It could be argued that one of the hardest decisions for a parent is to choose someone to watch over their young child. Associate Faculty of Early Childhood Education at Barton Community College Shara Neidenthal aims to make that decision easier for area parents through the opening of her own preschool, and by educating Barton students on cutting edge childcare philosophies and techniques.
A former Barton student, Neidenthal opened Cornerstone Preschool in August of 2011 in Russell. She incorporates one major childcare philosophy at Cornerstone called the Reggio Emilia Approach.
“It has a natural home feeling that helps the children feel more comfortable and competent, which in turn makes them more confident, and ultimately, more capable,” she said. “The goal is to lower the levels of anxiety that can exist in the more formal and rigid classroom setting. The more comfortable a child is the more likely they are to learn.”
Reggio Emilia also aims to incorporate settings and situations that encourage a natural progression of learning through imagination and discovery.
“I use a lot of natural types of toys or items made from materials such as wood that allow the children to be creative,” Neidenthal said. “There are hardly any plastic toys.”
Neidenthal also added that the Reggio Emilia approach utilizes the physical layout of the building as well. She said they favor an open environment with natural influences so that kids are more able to avoid a tunnel vision type of mental space.
“We utilize a lot of plants and animals so that they learn responsibility and it’s also aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “I have huge windows that let in so much natural light that I don’t usually have to turn the lights on.”
One other major facet of the approach is the idea of community involvement.