Developing an effective childhood education program and addressing children educational needs is not an easy thing. However, the effectiveness of a good childhood education program is dependent on a number of factors such as staffing, appropriateness of the environment for learning and growth, norms observed by the groups involved, activity scheduling, and the involvement of the parents and the community at large (Decker, Decker, Freeman, and Knopf, 2009, p. 2).
Decisions about these factors ought to be made early in advance (before the childhood education program is in motion). In addition, these factors have broad ramifications and they affect all parties and aspects of the childhood education program, including the children, families, school and even the entire community at large.
The importance of an effective childhood education program has often been researched and its benefits highly publicized to all concerned individuals (Knopf, et al., 2009, p. 5). However, in as much as childhood education programs play an important role in the development of children, not all children enjoy these benefits.
Schweinhart (1988) (cited in North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999). affirms that: “Long-term benefits result only from high-quality early childhood development programs–ones characterized by a child development curriculum, trained teaching staff, administrative leadership and curriculum support, small classes with a teacher and a teaching assistant, and systematic efforts to involve parents as partners” (p. 7).
To ensure that all pertinent issues are addressed in a childhood educational program, it is important to first establish a taskforce that looks into all these matters. This taskforce needs to consider relevant stakeholders without excluding the input of the parents, educators and responsible community members.
Some of the primary functions of the taskforce should be the establishment of the best practices in childhood education, the confirmation of the details to be considered in the overall curriculum plus the consideration of the learning environment and all other factors that are of importance in program formulation (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999).
In this phase, the involvement of the community should not be undermined because it will assist in the development of said targets and it will also help to streamline the operations of the entire program (cited in North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999).
When developing a new childhood educational program or when improving one, a series of factors need to be considered: for starters, it should be determined early in advance the staffing requirements for the program and the nature or design of the classrooms. Later, issues such as children grouping, parent involvement, and formulation of daily children programs will then be established.
When the answers to these type of questions are sufficiently provided, chances of coming up with an effective childhood education program are high. Also, the decisions arrived at when brainstorming over such important issues should also be made with the growth and development of the children in mind.
These factors withstanding, this study seeks to propose a childhood education program by the name Singing River Education Association which will be a head start program centre, located at 1170 Pleasant Hill Church Road / P.O. Box 594 Lucedale, MS.
The centre will be operating from 8:00am -4:30pm and will be serving children between the ages of 3 – 4 years. This centre will majorly employ community resources like human resources and also marshal capital from community based organizations for the betterment of its children educational programs.
Among the primary goals the program will provide include supporting existing educational training programs and supplementing existing educational needs. Also, the program will set personal goals for all relevant individuals, in terms of personal development, while other auxiliary services to the children, like home visits will also be provided. More importantly, this program will be tailor-made towards the accomplishment of community goals and its operations will entirely rely on community requirements.
The program’s vision will be “to be a model community childhood education provider”. This vision is motivated by the program’s aim of being the ideal childhood education program, for implementation in other regions of the country as well. Also, the program will be designed to be the standard childhood educational program for the community and its environs. The education program will have a mission statement stating “To provide a holistic early childhood education environment for children to learn according to their own development”. This mission statement is primarily motivated by the acknowledgement that children need a support mechanism to achieve high levels of growth and performance in education. It also considers the varying potential among children and therefore, their growth will be supplemented according to their academic potential.
This program will majorly be entrenched in the philosophy of behavioral child development theories. Basically, its principles are borrowed from theorists such as John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov and others advancing the same type of ideology (Cherry, 2010, p. 5).
This program will therefore be designed on the principle that the environmental orientation of children will primarily dictate the behavior of children. Child development is therefore assumed to be dictated by the kind of rewards, punishments, stimuli and other parameters that exist in the child’s primary and secondary environments.
A major assumption in this theory is that the environment affects the behavior of children at various levels of childhood development and other factors in childhood development such as thoughts and feelings don’t have a significant weight on child development (Cherry, 2010, p. 5). In attestation, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (1990) (cited in North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999) notes that:
“Children in the three-to-eight range acquire knowledge in ways that are significantly different from the way older children learn. Younger children learn best through direct sensory encounters with the world and not through formal academic processes” (p. 2) “Young children acquire knowledge by manipulating, exploring, and experimenting with real objects. They learn almost exclusively by doing and through movement” (p. 8).
