Life-derived Learning: a Play-inspired Early Education approach (executive summary)

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a Play-inspired Early Education approach based on Respect, Trust, Responsibility & Freedom

The Genesis of Life Derived Learning In a world of constant change, the call for educational innovation becomes a major demand. The traditional 'one size fits all' approaches are increasingly inadequate for the diverse landscape of our very young learners and the demand for new progressive models is high. This need for change was the catalyst that spurred the genesis of Life-derived learning, almost 12 years ago. We envisioned a school where play is at the center of the educational ethos of the community, where every every interaction and every little moment of joy may become a profound learning experience. The Life-derived learning is born from the belief that very young children, in their innate curiosity and wisdom, hold the keys to their educational journeys. Children are not empty vessels waiting to be filled but vibrant explorers eager to engage with the world around them. The principles of our approach emphasize that children have the right to be active participants in their own lives, make decisions, face challenges, and learn from them. It calls for an educational environment where children's voices are heard and instrumental in shaping their learning experiences. In this vision, teachers transform from mere dispensers of knowledge to facilitators, supporters, and co-learners. Moreover, the involvement of the community - parents, caregivers, and the neighborhood - is not just desired but essential, for it is only through collective effort we can genuinely nurture a holistic educational experience. We envisioned a school where children are academically, emotionally, socially, and morally prepared to engage with the complexities of the world they will live in. The Life-derived learning is more an a set of principles; It is a vision and a commitment to creating an environment where learning is organic, meaningful, and deeply connected to the real world. It's a call to recognize and honor the incredible potential within every child and to create a community of learners that thrives on mutual respect, collaboration, and shared growth through play.

The 11 principles of Life-derived learning 1.Children have the right to be accountable for their own life, from as early as possible. 2.We adults commit to: • Respect children' needs • Trust their capability of self-acting • Provide the necessary freedom to act. • Allow children to assume responsibility for their actions. • Use freely chosen, non-directed play as the main education element. 3. Children have the right to choose their play. 4. Children have the right to own as much as possible of their school life & make their own decisions. 5. School's obligation is to set a solid operating framework. Children on the other hand have a major saying in the establishment of this framework, by setting their own rules through democratic procedures. 6. Children are allowed and encouraged to play in real life conditions and discover world through their play. Normal risk-taking and experimenting are well encouraged. Children are allowed and encouraged to bring in class any real-world deriving issue. 7. Teachers are not in class to teach. Teachers are in class to assist children in their explorations and provide them with ideas and stimuli. 8. The will of the majority is always respected. On the other hand, no one may force minority to participate in a project or an activity decided by the majority of the class. There are always play alternatives for those who disagree. 9. Children are well allowed to enter into arguing and disputable situations during their class life. This is done on purpose, to allow them to recognize the problems and then set their own rules to solve them. Teachers in general do not intervene in a dispute but discuss in class afterwards and through open-ended questions enforce children to express themselves, describe the problem and form a solution. 10. Children are encouraged to express their feelings and discuss them openly in class. 11. Parent's involvement in school life is well encouraged, both on scheduled and on ad-hoc basis. School is utilizing parents' skills and ideas to enrich daily the experiences of children, while moms &dads improve their parenting skills by closely following school's life.

Life-derived learning is a philosophy of Play, Joy, Wonder and Care. Life-derived learning is a groundbreaking educational model, a distinctive blend of play, joy, wonder, and care. This innovative approach is deeply rooted in everyday experiences, transforming them into a vibrant, play-based learning environment. The focus of this model is not the academic achievement, but the cultivation of a holistic culture encouraging humanism, critical thinking, independence, responsibility & freedom. Play is at the core of this philosophy recognized as the natural language of learning. The power of play ignites curiosity and creativity encouraging exploration, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Within this context of play, children build essential personal and social skills, learn to overcome challenges, effect positive change in their communities, and make a lasting impact. We stand against the conventional education system for diminishing the role of play. Life Derived Learning model emphasizes autonomy, freedom, and learning through experience. Our model creates an environment that fosters the love of learning and creativity, preparing children more effectively for real life.

