents, artists or the fire brigade, to help the children understand the diversity and richness of the community to which they belong.
Our families are welcome to think of our philosophy as a living document, reflecting our changing community. Please feel free to contact Preschool with your feedback or ideas.