With these premises as a foundation for future childhood development, emphasis will be based on staff choice criterion, facilitation of an appropriate learning environment, appropriate grouping, effective program schedules, and parent participations to create a comprehensive environment for childhood development.
A good program curriculum will go a long way in ensuring this program is effective in accomplishing its overall goals. More importantly, this program emphasizes on the importance of consistency in daily schedules because it is important in instilling a sense of stability in the entire program organization. Indeed, Dodge and Colker (1992) (cited in North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999) note the importance of consistency in the daily routine is that:
“Young children feel more secure when they can predict the sequence of events and have some control over their environment. They delight in reminding the teacher that ‘snack time comes next’ or telling a visitor that ‘now we go outside.’ In addition, predictability provides children with a rudimentary sense of time, as they begin to learn what comes first in the day, second, next, and last. A consistent schedule also helps build trust in the environment.” (p. 37).
The program’s curriculum will have the primary objective of instilling literacy among the children. This will be the primary goal of the entire curriculum. It will be achieved through early writing and understanding of the alphabet. The core experiences children will be taken through will include learning how to use tools for writing and drawing such as pencils and crayons.
The children will also be taught how to make and interpret representations such as objects and figures; how to discriminate the different sounds of languages; understand print concepts; understand the alphabet; use reading skills to make meaning of print materials; understand the purpose of writing and make sense of letters and words.
The staff will assist in adding materials such as alphabet letters, magnetically designed letter symbols, print letter symbols and writing tools to specific areas of learning. The staff will also be required to draw children’s attention to the letters in their primary and secondary environments so that they may develop an understanding of how the letters are used in day to day life.
Teachers will be required to display written materials to the children’s eye level and label the learning materials so that the children can constantly remind themselves of what they have learnt.
Additionally, the staff needs to set up a writing centre where important writing materials such as pencils, markers, papers and such like materials will be used in the writing centre. Lastly, the staff will be required to encourage the children to write or draw their writing experiences on paper.
The program curriculum will involve a number of functional areas in childhood education development and will revolve around language and arts, listening and communication, mathematics, and the development of auxiliary life skills. In mastering life skills, children will be oriented on basic concepts in arts and music, health and physical education, social studies and science.
This curriculum will run throughout the year and contrary to conventional childhood educational programs; this program will have periodic breaks as opposed to long summer holidays because of its emphasis on smooth continuity (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999). Parents will be required to participate in before and after school programs, in addition to attending periodic activities which will entail their input, together with their children at the end of the sessions.
This comprehensive participation will help foster partnerships with all relevant stakeholders as well. These recommendations are in line with Schweinhart (1988) (cited in North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999) assertions that “early childhood staff should form a partnership with parents through home visits, frequent communication, and a welcoming attitude toward volunteering and classroom observation” (p. 8).
This curriculum is majorly focused on academic development; according to the mission statement of the program. Its emphasis on literacy and inclusion of nonacademic activities is also another element showing the holistic nature of the program; according to the program’s vision.
The inclusion of parent and teacher participation also shows the comprehensive nature of the program in providing a holistic environment for childhood growth and development. This holistic growth environment is also part of the program’s philosophy of providing an appropriate environment for growth. This is also in line with the program’s vision.
The classroom and play environment will be the primary environments where child, parent and teacher participation will be fostered. Core in the provision of a good play and classroom environment will be the emphasis on safety. This will be manifested in the classroom furniture and learning materials. Such equipments will be plastic in nature for easy cleaning and maintenance. Ten percent of the total area of the class will also be reserved for storage of these equipments and it will be out of bounds for the children.
This specification will guarantee that each activity has its own different space and will be shared approximately 50sq ft and 75 sq ft per child. Also, to incorporate the diversity of children, the classroom will be arranged in a way that facilitates exploration with learning materials. This environment will also include the arrangement of furniture; such that, parents, teachers and student participation will be encouraged.
