Early Childhood Education

CRDG continues its leadership role in developing inquiry-based curricula with its early chidhood project.

In line with the state’s ongoing P–20 Initiative, and with the new national focus on early childhood development, CRDG’s early childhood education specialists took this new program into its second year of exploratory research on development of a comprehensive early childhood curriculum. Drawing from their highly successful elementary curriculum, Developmental Approaches in Science, Health and Technology (DASH), the new program represents a long-envisioned component of a comprehensive preK–12 curriculum. Researchers are collaborating with teachers at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Children’s Center (UHMCC) where they are working with four-year olds. Other long-time DASH collaborators at Navy Hale Keiki School in Pearl City, Hawai‘i, and Carnegie Mellon University’s Children’s School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have been involved in the initial research. While using inquiry learning strategies and activities from the DASH program, the new early childhood curriculum incorporates several additional elements that address the developmental levels of three- and four-year olds. For example, advances in digital photography have made it a fast and accessible way to visually record classroom activities for use with the Learning Calendar, pictured at right, and other activities. This is especially useful at the preK level, where children are primarily visual learners.

As with all CRDG programs from kindergarten through high school, the foundation of the curriculum is the inquiry learning process. Based on the ideas that inquiry is the mechanism used to produce knowledge and that young children can employ a number of inquiry modes, a curriculum that incorporates the usual environments of young children and engages them in the commonplace activities found within these environments will provide a strong foundation and support for their future learning.

All modes of inquiry start with the identification of a question, problem, or need. The next step or phase in the process is to develop a hypothesis—a possible way to answer that question, solve that problem, or supply that need.Testing follows this as children try things to see whether their ideas will work. Lastly, evaluation of results and conclusions resolve the problem or point the way for the next steps.

Collaboration with DOE on Native Hawaiian Education

In its final year, the staff of CRDG’s Pihana Nā Mamo project reflected on the program’s successes. Since 2000, Pihana Nā Mamo, a collaboration with the Hawai‘i Department of Education (HDOE) funded by the U.S. Department of Education through the Native Hawaiian Education Act, has sought to improve the education of Native Hawaiian children through six activities: (1) research-based reading programs, (2) mentoring and transition support for secondary students, (3) parent and community involvement, (4) project administration, (5) curriculum materials development, and (6) program evaluation. Each year, Pihana Nā Mamo served about nine thousand students, five hundred teachers, six hundred parents or community members, and fifty school administrators, primarily in high-poverty schools. Although project students came from mostly low-socioeconomic-status schools, they exceeded normative expectations in reading and in graduation rates. A rural Pihana school’s principal asserted, “I really would attribute our Pihana Nā Mamo project to helping give us one of the best graduation rates in the state.” In addition, some of Pihana Nā Mamo’s major initiatives have been incorporated into the HDOE’s regular program: the reading program became the model for HDOE’s participation in the Reading Excellence Act (Reading First), the project’s Positive Behavior Support (PBS) component was adopted by the HDOE and is now a state-funded component, the project’s focus on parent involvement is evident in new state legislation, and its use of quarterly assessments was adopted to a major extent for special education in HDOE’s Response to Intervention (RTI) efforts.