At University Preschool, our principles are grounded in research on child development, education, health, and family. The links to the right will take you to specific research articles relevant to each of our principles.
Finding a balance between healthy, nutritious meals and meals that children are willing to eat is often an ongoing battle. By modeling and encouraging nutritious eating habits, children are taught important tools for a lifetime of healthy living. We believe that integrating a child into the food preperation process is key to developing an excitement and interest of the food served on a plate during mealtime. This means kids are encouranged to hand-pick fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the garden, help plan the menu for a week's worth of snacks and entrees, and actually participate in the mixing, measuring, and cooking of food in the kitchen. All food prepared follows USDA's dietary guidelines for children and is made from organic and whole grain products when possible.
Learning is often categorized into four primary styles. Learning through seeing, learning through hearing, learning through discussion, and learning through doing. While each of these methods are unique and bring about different advantages to the student and teacher, none brings about quite the same level of understanding as does learning through doing. This type of action learning is craved by developing infants and children, attempting to create connections in the world around them and identify cause-effect relationships. By actively participating in learning series, children are able to retain more information and put their new knowledge and understanding to the test.
Ellen's thesis project for her Master's of Education focused on building out a classroom curriculum based on the engagement principles of action learning. Her thesis curriculum was built for high school, but the underlying design applies to all education levels.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
According to research conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research, gardening in schools can have a profound impact in providing children the necessary skills to reach their full potential. This research shows that the practical, hands-on nature of gardening allows children to become more active, flexible thinkers who are better able to meet life’s challenges.
Further, when children are exposed during early in life to germs and pathogens such as those found outside in soil, their risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood, a precursor to heart attacks and strokes, is reduced. Additionally, making direct contact with soil, whether through gardening, digging for worms, or making mud pies has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and facilitate learning.
Pet Care and Play
Research led by Susan Lynch, PhD at UCSF and Nicholas Lukacs, PhD at the University of Michigan has revealed that children growing up in households with pets have a reduced risk of developing allergies and asthma. Dogs bring in dust and the associated microbes as they pass in and out of the house. This leads to more diversity in the microbiota of children in the household. Some of these microbes are proving to be key in regulating the child's immune system so they are less likely to overreact to allergens, and therefore less likely to develop allergies and asthma.