Early Childhood Education: Bringing Curriculum to Life
In our first NAESP Center for Innovative Leadership video podcast of 2020, Andy Jacks and Hamish Brewer talk about engaging early childhood students and bringing curriculum to life with Massachusetts principal Kim Taylor.
When Kim Taylor accepted the position of principal at the Dr. Thomas J. Curran Early Childhood Center, serving children ages 3-6, it wasn’t an easy decision. She had worked for 21 years in one district—the same district she had attended when she was in school. But it ended up being one of the best decisions she ever made.
“I left a district after 21 years to come [to Curran] a year-and-a-half ago, and my commute was much shorter,” says Taylor. “But I will tell you that my commute seems much shorter now because I love my job so much.”
Her passion for her students and school has influenced the teaching staff, who work hard to offer students a unique and effective learning experience that involves bringing lessons to life and engaging students in an intentional way.
The building that housed Curran students and staff was the oldest in the district, prompting the Dedham Public School System to contact the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for help—and they got it in the form of a new building featuring the latest in technology and learning spaces. Curran became the first early childhood center in Massachusetts to benefit from MSBA funding to build a new school facility.
With a new facility came new technology that enabled her faculty to find more individualized approaches for students to learn. It also brought together her staff as they, as a group, learned how to use the new technology. They involve the kids in the professional development, too, which is a win-win for her school. Teachers get hands-on experience with actual lessons in classrooms, and students learn.
- How do you engage young students?
- In what ways can we bring curriculum to life?
What You’ll Learn
Principal, Dr. Thomas J. Curran Early Childhood Center, Dedham, MA
Taylor has what she considers her dream job as principal of an early childhood center in Massachusetts. As all principals know, it’s a hectic job but one that they do because they have a passion for helping students succeed. And Taylor is no different. With more than 20 years’ experience in education, Taylor wouldn’t trade her day job for anything. A big advocate for self-care, she has been an aerobics instructor for 20 years. She shares that passion with her staff, holding aerobics classes after school for those who want to take part. Taylor empowers her teachers to be leaders in the school and encourages them to bring forward their ideas and initiatives, which has led to big success for students at Curran.
In this video, Taylor walks you through the halls of her school to show-and-tell how they’ve taken advantage of every learning space to engage students and teach curriculum in innovative ways. From Taylor, you will learn ideas to:
- Engage early childhood students. Taylor takes advantage of monthly community meetings to give children the opportunity to share what they’ve learned. To keep it focused, Taylor and her faculty are intentional with the questions they ask. For example, if children will be asked to show positive effects from one of their school rules, Taylor makes sure their teachers know what questions might be asked in advance of the meeting so the teachers can choose some students who have appropriate responses.
- Refresh read aloud. Complements of the school PTO, the gym at Curran features backdrops like you’d see in a play, with inviting scenes like a living room, where Taylor and her faculty can gather her students for a read aloud. It’s called “Family Fireside Stories,” and the idea came about during their holiday celebrations. To keep students’ attention, the story is projected onto a blank wall so they can see what they’re listening to. Complete with a comfortable chair and a floor lamp, it’s a place where students and their families can gather.
- Bring curriculum to life. For example, a kindergarten unit on super powers brings the opportunity to get creative. To wrap up the reading super powers workshop, Taylor and a group of teachers and support staff dressed up and put on an assembly to close out the unit. Who doesn’t want to wear a cape at school?
- Take advantage of a long commute. Taking this position meant Taylor’s commute would increase. With an hour-plus in the car before and after work, she makes every minute count. During her commute, she catches up on Voxer and, of course, listens to music from country to worship and even a little bit of kids’ music to find inspiration.
Three main takeaways:
- Be intentional with questions when you engage early childhood students—and communicate with teachers about their role in the process.
- Take a minute to step back and appreciate and celebrate all of the good things that are happening in your school.
- Listen to others’ stories of innovation—and apply only the ideas that support who you are as a principal and help you be the best version of you as possible.
Share your strategy: How have you transformed a school space to celebrate students? Go to the NAESP CIL webpage to tell us—and you could be one of the next principals we profile.