Experts agree that children who attend high-quality early childhood programs have better skills in areas such as communication, reading, numeracy, problem solving and socialization throughout their education.
250 years after Friedrich Froebel founded the idea of the kindergarten, the Life-Situational Approach has further developed the concept combining positive elements of the traditional kindergarten with modern pedagogical and developmental-psychological insights. The kindergarten will emphasize and promote the creativity, curiosity, and motivation of the children. It will allow the children to be children without babying them.
It will promote and encourage them, not through mechanical drills, but by helping them in their own discoveries of their inner and outer worlds. The following characteristics of its pedagogical concept are the most important:
- Learning in real-life situations: Children learn how to cope with situations here and now. Coping does not only mean surviving in situations, but also being able to grasp them as alterable and oneself as effective.
- The connection between social and factual learning: this works against alienated learning. Away from separating initial mathematical operations from social contexts, away from promoting a kind of speech that has nothing to do with own experience, away from learning that is devoid of sense. Factual learning is important, but is to be integrated into the process of social learning and whenever possible with reference to social contexts.
The children acquire knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to understand and create real-life situations. Atomized, tailored learning which does not lead to comprehensible meaningful connections is avoided.
- Children take part in creating situations in which they are involved, and in the life within and outside the kindergarten. They cooperate in selecting and planning activities; not everything is simply arranged for them by the kindergarten teacher. They are encouraged to influence situations and change them. Self-initiative and responsibility are promoted.
- The kindergarten teachers secure a promotion of qualifications appropriate to the stage of development, taking into account the individual characteristics of each child and their different levels of development.
- The kindergarten teachers promote the diversity of the children’s expressive possibilities. They encourage activity involving all the senses, diverse forms of movement alternating with quiet and thoughtfulness, free play as well as creative and artistic activity, the expression of feelings and emotional intelligence.
- The children live and learn in mixed age groups as much as possible. Three-year-olds often accept more from five-year-olds than from adults, and older children can develop real empathy for the needs of younger children. Outside in real life, everything is learned among people of mixed ages. On the other hand the mixing of age groups is no dogma – there can also be situations in which peer groups want to be among themselves.
- The kindergarten teacher assumes a partner-like, impulse-giving role with regard to the children.
- Learning for life situations also means learning in life situations. Hence fields of activity outside of the kindergarten will be integrated, so that the kindergarten truly becomes a part of the social network.
- The teacher remains in close dialogue with parents and families. The parents are not just onlookers, but rather personal authorities on the situations of their children. They take part in the kindergarten whenever they want to. In order to do this, it is important that the kindergarten be flexible with parents with regard to time and organization.
- Children of different ethnic background grow up together. Integration does not mean giving up your own origins and culture. On the contrary, it means respect for each other as the key for international understanding and mutual cultural enrichment.
The Situational Approach, in demand internationally due to its sensitivity to individual cultures; requires high pedagogical qualifications and a corresponding education and additional training of kindergarten teachers capable of working with the concept.
Evaluations show that children educated based on the Situational Approach are more independent, resolve problems better and are more intrinsically motivated than their counterparts.
Today the concept has been widely adopted throughout Germany. Thousands of teachers have been trained according to the Situational Approach and it is now taken as a basis for many federal educations plans. Furthermore, international interest and demand for the application of the approach can be seen across Asia, Latin America and Europe.
The inventor of the Situational Approach, Prof. em. Dr. Jürgen Zimmer developed the concept of the Situational Approach further to the leading-edge approach of the School for Life. It is backed by the extensive knowledge and expertise of the German implementation accessible through the School for Life resources.