LITTLE WONDERS LEARNING CENTER

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LITTLE WONDERS LEARNING CENTER
002houston December 10_002houston 2/25/11 9:27 AM Page 30
LITTLE WONDERS LEARNING CENTER
4743 Lexington Blvd. | Missouri City, TX 77459 | 281.208.9545
[email protected] | www.littlewondersschool.com
By Sarah Gajkowski-Hill
Photography by Jill Hunter
S
O MANY PARENTS COMPLAIN THAT, WITH THE
ADVENT OF TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTRONICS THAT
HAVE REPLACED OLD-FASHIONED GAMES AND WITH
THE SPEED OF EVERYTHING GAINING MOMENTUM EACH
SECOND, THEY ARE AFRAID THAT KIDS AREN’T REALLY
ALLOWED TO EXPERIENCE BEING A KID ANYMORE. IT’S A
WHOLE OTHER WORLD AT LITTLE WONDERS LEARNING
CENTER IN THE MISSOURI CITY/ SUGAR LAND AREA. THE DAYCARE CENTER AND PRIMARY SCHOOL IS BASED ON THE
REGGIO EMILIA APPROACH TO LEARNING. DEVELOPED IN
THE ITALIAN VILLAGES SURROUNDING THE AFFLUENT TOWN
OF REGGIO EMILIA AFTER WORLD WAR II, THE CONCEPTS OF
RESPECT, COMMUNITY AND RESPONSIBILITY ARE INCORPORATED INTO A SELF-GUIDED CURRICULUM WHERE CHILDREN
ARE THE LEADERS AND THE WELL-EDUCATED TEACHERS ARE
THE FACILITATORS.
The Reggio Emilia approach is one of full integration of all of a
child’s learning styles, including kinesthetic, emotional and moral.
The programming director at Little Wonders, Maryam Lumpkin,
demonstrates how one child’s curiosity can determine an entire
unit of study for a classroom of toddlers. If a child sees a butterfly on the way to school and discusses it with their classmates and teachers, the adults incorporate the theme
into several projects. For instance, one such activity may be a round table discussion of butterfly attributes
and its life cycle in a scientific context. Next, butterfly artwork may be created by all the children who are
interested while some of the children instead spend time categorizing the butterflies and making note of the
similarities and differences between butterflies, dragonflies and moths. Afterwards, all the young children
dress up in butterfly wings and spend their playground time “being” butterflies in the school’s garden.
Another example is when the students in the toddler class began talking about feelings. Since Halloween was
near and they were also learning about jack o’ lanterns, the children themselves decided to make a pumpkin patch with jack o’ lanterns each painted and displaying a different emotion on the face.
Another program that incorporates the senses and is very appreciated by tactile learners is an early childhood approach to cooking. Learning about seasonal foods lets the children explore all types of recipes such
as pumpkin pie in the fall and gingerbread in the winter. The children, under close supervision, do the actual cooking themselves in the classroom and sometimes even perform on their
own “cooking show.” Often, the garden at the school provides the raw materials for their tasty treats. A green approach to living is evident in the artwork
that decorates the bright, cheery foyer of the Learning Center – children are
very encouraged to ask questions about nature and the way things work. The
children feel they are a part of helping the world – for instance, donating their
own pennies to saving a polar bear and composting for their garden. With
literacy programs, a partnership with the Language Factory next door, whose
employees teach Spanish to the children once a week, and a top-of-the-line
art program, the little ones at Little Wonders are learning to appreciate the
world and what it has to offer on many levels.
Parents are a huge part of the curriculum development at Little Wonders, and
the teachers keep up a constant conversation with them through a unique
30. december 10 | www.002mag.com
blogspot which is updated often with pictures of all the
classrooms and daily activities. One such blog shows the
toddlers taking care of their “babies” – a daily routine
where baby dolls are “fed” breakfast. During the Halloween
season, children design their very own costumes and parents shop for the materials and bring them into the Center.
There they are sewn and pieced together as per the “plans”
the children drew themselves. And during the Winter
International Festival, parents talk with their children about
their background and ancestry. Each family designs a snowman that is dressed up in clothes depicting their family’s
nationality. They bring special dishes from each of their
backgrounds while kids play in 10,000 pounds of snow.
The family feel of a program such as this requires
closeness in the staff members. Lumpkin, along
with her sisters, aunt and mother, are the primary
program creators. Combined they have backgrounds in education, bilingual education and
even business. To maintain the intimacy of the
school, slow growth is required, so the numbers
of students are limited. Still, the program, consisting currently of five classrooms, extends its arms
to new members. Positive guidance and the
piqued interest of the child still reign in this beautiful program.

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