The characteristics of play: 1. Self-chosen, self-directed, intrinsically motivated: Children choose when, with whom, and how to play by following their own will 2. The process of play is more important than the outcome. 3. It's structured by mental rules: While play might seem unstructured, it's guided by rules defined by the child, which keep the play going. The importance of Joy cannot be overstated in this model. Our classrooms are filled with joy, safe havens for exploration, experimentation, debate, and, most importantly, wonder. A joyful learning environment nurtures engagement, motivation, and resilience, fostering a love for learning that lasts a lifetime.

Joy in learning is not merely about fun and entertainment; it's about deriving deep satisfaction from exploration, discovery, and creation. This form of joy fosters a positive relationship with learning, instilling a lifelong love for education. When children associate learning with pleasure, they are more likely to become lifelong learners, continuously seeking knowledge and personal growth. Furthermore, joy is essential for the holistic well-being of children. It promotes positive emotional health, reduces stress, and strengthens resilience. A joy-filled environment enables children to thrive, fostering their social, emotional, and cognitive development. By emphasizing joy in our curriculum, we aim to cultivate an atmosphere of positivity and optimism where every child feels valued, empowered, and inspired to reach their full potential.

Our model emphasizes Wonder, which serves as the spark to ignite the desire to understand the world. Wonder cultivates a deep appreciation for the complexities of life, promoting critical inquiry and learning beyond the surface. By fostering a sense of wonder, we enable children to delve deeper into their experiences, bolstering their critical thinking and scientific inquiry skills. In the context of our Life Derived Learning model, wonder is an indispensable element. Moreover, wonder cultivates an appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the natural world and human experiences. It encourages children to find joy in the ordinary, delight in the most minor details, and celebrate the vast diversity of life. By fostering a sense of wonder, we not only stimulate cognitive development but also contribute to our students' emotional and spiritual growth, nurturing empathetic, mindful, and reflective individuals. Care is a cornerstone in our model, highlighting our commitment to each child's emotional, social, and cognitive well-being. Our educators provide a nurturing and empathetic environment, working in collaboration with families to support the growth and well-being of their children. Care extends beyond classroom, encompassing a commitment to work collaboratively with families to support their child's growth and well-being. As educators, we demonstrate care by listening to children, understanding their needs, respecting their feelings, and responding with empathy and kindness. We see every interaction as an opportunity to express care, fostering a sense of belonging and security. In practicing care, we not only meet the immediate needs of our students but also model the compassion and kindness we hope to instill in them, cultivating a community of learners who care for themselves, others, and the world around them.

Our Guiding Words: Respect, Trust, Responsibility, Freedom, Democracy, Inclusion & Community Seven words serve as powerful beacons, illuminating our path in every aspect of our educational program. These words are not merely concepts or ideals; they are the deeply ingrained principles that shape our everyday practice, informing our decisions, our interactions, and the experiences we create for our young learners. Incorporating these Guiding Words as core values instills a shared understanding of our purpose, mission, and the principles we uphold. They create a common language that unifies our team, students, and families, fostering a strong, cohesive community that shares a collective vision. These Guiding Words also play a crucial role in shaping our students' experiences and learning journeys. They help us to develop a learning environment that not only fosters academic growth but also encourages emotional and social development. They serve as a compass for our educators, guiding an environment that promotes the holistic well-being of every child. Nurturing thoughtful, compassionate, and proactive learners ready to make their unique mark on the world. Furthermore, these Guiding Words underpin our commitment to the development of character and citizenship among our students. By embedding these values into our curriculum and pedagogy, we equip our young learners with the skills, attitudes, and understandings they need to thrive in a diverse, interconnected, and rapidly changing world. In our educational context, Respect encompasses a multifaceted understanding of the value and worth of all individuals. For our young learners, respect means acknowledging and appreciating the uniqueness of themselves and others, including their peers, teachers, and families. It's about honoring differences in opinions, abilities, and cultures, fostering a sense of empathy and compassion. Respect also extends to the environment, teaching children| the importance of caring for their surroundings and understanding their role in preserving them. We, as educators, model respect by listening to children's voices, acknowledging their feelings, and valuing their contributions. Trust, within our educational model, involves creating a safe, nurturing environment where children feel secure to express themselves, take risks, and explore their interests. Trust si about believing in the abilities and potential of our young learners, giving them the confidence to learn and grow at their own pace. We build trust through consistent, supportive interactions and by being responsive to children's needs and feelings. Trust fosters honest, open communication within our learning community, including children, families and educators.

