A child’s early years build the learning skills that make up the foundation for their future development, including social and cognitive growth. Well-established global research continues to emphasise the importance of early education for all children as essential building blocks for future success. At NIS, our Reggio-inspired Early Years programme is unique in its approach to Pre-K and Kindergarten education. Through the innovative framework of our IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), we ensure that our youngest students are at the centre of their learning with a personalised, inquiry-based methodology that focuses on relationships with people, materials, and spaces.
“The PYP offers a structured learning experience that allows our Primary students to discover the big ideas of understanding that frame our curriculum,” said Mr. Gareth Jacobson, Deputy Primary Principal at NIS. “Learning experiences are conceptually based and embedded in Units of Inquiry that help students learn essential content and skills.”
In our Early Years, these Units of Inquiry are designed to help develop our youngest students’ conceptual understanding of big ideas that are globally significant. Each unit provides opportunities for the development of skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary for future learning. What sets our programme apart from many other schools in China and beyond is that we believe Early Years students come to us rich in prior knowledge, skills, and experiences. They are individuals that are naturally capable, curious, and able to pose and solve their own problems. They have a voice and a choice in their learning.
“Students and teachers co-construct meaning,” said Ms. Karen Orteza, Pre-K and Kindergarten Teacher at NIS, who has been with our school since 1997. “One of our guiding principles is that young children are competent and capable. Early Years teachers are nurturers, partners, guides, and co-constructors. Parents also play an integral role as their children’s first teachers.”
In Early Years, our educators encourage young learners to be creative and discover things around them independently. They work collaboratively with other inquirers to gain further knowledge and connect it to their real-world situations. This is exemplified through our Reggio-inspired approach, which truly puts student voice and student choice at the heart of their own learning.
“Reggio Emilia offers children the opportunity to follow their interests,” said Ms. May Cunningham, our new Early Years Teacher. “All children have the potential to learn and express what they know, and they have the right to share their voices and ideas in various ways – for example, playing, drawing, or building. When children have fun, learning happens.”
Early Years at NIS has systems in place to support the independence and autonomy of our students so that they are empowered to take control of their own learning. They know how things work and can engage with materials on their own terms. Early Years students learn to believe in themselves and realize that they have important ideas worth pursuing and have the necessary skills to realize them.
In Reggio, the environment is known as the Third Teacher: “Surrounded by an environment that cultivates curiosity and creativity, the wonderings and explorations of children are made visible through documentation which allows us to show how they learn, what they are learning, and the importance of their learning journeys,” explained Ms. Orteza.
A child-friendly environment stimulates our youngest to learn and break out of their comfort zones. “Exciting activities provoke our learners to participate enthusiastically and become risk-takers,” said Ms. Cunningham. “Most importantly, well-designed classes provide a positive, warm atmosphere for the little explorers not only to create and share, but also to build relationships between friends, teachers, and parents.”
Designed specifically for small children beginning their learning adventure, our world-class Early Years Centre champions play and discovery through use of all the senses.
Completed in 2019, the Centre was designed by the renowned Australian studio EIW Architects to embody our school's innovative Strategy: Student Voice and Student Choice and Bursting the Bubble. EIW was recognised for their fresh approach, understanding, and diverse use and design of space at the Learning Environments Australasia Awards in 2020 as a category winner.
Our Centre's fantastic and truly 21st Century spaces support visibility, choice, and flexibility, with floor-heated 'campfires' rather than fixed, traditional classrooms, soft, snug spaces for quiet learning and escape, as well as dynamic furniture that meets the needs of both students and teachers. The dynamic outdoor area offers a diverse range of physical, social, and sensory activities in a fun and safe environment. Fluidly moving from the indoor spaces to outside, our youngest connect their learning to the wider world with a focus on nature and fostering imagination.
“Careful thought is put into classroom materials, displays, and provocations,” said Ms. Orteza. “We want to encourage curiosity, creativity, problem-solving, exploration, and experimentation. The materials are open-ended. Our beautiful open space allows for it to be transformed according to the children’s interests.”