Our Distinguishing Features
Each child is viewed as a strong, capable, resilient, curious citizen with great potential. Children arrive prepared with amazing skills! As educators we facilitate and support the revelation of these skills through our developmentally appropriate curriculum, from first to sixth grade. Inspired by their own interests, exploration and wonder, children have ample opportunities to become a successful community of learners.
The most recognizable feature of Reggio pedagogy is the use of the environment as the third educator, following parents and teachers. The center-based environments are rich with stimuli and related opportunities, contributing to the quality of experiences for both children and the adults involved in the school. The environments prompt communication and relationships thus inspiring an extraordinary social exchange.
Our outdoor environments truly unite us in collaboration with nature! Our playground’s intentional design encourages skill development in a variety of domains concurrently resulting in dynamic, nature-based play and learning spaces that allow for whole-child learning. The natural beauty and serene atmosphere serves as an antidote to the sometimes frantic world of children. Our students and teachers spend much of their day learning from and within outdoor classrooms.
In collaboration, the child, teacher and parents along with the community are all active in the learning process in an authentic way. Each “player” is a rich natural resource available to support the education of each child and one another. Through a very powerful documentation process we are able to continuously detail an account of each child’s learning journey. Teachers use an assortment of documentation methods resulting in a portfolio with artwork, photos, writing samples, progress reports, completed projects and quotes from the child.
Our curriculum offers opportunities for bilingual and multicultural experiences. In keeping with Reggio approach, and acknowledging our unique geographic and cultural context, we incorporate Spanish language and Mexican traditions into our daily programming. Students are exposed to the repetitive rudiments of the Spanish language through greetings, prayers, songs, books, stories, natural routines and new vocabulary. The benefits of dual language are directly related to higher brain development, flexible thinking skills, higher intelligence levels and cultural, racial and religious tolerance and understanding.
Music produces “beautiful”, “tuneful”, and “artful” children. The ability to keep a steady beat is vital to language and motor development. The ability to match pitch creates an inner-voice, which is vital to intellectual development. And finally a shared experience that promotes healthy emotions, and builds a sense of beauty is the “art” part of music classes. In a society that seems increasingly disconnected and individualistic, music at our school emphasizes positive feelings and belonging.
Technology has a respected place in our curriculum as a tool that students, teachers and parents use collaboratively to discover new things and document the learning
Nine Virtuous Roots: The roots of a tree connect it to the earth, hold it upright, and provide it with nourishment to grow. In the same way, our core values connect us to our communities, help us to make good choices, and provide nourishment for our spiritual and emotional growth. The nine virtues we emphasize at First Presbyterian Elementary School come from the Christian Bible, but have been embraced and practiced by people of good character in many traditions. These virtues extend beyond the classroom and take root in the conversations, interactions, and decisions of our wider community–parents, teachers and students alike. In this way, we are all connected, all nourished, all growing, teaching and learning together.
Love – Everyone is valuable, beautiful, important. We care about each other and we try to take care of each other.
Joy – We like to laugh, smile, and play. It’s okay to be sad sometimes, but we look for happiness and try to share it.
Peace – We try to solve our problems in a way that works for everyone, respects everyone, and helps everyone.
Patience – Growing and learning take time. We wait for each other and we forgive each other, again and again and again.
Kindness – We are friendly and nice to everyone we meet, and try to treat other people the way we want to be treated.
Goodness – We do what’s right, and try to see the best in the people and things around us.
Faithfulness – We keep our promises and our commitments, and try to tell the truth.
Gentleness – We are careful and thoughtful, and try not to cause any harm with our words or with our bodies.
Self-Control – We are responsible for decisions, and we try to think before we speak or act.
Our Guiding Principles
In the Reggio Emilia Approach, there is a coined expression, “A child has a hundred languages.” The approach unites and develops all languages-innovation, nature, construction, fantasy, art, music, dance, building, writing, talking, signing, science, body, and soul. The multiple languages are used to help children build knowledge and understand the world around them.
The guiding principles of Reggio Emilia at FPE include:
- Considering children as collaborators, communicators, and protagonists
- Considering the teacher in several roles: as the nurturer, partner, guide, researcher and advocate in their relationship with each child
- Respecting the foundation of cooperation and collaboration
- Using the environment as the “third teacher”
- Addressing parents as partners
- Considering documentation as a facet of communication
Our Educational Approach
As an elementary program, we research a variety of curricula, gathering tools and resources that we believe better support the way children learn. As a Reggio Emilia inspired school, we do not abide by one single theory or curriculum; instead, we use what best supports differentiated learning and a variety of learning styles. Likewise, our teachers, classrooms, materials, tools, and spaces support the diverse needs of our students. This means that teachers will incorporate drama, art, constructing, reading, music, outdoor activities, and speech into each day of learning. By using a variety of techniques and expressive opportunities, teachers ensure that each child’s way of absorbing information will be touched upon whether they are visual, auditory, tactile, or active learners. Our teachers guide children’s learning through careful listening, observation, and documentation of work, as they engage with one another and develop a classroom community.
