Colorado Kids Academy is a Reggio-Emilia-inspired, play-based preschool with two mixed-age classrooms of children 2.5 – 6 years old. We have approximately 24 children at school each day. We have chosen to utilize the mixed-age philosophy because Early Childhood Education Research supports the model for various reasons including benefits to older children, younger children, and the relationship with the teacher.
General benefits of mixed-age classrooms:
- The classroom environment mimics family structures, which were historically the primary learning structure for young children
- Develops a community of cooperation versus competition
- Children are able to truly take charge of their learning by engaging in projects that interest them. This sense of ownership is the foundation for a lifelong love of learning
- Children develop prosocial behaviors such as helping, sharing, and turn-taking, which promote social awareness.
The developmental stage of every individual child is considered when planning, the classroom environment, and in child-teacher interaction
- Children learn to accept differences from their peers and learn how to work with others regardless of learning differences
- Opportunities to gain insight into the feelings of empathy, sympathy, altruism and compassion, generosity and kindness are available in all interactions. As younger children become the older children of the group, they emulate these behaviors and the culture of the classroom continues to reflect compassion
- Children observe their peers using materials in new and interesting ways, inspiring creativity and critical thinking
Benefits for older children:
- Becomes a master of knowledge and transfers this to younger children. This role
reinforce their knowledge and understanding
- Leadership increases among older children
- Older children in a mixed-age group are challenged to be more patient while younger children in the same setting are challenged to be more persistent
Benefits for younger children:
- Children who are still learning a skill is receiving additional support from their older peer interactions, and is shown a new perspective. This type of “peer tutoring” relationship increases positive social interactions while decreasing negative social interactions.
The role of the teacher in a mixed-age environment:
- The teacher has an important role in facilitating play and encouraging collaboration
- They develop a strong sense of community and recognize each child’s unique contribution to this community.
- To understand developmental milestones, and plan and prepare opportunities in the classroom that support these milestones while providing the opportunity to scaffold learning based on each child’s zone of proximal development.
- To create an open-ended environment that challenges children at many developmental levels.
- To have appropriate expectations of all children, and provide additional support to children when needed.
When a child enters the classrooms at Colorado Kids Academy they become a part of a community where exploration, independence, compassion, and child lead inquiries for learning take shape. It is our job to help children construct their own learning experiences by providing a deeper level of engagement and fostering creativity and a lifelong love of learning. Children learn social skills by playing, working together, and helping each other throughout the day. We believe that children are capable and competent in many things. Part of our classroom intention is working on skills to help create independence and develop the self-regulation needed to succeed in all aspects of life.
We firmly believe in the idea that children need to be children and one of our guiding principles is “Let Them Be Little”. Childhood helps shape who we are as adults and so the more curious and creative the better. Our children have space to explore the world around them and we facilitate learning, creativity, wonder, and social-emotional skills through play. We believe (and research has proven) children learn best through play.