Considering this program is aimed at incorporating all relevant stakeholders and providing a good environment for child growth, the classroom environment will be filled with drawings, photos and pictures representing the community and family. In addition, a given section of the classroom will be reserved for parent accommodation whenever they will be required to come to the centre for participation in certain activities.
Providing a good classroom and play environment will be one strategy for facilitating an inclusive environment for participation of parents, teachers and children but giving the children homework will also be another strategy to ensure parents are involved in the growth and development of their children. Also, every important national holiday will have to be graced by the parents, teachers and children.
The teacher’s position will be to facilitate a learning environment for the children and supervise the program’s activities at all times. This role will require diligent and professional teachers. The specification for the teachers will therefore have to incorporate the selection of teachers who have studied child growth and development programs.
Each teacher will also be required to have dealt with children at one point in their careers; at least for two years. In addition, the teachers will be required to be understanding, have no criminal record, charismatic and be passionate about their job.
After selection, the teachers will be subject to a growth plan whereby after every two years, a teacher will rise in rank and join the management team or be included in policy making. On a personal level, teachers will be required to undertake more childhood development academic programs to further their careers.
Part of this initiative will be sponsored by the centre. Incase teachers contravene the centre’s policies, disciplinary action will be taken on them and this will include suspension and termination of work. In extreme disciplinary cases, beyond the scope of the centre, such as child abuse, relevant authorities like child protection services will have to be brought on board to enforce disciplinary measures.
With regards to staff and family involvement, the participation of parents in periodic community development will not be enough. Parents will have to feel accommodated by the school staff and therefore cultural diversity will be accommodated through posting different pictures of family involvement representing a number of cultural backgrounds.
Also, translation services may be sought for parents who are not versant with the English language. Incase of any parental concerns, they will be referred to a resource centre which will be established solely for that purpose. The management will also have to go the extra mile in making the parents feel accommodated by observing personage and avoiding instances of mistaken assumptions about various families to accommodate different parental interests.
Child progress will be documented in periodic report cards issued at the end of every three months. However interim periodic assessments will also be done; say, on weekly basis to track the progress of a child, according to set parameters, so that children who don’t show good progress can be further assisted so that they catch up with rest of the children. This activity will also be done with the involvement of the parents.
It is important that the centre establish a workable staff to children ratio to increase the effectiveness of academic programs. In this regard, the teacher to children ratio will be 1: 15. Fifteen in this case will be the maximum class size. With regards to the safety of the children, according to health and nutrition parameters, the centre will conform to the state and federal guidelines outlining the same.
In addition, the school will also ensure it employs competent personnel to oversee children’s nutritional needs. A standby ambulance and centre nurse will also be in place, in case of any health emergency. In this manner, health concerns of varied degrees may be easily tackled.
The Head start program evaluation will be done after every 3 years. The criteria for evaluation will be the comparison of the centre’s program with the conventional classroom setting to establish the effectiveness of the centre’s programs. Evaluation will also be done to determine if the centre’s program has made a significant progress in covering the mission and vision goals of the centre.
Consequently, the head start evaluation program will be evaluated to establish whether it conforms to implementation characteristics necessary to meet the centre’s outlined standards. Overall, the evaluation program will be aimed at evaluating the quality of centre’s programs with the conventional classroom setting and ultimately compare the parent, child and teacher involvement outcomes with that of the conventional classroom setting as well.
This childhood education program will be of benefit to all relevant stakeholders. Parents will have the opportunity to work outside home and children will be subjected to one of the most professional childhood development programs which will ensure they learn in a holistic environment for future prosperity.
Teachers will also be given the opportunity to help the children achieve high levels of growth and development but most importantly, the centre will give them an opportunity to practice and grow in their careers.
Comprehensively, the effectiveness and success of this early childhood educational program is guaranteed in the holistic nature of the program and its coverage on the core areas of childhood development. The success of the program therefore depends on the implementation of the program but its structural framework addresses the needs of all relevant stakeholders comprehensively.
Cherry, K. (2010). Child Development Theories. Retrieved 29 October, 2010, from
Decker, C., Decker, J., Freeman, N., and Knopf, H. (2009). Planning and Administering Early Childhood Programs (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (1999). Critical Issue: Organizing for Effective Early Childhood Programs and Practices. Retrieved 29 October, 2010,