Often, with toddlers and especially older children, our continued focus on a particular interest, topic, material, or process will become more involved, last longer, have more elements included, and draw in more people or things. That’s when we start thinking that we have evolved into a project.
If we know ahead of time that many of these elements will be involved, we can say that we will start a project. Even so, projects usually begin and evolve organically.
We remain open to and supportive of each child in expressing their inclinations, interests, and fascinations, and pursuing them wherever they might lead the child and their learning group. The Inquiry Approach is also always a central part of projects at C5.
We continually try to anticipate where a child or their learning group might go with their exploration and suggest to parents how they and we might work together to support the developing project. These suggestions appear regularly in each classroom’s flexible Weekly Plans that are posted in each classroom’s forum on our private website.
The project evolves over time, may change course, may develop temporary or permanent branches of interest and exploration, and may bring in unusual resources that may be pursued in very different locales.
Our use of the project approach is a powerful learning model, because it allows for each child to participate in their own way and their own time, take time away from the main project when they wish, and develop the skills, insights, and experiences that they want when they are most ready for them. Then, they can build on that basis to advance surely and securely to the next step.
As a result of our overall philosophy and practices, including the Project Approach, children who graduate from C5 routinely meet and exceed the typical standards for learning and development that are expected for entering kindergarten. In addition, they have exceptional self-confidence, self-sufficiency, high self-esteem, can adapt to various settings outside of C5. They love learning and are powerful individual learners, effective team members, and conscientious community contributors.
Examples of Projects
Light, Shadow, Colors, and Reflections — These non-intrusive experiences were available to the infants to engage when they wanted, and they lasted many days with a variety of materials and equipment provided by parents and staff members.
For Young Toddlers
Boxes and Mazes — Their interest in boxes lasted several weeks and culminated in a gradually growing maze that they delighted in building and exploring.
Vehicles — They explored and made a variety of vehicles in different sizes and shapes, from race cars, to passenger cars, to school buses. They sat in them a lot and tried each others’ often.
Rockets and Space Travel — They researched and built a 6′ high rocket with complex control panels, antennae, communications devices, and other elements that were meaningful to them. They also designed and made and clothing for outer space.
Cooking and Canning — One group got interested in cooking and did so often. They evolved into canning and made dozens of jars of various canned goods. Pickles were their favorite, and they served them often at school-wide events. On one occasion, they set up a table to display their wares and explained thorough posters, demonstration, and dialogue with passersby how they made and canned the pickles.