Children construct their own knowledge through intentionally planned curriculum that engages and builds upon a child’s current knowledge, recognizing that knowledge cannot simply be provided for the child. Our curriculum, often emergent in nature, is based on the interests of the children. Emergent curriculum requires that teachers actively observe, seek out and chase the interests of the children. This kind of teaching environment demands a high degree of trust in the teacher’s creative abilities and embraces an image of the child as a capable, competent seeker of knowledge. Our teachers ensure that creativity and innovation are always present; although our thriving classrooms require organization and routines, the learning experience is never inflexible and rarely routine.
At FPE, we are guided, but not bound, by the Texas State Standards. Our students reach and go beyond these standards through meaningful and significant experiences where skills are applied in context. We integrate all fields of knowledge (math, science, social studies, language arts/reading/writing, music, technology, physical education, art, theatre, etc.). We do not separate one from another as they are all naturally connected in life. Our students see these connections in concrete ways through the experiences, research, and projects that they are involved in every day.
Projects are regarded as adventures into learning and they can last anywhere from one week to the entire school year! These projects help to build the foundations of study and independent research, through topics inspired by the students’ curiosity. Our students work collaboratively, individually, in pairs, and with the teachers through a process of trial and error, discussion, and elaboration of theories, learning from each other throughout. Group work includes different approaches toward the same investigation so that all students have an access point and are allowed to share their perspective with others. Our students are encouraged to express their opinions and ideas through discussion, critique, comparison, negotiation, and problem-solving.
Beyond the Textbook
Textbooks are used as another resource rather than as a set guide. Students and teachers use them as a tool for further research to support ongoing experiences. In our school, we have access to a wide variety of quality resources, tools, spaces, and materials that support our analysis and enhance investigations beyond a textbook. Some of these include library and research center computers, iPads, science equipment, musical instruments, field trips, guest field experts, etc. There are multiple tools for learning including paint, objects from nature, loose parts, mathematics manipulatives, blocks and other construction activities.
Both our indoor and outdoor environments are thoughtfully prepared to evoke students’ curiosity, discovery, inquiry and relationships. The whole child is considered in our environment development, with intent to honor all learning styles and cultivate a deep sense of belonging.
The Role of Parents
We value parents as participants in their child’s learning process. Their involvement in the school gives their children a sense of security and is deeply appreciated. This lends itself to having parents be role models for their children and providing them an authentic incentive for learning.
Observations, self-reflections, interviews, parent-teacher conferences, documentation, and formative assessments, which include written and oral assessments, are some of the different ways in which we evaluate our students’ progress and learning processes.
Because students in a Reggio Emilia elementary school are not just using repetition, speech, and essay writing to learn, but instead using all of their senses, they produce evidence of learning through a variety of media. To understand children and the way they learn, teachers work diligently to document all aspects of the learning process. From daily journals, child specific observations, and children’s artwork, all moments are considered pieces of the process and are made visible in the classroom for revisiting and reflection. Teachers, parents, and children alike can view their thinking and their learning process through documentation.
Our students achieve not only academic success but also develop essential skills and tools for life. They encounter experiences that promote confidence, independence, collaboration, self-assurance, and self-awareness, nurturing life skills and empowering them to navigate the many challenges they will face as they grow. We invite them to speak up, to respect different opinions and thoughts, and to have empathy towards those around them. We encourage them to research answers from various sources, to learn from their mistakes, to redefine failure as opportunity, and to celebrate milestone achievements both individually and as a community. Social-emotional development is the backbone of every person’s learning evolution. At FPE, we empower our students to build a strong social-emotional foundation that will allow them to confront any situation in their lives.
As all teachers and parents know, there is a big difference between what a child is capable of doing and what a child is willing to do. You cannot teach someone who does not want to learn or someone who does not believe he or she can learn. If we want to promote the hunger for learning, then we should create environments in which students and teachers feel safe to venture beyond what is already known – environments that reflect our values and celebrate students and teachers as uniquely creative individuals.
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1340 Murchison Drive
El Paso, TX, United States