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Work and play makes students bright

A film crew from the National Science Foundation taped teachers and students at All Souls School last week that piloted a new curriculum focused on helping children reach their full potential.

The Englewood school’s early childhood center was one of three in the state—and the only Catholic school—chosen to unroll an interdisciplinary approach to learning for pre-kindergarten students.

“I see a huge difference with this approach,” said Sally Wallace, director of the school’s early childhood center. “This program has so much content in it and the kids are so engaged—they just love it. They can’t get enough.”

The Connect4Learning program, funded by the foundation and developed by researchers from colleges across the country including the University of Denver, is designed to intertwine academic lessons in math, science and literacy with a play-based format.

The film crew came to the school Nov. 17 to capture the program’s impact on students.

Over six-weeks, pre-kindergartners were taught to study the environment of a coral reef and compare and contrast it to the environment around the school.

Wallace explained the program is designed to demonstrate how teaching 4- and 5-year-olds does not need to be a decision between an academic approach or a play-based approach—it could be a combination of the two.

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“I think many programs just try to give simple information because they’re young,” Wallace explained. “We’re presenting it as a content-rich curriculum in a play-based format. We’re still representing the fact that young children learn through play, but we’re giving them a ton of content.”

The philosophy that each child has great potential fits the mission of Catholic schools that strive to educate the whole child, she said.

“It works all together,” Wallace said.

During filming, one 4-year-old girl relayed how she learned starfish are capable of regenerating their legs.

“They were very impressed,” Wallace said of the film crews. “They were blown away from what they were hearing from the kids.”

The students also learned about recycling and caring for the environment.

“The kids just love it and are so proud of everything they know,” she added.

Wallace said All Souls plans to use the program next year and apply it to all students in its early learning center.

The filming of the school will appear after Jan. 1 on the foundation’s online magazine Science Nation as part of a video series. Visit www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation for more information.


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