In the context of early childhood education, Responsibility is about fostering a sense of ownership and accountability in children for their actions, choices, and environment. Even at a young age, children can learn the importance of fulfilling personal obligations, like taking care of their belongings, contributing to group activities, and acknowledging the natural consequences of their actions. Responsibility also extends to their role as community members, teaching them the importance of being reliable, respectful, and considerate towards others. As educators, we model responsibility and provide opportunities for children to practice ti in meaningful, age-appropriate ways. Our educational model refers to the autonomy and independence we grant our young learners in their learning journey. It's about providing children the space to explore their interests, make choices, and express their ideas and feelings. Freedom fosters creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills as children learn through exploration and play. However, freedom is not without boundaries; it's balanced with guidance and structure to ensure the well-being and safety of all. We, as educators, support children's freedom by offering a stimulating, resource-rich environment where children feel empowered to direct their learning while providing the necessary support and scaffolding to aid their development. From our perspective Democracy is about nurturing the sense of participation, equality, and fairness among our young learners. It's about modeling for children the value of their voice, helping them understand that their opinions and ideas matter. Democracy means fostering a community where everyone is respected and heard, and decisions are made collectively. Children learn about democracy through experiences promoting sharing, turn- taking, and cooperative problemsolving, understanding that everyone has a role in their classroom community. Moreover, they are encouraged to express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas openly, knowing they will be valued and considered. As educators, we model democratic principles by involving children in decisionmaking processes, like setting class rules or planning activities, and by creating an environment that values diversity, inclusivity, and mutual respect. Through these experiences, children understand democratic values and learn to appreciate the importance of active participation, collaboration, and respect for others ni their communities. Inclusion Central to democracy is the principle of Inclusion, embodying our unwavering commitment to creating an environment where every individual, irrespective of their abilities, challenges, backgrounds, or experiences, feels valued, respected, and actively engaged. We understand that each child, family member, and educator bring unique strengths, perspectives, and experiences that enrich our collective learning journey. Inclusion is about meaningful participation, voice, and a

sense of belonging. It's about fostering a culture where differences are celebrated, and everyone feels empowered to be their authentic self. As educators, we strive to provide differentiated support, recognizing and addressing the diverse needs of our learners. We collaborate with families, understanding their aspirations, concerns, and insights, to co-create learning experiences that resonate with each child's unique identity. Our curriculum, pedagogy, and interactions are infused with sensitivity, empathy, and adaptability, ensuring that every member of our community feels seen, heard, and cherished. Through our commitment to Inclusion, we aim to cultivate a generation of learners who value diversity, practice empathy, and are equipped to thrive in an interconnected world, embodying the spirit of Life Derived Learning in its truest sense. In our Life Derived Learning approach, Community represents the interconnected web of relationships that form the basis of our educational environment. It encompasses not only the children, educators, and families within our institution but also extends to our wider local community and even the global world. Every member of our community, no matter how young or old, has valuable contributions to make and lessons to learn from others. We actively involve families and community members in our educational process, inviting them to share their knowledge, experiences, and cultures, which enriches our learning environment. We also strive to build strong connections with local institutions, organizations, and businesses to provide children with real-world learning experiences that help them understand the concept of community and their role. Education is not an isolated process confined within the walls of our institution, but a collaborative journey that flourishes best when the whole community actively engages. Parents, in this panorama, are not merely onlookers but esteemed partners who bring invaluable perspectives, experiences, and aspirations. Transparent, consistent, and meaningful communication forms the bedrock of this partnership. Through regular interactions, meetings, and shared platforms, we ensure that parents are always in sync with their child's educational journey, and we stay informed regarding child's experiences outside school's environment. This dialogue is a bridge that connects home and school, fostering mutual understanding and shared objectives, with the child's holistic development at its heart.

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