Climate and Competencies
Growth and learning are facilitated by our external and internal climates. Therefore, we need to pay close attention to both our experiences and interactions with our environment as well as our internal belief systems. Since the potential for cognitive development depends on the "zone of proximal development“ (Vygotsky), environment is an essential learning component. For example, in order to build stronger muscles for creativity, the environment should support experimentation and risk-taking, require elaboration and promote resilience and a healthy relationship with failure, Also, at the same time, the child should believe that creativity is a worthy endeavor.
- A seeker has to be enchanted by the subject of his/her investigation. Enchantment feeds off of pleasure that comes from a sense of accomplishment and belonging. Engagement is a vital barometer of this cycle of learning and enchantment. A child's engagement outside school can reveal, for example, the passions and competencies of a child. Engagement at school can show a child's appetite for the programs at school and also tell us if the activities at school are above, below or close to a child's learning edge.
- In addition to scaffolding, environment provides the raw material that nourish our body and mind and the experiences that feed our curiosity. Curiosity is a measure of how actively and independently one seeks new informatio. Our cognitive abilities process the information we receive and relate it to what we already know. These are the basic mental process that maintain and process different types of information. Each of us has our own distinct moral compass and it is our empathy that enables the valuation of the information we process, often from multiple perspectives. This valuation helps us judge between different possibilities. This skill is essential, for example, for social interactions and emotional regulation. Ambition is our potential to stretch our abilities and pursue one or more of the possibilities offered by our judgment. In other words, one needs the skills to set goals, deprioritize distractions and boredom (gratification deferment) and overcome obstacles with perseverance (grit). Creativity, on the other hand, takes us beyond known possibilities and entices us to march ahead in new directions even when there is no clear solution or an inkling of a solution to the problem at hand. Since true empowerment requires metacognition and a deep awareness of this learning process, communication skills are essential for building such awareness around our accomplishments, failures and the opportunities between them. The ability to reflect, elaborate, document and then relay these ideas is vital for accelerating one's growth and learning.
- As you review our curriculum for preschool and elementary programs, it should become clear that our objectives are not simply aspirational. We do walk the talk. Our curriculum is indeed designed to cultivate the environment, inspire beliefs, fuel curiosity, enhance cognition, build empathy, activate ambition, nurture creativity, sharpen communication and monitor engagement. We then use observations and other assessment tools to evaluate the climate and these competencies so programmatic adjustments can be made as needed.
- In the end, we only respect what we love, we love only if we understand and we need to experience to truly understand. Environment/climate is the medium that delivers these experiences.