After 38 years on the campus of Malone University, the Weaver Child Development Center (CDC) – a Reggio-inspired Christian preschool and primary school – will have a new permanent home on the historic 50-acre Fieldcrest Estate in North Canton starting in the fall of 2013. The Weaver CDC currently has approximately 100 students, ranging from age 2 through 3rd grade and serves as a “lab school” for Education majors from Malone, Walsh, Stark State, Kent Stark, and other local colleges.
As a result of the school’s hands-on, play-based, child-centered, nature-admiring curriculum, the teachers at the Weaver CDC love to let nature be a catalyst for learning, so Fieldcrest’s 50 lush acres of rolling hills and scenic views is ideal. “It’s not uncommon for our classes to go outside and explore our world to learn about math, language, and science, so our program meshes perfectly with Fieldcrest’s idyllic setting,” states Susie Clark-Maioriello, Director of the Weaver CDC and first-grade teacher. “The teachers, students, and parents are very excited about the opportunities our new location will provide us.”
While many of us remember serving our elementary years in small desks facing forward, The Weaver CDC’s innovative, non-traditional style which is inspired by the “Reggio-Emilia philosophy” is a completely different experience.
If you have the traditional model of a classroom in your mind, you’re in for a bit of a pleasant shock when you walk into the classrooms of the Weaver CDC. In fact, at the CDC, there are no desks…only small round tables that allow children to play games, work on projects (collaboratively and individually), and eat together. Looking further, a visitor starts to recognize that there is no “front” of the room, per se. In these bright and cheerful classrooms, each wall has various stations and learning centers, including a science center where students can watch ants building tunnels and investigate the interior of an abandoned bee hive, a building table where elaborate structures often have signs taped to them with elementary-written letters spelling the word “save,” and a comfortable couch where students can snuggle up and read. The children are scattered throughout the room, with a group at one table playing an educational game, another small group working on art project, a couple of children reading to each other on the couch, and the teacher helping another group of children with an experiment. A visitor recognizes pretty quickly that this is not your typical primary-school classroom.
So what does “Reggio-inspired” mean anyway? Clark-Maioriello, a self-proclaimed “education junky” explains: “Reggio Emilia is a city in Italy which is known for its unique approach to educating children. The basic idea in this philosophy is that children are smart, creative individuals who can build theories, test them out, and learn from them alongside their teachers and peers in a safe and comfortable environment. We believe that children learn more efficiently and effectively when they are co-creators of their own knowledge in a hands-on, sensory-rich environment where they are allowed to find their interests, develop ideas, create hypotheses, and experiment to see if they were right. In essence, we believe that children learn best from experiences, not worksheets.” The Weaver CDC is the only Reggio-inspired Christian preschool and primary school in the area, and one of only a handful in the state of Ohio.
The Reggio philosophy seems avant-garde or cutting-edge to those who are accustomed to a traditional educational model. “It’s cutting-edge to some, I suppose. But to us, it’s just common sense,” says Clark-Maioriello. “This environment allows kids to learn at their own pace…and oftentimes, that pace is faster than anyone expected. It is perfect for kids who like to try things, move around, and get involved rather than to just sit and listen to someone else talk. And that’s why we will continue to serve as a lab school for Education majors from several local universities…so we can teach these future teachers the most effective ways to teach.”
The Weaver CDC will finish out this school year in its current location on Malone’s campus but will be established in its new home at Fieldcrest Estate by the return of the school year in the fall. Registrations for the 2013-2014 school year begin on February 19th, and classes are expected to fill quickly. Interested families are encouraged to contact the school to schedule a private tour of the current facility so they can see how a Reggio-inspired classroom looks and functions.
The school will be having an Open House on Thursday, February 21st from 6:00 – 8:30 PM and will feature parenting expert, author, and syndicated columnist Diana Boggia who will be giving a free adults-only presentation at 6:30 PM at the school’s current location (The Johnson Center at Malone University, 2600 Cleveland Avenue NW in Canton). Reservations are required. Please contact the school at 330.471.8264 to RSVP for the open house, presentation, or to schedule a private tour.