Will it be easy for my child to transition to a regular curriculum after attending CIJS?

Yes. We give our students the tools they need to solve problems through the use of higher level thinking, rather than by rote memorization. When students are interested in what they are learning and taught the process of problem solving, then they actually understand content, which allows them to solve problems in any situation.

Will my child be able to sit at a desk for long periods of time in later grades, after not having been accustomed to doing so at CIJS?

Yes. It is difficult and developmentally inappropriate for young children to sit at desks for long periods of time in any environment, but from our curriculum they will gain the skills and knowledge to succeed in upper grades. Sitting down all day may be difficult regardless of where they go to preschool. With that being said, CIJS does have periods of the day when students are participating in circle time and/or other activities that require focusing and sitting still.

In addition, social skills are essential to future success and need to be taught from a young age. Because CIJS is allowing students to interact in a slightly less formal group setting, not only are children able to learn conflict resolution, but they profit from peer teaching that they will not get if they are silenced or asked to sit at single desks. In order to learn to use higher level thinking skills, students need to engage in question/answer problem-solving, while participating in experiments or group projects that allow them to think through the process of a task.

What does interdisciplinary mean?

Interdisciplinary means that several subjects are integrated into single projects. Rather than dividing lessons into “reading, spelling, writing, social studies and math,” all of these are integrated into every project. For example, this lesson on the solar system (included in the Project Base example section) incorporates all of the subjects, applying them in a meaningful way to the topic.

What are the benefits of having subject areas integrated instead of having designated times for math, reading, writing, social studies and science?

When subjects are integrated, they are presented in a meaningful way, just as they occur in real-world problem solving. Teaching subjects in isolated groupings, artificially divides them, and students have no opportunity to learn how all subjects interact in every applied context.

Do you have a daily schedule?

Yes, our students have designated periods of the day for breakfast, snacks, lunch, and nap. We also have time frames set aside for project-based learning.

How often will my child get to go outside?

Our students go outside several times a day. Our playground is a true outdoor classroom, which our students help design, so that it has personal meaning for them. They participate in the “Wonder of Learning” through project-based activities such as making water walls, music walls, art, dance, theatre, practicing the idea of positional words as they “go between the tires”, etc.

My child needs structure; does your school have a structured environment?

Yes. CIJS has a structured curriculum, but it is structured differently from other schools. All of our teachers prepare daily lesson plans that ensure our children will be challenged and meet or exceed the goals for their developmental levels. Teachers plan how they will engage students in higher level thinking. Prompting questions are strategically planned daily. These plans are also structured to enhance children’s natural curiosity, and place them on the path to lifelong learning. Students at CIJS take part in this structure every day.

Do you use State standards at your school?

Yes. CIJS uses the same State standards as other schools, but we approach the standards in a completely different manner. Children at CIJS master the standards by engaging in projects stemming from students’ interests. As teachers guide students through lessons, they continually refer back to the state standards.

How will I know all of the standards are being covered if CIJS does not utilize regular written exams?

CIJS uses several forms of documentation to assess student performance. Teachers communicate with parents virtually every day through newsletters and pictures. Teachers document student performance while interacting with students during their projects. In addition, each child has his or her own portfolio, reports are given out quarterly, and there are two parent conferences each year.

Reggio Emilia is a very different approach to teaching, how do you train your teachers?

Collaborating is one of the most important aspects of a Reggio Inspired Curriculum. CIJS has developed relationships with other Reggio schools all over the country. We have regular professional development sessions through Skype, teachers from other Reggio schools come to our campus, and CIJS takes our staff to other Reggio inspired schools. Our school belongs to the NAREA organization (North America Reggio Emilia Alliance), with whom we collaborate and attend professional conferences. We also have an in-house pedagogical team of educators who hold professional development sessions on a regular basis. In addition, our staff has daily planning time; they attend weekly professional development sessions, and monthly staff meetings.

How does CIJS serve lunch?

We have family based dining in our classrooms for all ages, including infants. Meals are an important time for learning socialization and self-help skills. CIJS students learn to self-serve at a young age.

How Does Reggio Inspired Curriculum Stimulate Infant Development?

  • Infants need both experience-expectant and experience-dependent stimulation

Some developmental skills (walking, as an example) develop normally based only on the experience that any child can be expected to receive from life on earth. Unless a child is kept in a box or closet those skills will develop. Other skills, though, are dependent upon specific types of stimulation in order to develop at all. These include skills in problem-solving, art and music, as examples. The level of facility that children develop in these areas is heavily dependent upon early experiences.

  • Global cognition is enhanced by stimulation in specific sense modalities

The benefit a child receives from stimulation in a particular sense modality is not limited only to skills directly connected with that area. Early exposure to and participation with complex music, visual experiences or multiple languages facilitates development not only in music or art or language ability, but results in an enhanced ability to think and understand more generally.

  • There are sensitive periods for particular types of brain stimulation in infancy

There are periods of time in children’s development when specific areas of the brain develop most easily and effectively. The sensitive period for language development, for example, is during the second and third years of life. Specific experiences with language also during this period form the basis for the child’s later ability to write and speak fluently. Likewise, experiences in infant development form the basis for taking advantage of the later period of language growth. For example, the infant vocalizes (coos), and the teacher responds (“What sweet sounds you are making with your very own little voice.”), then she is quiet and waits for the infant to vocalize again, after which she provides a response. This early “turn-taking” forms the basis for later pragmatic conversational skills.

The Reggio curriculum is based upon an understanding of these and other principles of development, and is designed to provide the infant with experiences that stimulate (but do not overwhelm) all five senses. Planned activities promote the coordination of these sense experiences to facilitate cognitive development.

Likewise, Reggio consciously provides experiences that allow the growing infant to learn to manage his or her changing emotions, and it fosters both curiosity and cooperation.

Some examples are:

  • High contrast visual stimulation in both form and color
  • Experiences with mirrors and reflection
  • Introduction of a variety of coordinated sounds and textures
  • Adequate space and opportunity for exploration

Our teachers are educated professionals who understand infants’ developmental needs, are sensitive to individual differences in infants’ tolerance for stimulation, and are willing to provide the responsive attention and physical holding that make a baby’s adjustment to out-of-home care easy and productive.

Lynda L. Crane, PhD