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Child care center offers educational curriculum

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A group of four-year-olds are jumping up and down, delighted that they will be playing a game that involves brightly colored balls. Most children would be excited to do this activity, but what these children do not know is that they will be learning too. They attend Harbor Child Care in Glen Cove, which is committed to using The Creative Curriculum, a course of study with clearly defined educational objectives to prepare children for kindergarten.

Children are taught to be independent thinkers utilizing structured educational programing, but are also able to follow their interests and individual needs.

The program was brought to the center by Executive Director Dr. Arnold Goldberg, a former superintendent for the Merrick School District who has been in the field of education for 46 years.

“When we opened a year and a half ago we became committed to seeing ourselves become an educational agency like a school district, opposed to a day care center,” Goldberg explained. “The nurturing, warm atmosphere is maintained here but we also have a curriculum. Every teacher and administrator has a set of the materials that come with The Creative Curriculum.”

The days of bringing home practice worksheets to show mom are gone, or at least they are at Harbor Child Care.

“Everything I did when I was growing up did not involve play,” said Liz Russo, a teacher who is working on a unit with a group of 4 and 5-year olds that focuses on building. “The parents expect worksheets and memorization, an outdated [educational] practice. Everything we do here has educational content without the worksheets, including social studies, math, science and literacy.”

The children in Russo’s class are holding computer generated photographs of a familiar building, including one of McDonald’s. “What kind of building is this,” Russo asks, referring to the McDonald’s photograph. “A restaurant,” the children answer with confidence. “How do you know it is a McDonald’s?”

Then she points to the big “M” on the sign and then the conversation switches to a comparison between large and small buildings. That’s the mathematics component of the lesson.

“We will be reading a book later too — “The Three Little Pigs,” Russo said. “We will discuss what can be used to build buildings and if I can find a local construction worker to come by with his tools they will also get some firsthand experience of building. On another day, they will build with cardboard boxes.”

The teachers all receive professional development to assist them in teaching The Creative Curriculum. The units’ center on expanding children’s critical thinking skills, ability to analyze information and their vocabulary.

“Eighty percent of cognitive brain growth is complete at nine months,” Goldberg said. “And the children here are learning with other children, so when they do go to kindergarten it isn’t culture shock.”

Goldberg said they are working to increase the technology available at the center too. “We’d like to see the four-year-olds be able to do computer programming so they are ready for kindergarten, but that doesn’t mean they will be looking at a device all day,” he explained.

Maggie Orellana’s class of four-year-olds are near the end of the unit on balls. All the various unit’s activities that the children have participated in over the six-week period are brought out today for them to enjoy.

By kicking a soccer ball, they are working on their gross motor skills; tossing a ball to each other improves their eye and muscle coordination. Orellana said she is always searching for new lessons to engage the children. “Sometimes I’m home sleeping and I’ll wake up with an idea,” she said smiling. “I need to be creative.”

Orellana has created a book that chronicles the children participating in the different activities during the ball unit. They appear engaged in the photographs — and happy.