Program Philosophy (Source: New Preschool Education Curriculum for children aged 3-6 years, Ministry of Education and Culture, http://www.moec.gov.cy/)
 
Having as a starting point the fact that the entry school level is a unique and special stage in a child's life, the following pedagogical principles frame the philosophy of our curriculum during that stage.
 
1. This specific stage has autonomous value and at the same time sets the groundwork for the years that follow. It is socially and culturally constructed by the children and for the children, through an active negotiation of social relations within various frames like time, place, culture, sex, the classroom etc.
 
2. Every child is unique and special, carrying personal learning mechanisms and pace. They have their own voice and they should participate in a democratic dialogue relating to the decisions which concern them.
 
3. Children learn through exploration, through play and through conversation, and actively participate in the process of building their experiences and their lives.
 
4. Learning should aim at the child's rounded development, and it should be holistic and intertwined.
 
5. The starting point of the learning process should be what children can do, through the perception that every child is able and has the potential to develop and learn.
 
6. Relationships between adults and children constitute a landmark of the children's development. Within this framework, the close ties between school and family are vital. Parents are hence regarded as partners to the school.
 
7. Play is a learning and development process, a framework and a way of organizing learning, but also a children's right. It is a social practice which is meaningful for children and it is a means of demonstrating and strengthening their feelings, needs, motives, knowledge and dexterities.
 
Forms of learning organization (Source: New Curriculum of the Ministry of Education and Culture on Preschool Education for Children aged 3-6 years old, http://www.moec.gov.cy/)
 
Playing is for the child a natural way of learning and development since birth. In a program that concerns the first school period, more importance should be given to play since that constitutes the main means for the child's all-around development. In effect, play should take up the majority of the daily schedule for children of all ages, since it constitutes the form of learning organization. In the context of play, the setting (indoor and outdoor) is organized in well-defined learning centres that offer a variety of opportunities to the child for problem solving, exploration, development of creativity and imagination, development of social competencies and they support learning through meaningful activities for the child itself, active participation, direct contact with materials, other children and adults.
 
There is a differentiation in relation to the free and structured play in the preschool program, according to age.
 
Free Play
 
During free play it is expected of the nursery teacher to offer opportunities so that children can be involved in socio-dramatic, imaginative-symbolic, constructive, creative, kinetic, explorative-experimental play and play with pedagogical materials. During free play, the nursery teacher observes, organizes, intervenes in order for the play to be maintained, s/he participates by playing with the children in the context and scenarios that they define. Children have the freedom to choose what kind of game they want to be involved in, what objects, with who and for as long as they want to within the context of the classroom and curriculum regulations. The goal is for children to come in contact with different objects-games, use them according to their competency levels, create scenarios, socialize, enquire, assume roles, improvise, have fun, learn, explore, experiment through this activity.
 
Structured Play
 
What differentiates structured from free play is that structured play is a direct and predefined way and part of a wider context of developmental activities. The nursery teacher is involved in the children's play in order to guide, enhance and deepen it with the goal to link previous experiences or to create new ones which are interconnected with the specific goals of a structured activity or a plan for developmental activities. Finally, structured play at the end of the day offers the opportunity to recap and reflect on everything that has taken place during the structured activities and play and to further deepen the goals both from the nursery teacher as well as from the children.
 
Learning Centres
 
Both free and structured play can be supported through specific learning centres. These are the frameworks of certain types of play (e.g. socio-dramatic, symbolic, imaginary, creative, structural, exploratory-experimental, kinetic, with rules, play with pedagogical materials), include the respective materials and furniture, focus on generic and particular educational goals which stem through the development areas or the cognitive objects, and provide opportunities for exploration and discovery through time. Examples of learning centres: dollhouse, grocery store, disguising, library etc).
 
Project
This is the procedure of an in-depth study of a topic which had been suggested by or interests children themselves. The process is completed in three stages through which the teacher and the children cooperate in order to formulate and answer to related questions.
 
The three stages are the following:
(a) Planning and Starting
(b) Project in action
(c) Thoughts and conclusions
 
Through the Project, children:
 
• Formulate questions, make hypotheses and test them
 
• Explore, discuss and develop a dialogue
 
• Use symbolic ways to represent their ideas, experiences and hypotheses
 
• Communicate their ideas to others (e.g. children and adults)

• They come back and reorganize their ideas and theories building a new meaning to the existing ones.
 
The "Lito Papachristophorou" preschool will be used as a model area for observation and enhancement of the university students' first experiences in the field. This will be carried out through the preschool program in the Department of Education that includes the courses of School Experience, which target the students' contact with the preschools and with practicum in particular.
 
 
Analytical Program of the Ministry of Education