STEP BY STEP PROGRAM
The main activity is connected with the implementation of the educational Step by Step Program.
The Step by Step Program curriculum is developed by authors from the Children's Resources International, the University in Georgetown, Washington DC, USA. The Program philosophy is based mainly on the theoretical concepts of Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson and Lev S. Vygotsky for the development of the personality.
The main idea is to provide favorable conditions for the children to enjoy their childhood and to be prepared for the challenges of the XXI century.
The Step by Step Program works for accomplishing the following goals:
To create an environment for learning through play on the basis of mutual respect and democratic principles;
To form conditions for the accomplishment of creative imagination, making choice and critical thinking skills;
To form skills for independent problem finding and problem solving;
To stimulate skills for socializing in a small or in a larger group;
To provide continuity and activities related to the rate of the child's development;
To provide conditions for the children to acquire scientific, practical and moral skills and responsibility, so that they would be successful members of a democratic society.
The major components of the Program (individualization, right of choice in the activity centers, family participation) are fulfilled through activities that stimulate the social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of the children.
Emphasizing the individualization means acknowledgment of and respect for the developmental stage of each child and creating an environment and appropriate activities that would provide challenges, emotional balance and success.
The pedagogical team creates an environment that stimulates the child's development and is appropriate to his/her personality, learning style, model and rate of growth, and specific family environment.
The individualization is achieved through specially designed internal and external pedagogical environment, where the activity centers are arranged to encourage the right of choice, independence and responsibility.
In each center there is a variety of equipment and materials, adequate to the interests, needs and each child's level of development. Thus each center becomes a laboratory for the child's initiative, creativity and imagination.
The Family Center helps the children to understand their world and through roles, actions and objects to get a notion of the adults' world and to develop social, emotional and cognitive skills.
The Literacy and the Mathematics Centers develop the children's creative imagination and communication skills by encouraging them to make up interesting stories, to create their own books and to dramatize. There the children master the secrets of the mathematical knowledge and the initial economic thinking.
The creative and the artistic perception and reflection the world are carried out in the Arts Center. The variety of materials and activities provokes the imagination, the intellectual and social energy, and thus makes the children's life more interesting and exciting.
The Manipulatives and the Block Centers provoke the creativity, increase the ability for independent problem solving, form intellectual skills and improve the fine motor skills.
The Science Center develops observation and prediction skills, and encourages experiments with different materials. The children get acquainted with the surrounding world through investigating and exploring natural and physical objects and phenomena. The center stimulates the innovative thinking, the intellect, the communication and the research behavior.
The Sand and Water Center provides a lot of delightful opportunities for developing the children's intellectual and physical skills. There they can acquire sensory experiences, make creative decisions and generate valuable ideas about the surrounding world in an easy and emotional way.
The Cooking Center is very attractive and engaging for the children. Realistic conditions for carrying out recipes are provided there. The children can acquire table manners and some knowledge of a healthy way of living. The using of diverse products develops the cuisine knowledge, the mathematical thinking and the basis of the science knowledge.
This Program is based on the concept that the families have a great impact on their children and they are their first teachers. That is why their participation in the work of the kindergartens and schools is made possible and supported. Creating the Family room gives the parents the opportunity to meet the teachers for information and consultations as well as to share experience with other families. The interaction and the voluntary partnership between the pedagogical team, the children and the families are of great importance. Due to their special knowledge, skills and hobbies, the families' members are useful for the development of the children. This fact contributes to a rich and full-value communication and cooperation between children and adults.
CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
A new aspect of the development of Step by Step Program is training the preschool and primary teachers to work with children with disabilities. The real needs of the pedagogical practice and the need for a humane treatment of the children and their families have drawn the attention to this problem. The experience and the observations of the specialists who work with children with disabilities undoubtedly support the idea that including them in the mainstream schools is very good for their socialization.
The main emphasis in training the preschool and primary teachers is on:
Studying the children's needs and preparing individual plans for work;
Adapting the children to the environment and social adaptation;
Individual approach to the families of the children with disabilities;
Overcoming social prejudice concerning the integration of children with disabilities in the mainstream schools.