WEST FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — The children in the early childhood programs at the Aurora Waldorf School lay on their mats, attentively listening to the story their teacher, Jill Quinn, recites from memory.
It’s about five birds traveling together. Quinn doesn’t hold a book in front of her; she doesn’t have pictures to show the children. Her words paint pictures for the children’s imaginations. Quinn says that’s one of the foundations for the program at the Waldorf school.
“It’s a developmentally appropriate way of learning,” said Quinn, who has been teaching at the school for around two decades.
Around Quinn’s classroom are rugs, hammocks, and a long table with more than a dozen chairs. What isn’t in this classroom – desks, a chalkboard, a podium.
The Waldorf program is hailed by many, parents and educators, as a high-quality program where the school balances work and play into a curriculum.
“Creative play gives children amazing opportunities to grow in a socio-emotional manner,” said Kim Phillips, another educator at the school.
“Early education is crucial,” Kathy Doody tells News 4. She is the early childhood program director at Buffalo State College. She says more and more people are seeing the value in early childhood education and that’s why programs are evolving and expanding.
“We know that exposure to good education and early childhood really sets the stage for academic career,” said Doody.
It’s not just any program though; it’s a high-quality program. According to the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, which followed individuals from the ages of 3 and 4 when they were in preschool until age 40, those in high-quality programs benefited more in the long run.
The study followed two groups – those who attended high-quality programs and those who were in low quality programs or who didn’t attend at all. Over the course of the longitudinal study, individuals who attended the high-quality programs had higher earning capacities, were more likely to further their education, had better test scores throughout their lives and were less likely to have run ins with the justice system.
Doody and other educators say the children in high-quality programs are more successful because the skills they’re learning in these programs are life long skill masked in play.
“When the children have this creative time to play, they’re learning how to communicate, socialize, identify problems, how to solve them, how to use language and speech,” said Quinn.
“If we’re doing it well, it should look like we’re playing with children but there is a lot of rich, instructional practice that’s happening,” said Doody.