Founding Principles

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In this section you will find the names of the various foundational pedagogies

that were pulled from in creating this program.

Beside them is a brief description along with resources for further reading. 



Emergent Curriculum focuses on the children’s interests and thrives on serendipity. The curriculum shifts and evolves to meet each child’s needs.The fluidity of this style allows for a shared social learning experience for both teachers and students. As a teacher one has to be open and learn to use unexpected events as teaching points. One also has to be observant by noticing children’s questions and expanding on them. Overall, letting the children’s interests guide the learning helps maintain attention and allows students to be involved in their learning process.

The Emergence of Emergent Curriculum by Elizabeth Jones **

Chapter 6: Emergent Oriented Curriculum by Eunsook Hyun

Your Mop is My Guitar: Emergent Curriculum in Our Classroom by Deborah Egan Dizes and Jennifer Dorl




Critical Pedagogy is a teaching method that promotes the challenge of the status quo. It aims to teach students to question the world and support positive change. “Learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality (Freire, 1970/1995, p.17). It also means the teacher and students are learners together, the curriculum emerges from the student’s lives, and to have the students learn consciousness of their relationship with the world.

The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place by David Gruenewald**

Contemporary Developers of Critical Pedagogy by Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade and Ernest Morrell.

 Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire



Ecological Literacy was first used thirty years ago in 1986 by Paul Risser during an Ecological Society of America speech over the lack of scientific literacy in the American public. Since then its meaning has evolved and there are many definitions to be found. Essentially to be ecologically literate one must have basic knowledge of ecology, ecological connectivity, understand human dependence on ecosystems and how our actions affect the environment. The ease and ability to become ecologically literate is becoming more and more difficult because of the vanishing access to the outdoor world. But the importance of being ecologically literate is necessary for informed decision making and protecting our future world. Promoting questioning and affinity for the natural world (biophilia) ????

Ecological Literacy by David W. Orr **

What Should Every Citizen Know about Ecology? by Rebecca Jordan, Frederick Singer, John Vaughan and Alan Berkowitz

Environmental Literacy, Ecological LIteracy, Ecoliteracy: What do we mean and how did we get here? by B. McBride, C. Brewer, A. Berkowitz, and W. Borrie.



Deep Nature Connection is important because it has been proven that contact with nature is vital to children’s healthy development. Young children learn through their senses and therefore experiences outside nurture growth in all realms of development. A relationship with nature cannot be rushed and it has been shown that children’s understanding and relationship with nature is related to direct exposure with it. Spending time outdoors teaches respect for nature and as David Sobel said, “We need to give them (children) time to connect with nature and love the Earth before we ask them to save it”(Beyond Ecophobia).

Beyond Ecophobia by David Sobel

Nature and Young Children by Ruth A. Wilson **

Urban Student’s Definitions and Perceptions of Nature by Rachel Aaron and Peter Witt




Place-Based Education is participatory learning that either takes place outside or is based off of local phenomena. Students gain experience in the real world and are able to make connections with their community. It is important because it erases the disconnect that often is apparent between school and the outside world. Also it allows students to create a relationship with their community and the environment, as well as understanding the relationships between people and the environment.

Place-Based Education: Learning to be Where We Are by Gregory A. Smith **

Trees Talk: Are you Listening? Nature, Narrative, and Children’s Anthropocentric Place-Based Play by Philip Waters

Place-Based Education and Practice: Observations from the Field by Robert Barratt and Elisabeth Barratt Hacking




Mentoring is one of the most popular social interventions in American society. The word stems from the name of one of the characters in the Greek myths, who was a counselor to Odysseus. A mentor is traditionally older and more experienced than the mentee. The relationship between the two is dynamic and mutually beneficial relationship. The mentor provides a safe environment and encourages the mentee to take risks and in turn the mentor gains leadership skills. Also many studies show positive developmental outcomes from mentoring.

Passing the Torch: Mentoring and Developmental Education by Kathleen Schatzberg-Smith **

Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by John Young, Evan McGown, and Ellen Haas

Mentoring Relationships and Programs for Youth by Jean Rhodes and David DuBois




Free Play - Any activities with no rules other than what the child creates and typically without end goal. During free play children utilize creativity with fantasy and imagination. They are in control of their own world and learn the limits of reality. Having breaks of free play during structured lessons helps extend the understanding of the lesson. Also it allows for the children to refresh their attention span. Most importantly it is time for trying out new things and experimenting.


Play and Education by Bruno Bettelheim **

Creative Experiences in Free Play by Sara Stevens

German Forest Kindergartens: Healthy Childcare under the Leafy Canopy by Silvia D. Schaffer and Thomas Kistemann

http://www.playtherapymadison.com/services.html#play