Early Childhood Education (ECE; kids ages 2-5) schools are relied on by parents across the world as places where their children can take a number of critical ‘first steps’ in life. These nurturing spaces foster social skills, initiate fundamental academic understanding, and help with cognitive development. And with decades of research indicating that children who attend high quality ECE programs enter grade-school more resilient, more academically prepared and more socially confident.he value of kids’ attending early learning programs is clear: ECE helps children realize their potential.
It’s a mission that resonated strongly with author Suzy Amis Cameron and her husband, director James Cameron. As parents of five children and dedicated environmental advocates, the Camerons dreamt of creating an inspired, eco-friendly ECE school that builds academic preparedness in students, while promoting principles of environmentalism, sustainability and self-efficacy. To realize their vision they teamed up with Suzy’s sister, Rebecca Amis, an education administrator with decades of experience, to form MUSE school — and 13 years later MUSE has changed the ECE paradigm.
Building the Blocks
Fundamentally, ECE is about planting seeds and connecting young children to the world around them, and to the people they share the world with. It’s even about neural connections, because the human brain develops a majority of its neurons and is most receptive to learning between birth and three years of age: this is a crucial developmental time in a child’s life.
MUSE school has taken an innovative approach to bridging these connections for its students by bolstering established ECE curriculum with groundbreaking learning techniques, while emphasizing social and environmental consciousness. It’s a program that has been tirelessly refined over the past 13 years, and one that strives to apply the most effective teaching methods to match each child’s unique learning style.
You Can’t Start a Fire Without a Spark
“There are a few things we know for certain based on studies of the short-term effects of high-quality early childhood programs. In general, there is a strong effect on school readiness skills – such as language development, numeracy and math skills, and cognitive skills.”
This quote comes from an article written by Dr. Arthur Reynolds, a professor at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota and co-author of a groundbreaking multi-decade study exploring the broad impact of ECE on individuals’ lives. The quote spotlights the role that ECE plays in defining a child’s academic career. But an ongoing challenge that many ECE schools face pertains to presenting academic lessons in a format that resonates with children, and engages them to become enthusiastic learners.
MUSE school believes that academic interests are best cultivated when students are passionate about the subject matter, and this inspired their Passion Based Learning (PBL) model. In PBL, teachers’ observations, combined with student input, create the basis for this unique approach to curriculum — it is the children’s ideas and passions that guide individual and classroom projects. It’s a model that demonstrates how collaboration and empowerment in the classroom result in students who love learning and are independent thinkers.
Use Your Words
ECE’s value as a space to nurture socially intelligent children who are effective communicators can’t be overstated. Research shows that children who attend quality ECE programs demonstrate lower instances of antisocial behaviors later in life, and are more confident in social settings. And with serious issues like bullying continuing to harm schools across America, the development of strong social skills that are backed by an empathetic perspective can benefit not just individual children, but their classrooms, schools, and entire communities as well.
MUSE teaches communication skills to students using a method known as the Process Communication Model (PCM). PCM combines principles of psychology and sociology to help students understand how to utilize the most effective communication strategies for any situation they might face.
The feedback from MUSE parents and teachers indicates that the PCM is making a huge impact on the quality of communication seen in students. “In the early childhood program at MUSE, children are more aware of communication with themselves and others. The program helps them to establish a sense of security within themselves and helps them to be more confident when speaking to people,” says MUSE parent Chrissy Bullard.
Thinking Outside the Self
Planet stewardship and sustainability principles are cornerstones of the MUSE philosophy, and ECE students are taught these concepts daily. Seed to Table classes, compost/recycling programs and plant-based menus are just a few ways that students are taught eco-awareness.
“MUSE offers a different way of learning. Although it is very academically based, it is a different approach to learning and teaching which is all encompassed by sustainability and passion based learning. My son is 3 years old and he understands where his food is coming from, he gets to touch the plants, learn about the importance of recycling and composting. To instill this at a very young age is so valuable, especially today,” says parent Hannah Ashby.
The MUSE campus includes eco-friendly buildings, a solar-powered school kitchen and even raised planting beds where children can help grow crops — it’s about crafting an environment that embodies a conscientious approach to education that builds an ‘outward’ focus in students.
It’s difficult to refute the sustained impact that a quality early learning experience has on a person’s life. An effective ECE school can beautifully complement the development children experience at home, and help those children to live their best life. But at MUSE, beyond that, students learn that they have the power to transform not just their own lives, but the world in which they live.
If you are interested in learning more about James and Suzy Amis Cameron’s MUSE school, please visit the MUSE School website. To find out how to bring MUSE to your community, please visit MUSE Global’s franchising opportunities page.