Learning centers are clearly defined areas/activities within a classroom where children can explore and learn with hands-on materials. Research shows that young children learn best through active, hands-on play; learning centers engage children and make learning fun. Children manipulate materials, explore ideas, discover consequences, build, create and express themselves through art. To parents it may look like children are "just playing," but this is play with a purpose. Through carefully planned learning centers, children learn important concepts and life skills in ways that are meaningful to them.
For deep learning to occur, children need time to manipulate materials and process what they have learned. At Great Explorations our active learning centers are structured so that children have the time they need to choose activities and pursue their interests.
Hover over images to read more about each Learning Center
Dramatic Play (Dress up) Center
In the dramatic play area children have the opportunity to role-play real-life situations, practice language, develop social skills, release emotions, and express themselves creatively. Our Dramatic Play Center is an extension of our Practical Life Center, and includes many articles of clothing and accessories. One of the first things the children enjoy doing when they arrive is "dressing-up" in their favorite costumes! Wardrobe changes occur frequently!
In the Practical Life center, children learn the social skills of cooperation, sharing, negotiating, expressing emotions and taking turns, all through play. While children practice and learn important self-help and life skills, they develop large and small muscle coordination, a longer attention span, independence, self-discipline, self confidence, self-esteem, and friendships.
Fostering natural creativity in young children helps them to explore, use their imaginations, and express their inner feelings. Our Art Centers provide opportunities for children to create their own open-ended art using a variety of materials. Children become familiar with basic art skills and concepts.
When children build with blocks they are developing control of the small muscles of their fingers and hands. In our Block & Construction Center children let their imaginations soar while learning to think, plan, and develop problem solving skills. Children role play, explore, build cooperatively, sort, group, compare, arrange objects, observe similarities and differences and create patterns in their structures. Children also learn to deal with the spatial and structural challenges of balance and enclosure.
When young children are exposed to books, they learn how books work and that print carries meaning. As children explore page by wondrous page, they develop reading skills, including: vocabulary, reading comprehension, letter and print knowledge, and sound recognition. Children also develop important listening skills as they enjoy hearing stories. Not only do we read aloud daily, but children also enjoy our listening center where up to six children can listen to "read along" stories using headsets.
A writing center allows preschool aged children to investigate and practice early forms of writing through a variety of writing materials. Children follow a natural progression from random scribbling, to controlled scribbling, to imitating written letters, and finally to real writing as they progress and mature. In order for this natural progression to occur, it must be nurtured. As children continue to progress, they are introduced to the Handwriting Without Tears Program.
Our Science and Sensorial Center allows children to investigate and experiment with a variety of fun and interesting hands-on materials. When given opportunities to explore the physical properties of fossils, shells, feathers, and other sensory materials, children gain small-motor coordination while also developing problem solving and questioning skills.
Interactions and exploratory activities with materials lay the foundation for the development of mathematical concepts. Young children need daily opportunities to develop these concepts. Through hands-on activities, we facilitate this need by helping children discover math relationships all around them. Children have fun sorting, matching, patterning, classifying and comparing, while also learning about quantitative concepts, shapes, numbers, number symbols, and one-to-one correspondence.