Head Start is a child-focused program designed to increase the school readiness of children ages three to five years old. This program delivers a range of services, responsive and appropriate to each child and family, that encompasses all aspects of a child’s development and learning. The Head Start Child Outcomes Framework was established to guide Head Start programs in curriculum planning and ongoing assessment of children’s progress toward readiness. Head Start’s comprehensive approach to child development includes eight domains of learning: language development, literacy, mathematics, science, creative arts, social-emotional development, approaches to learning, and physical health and development. The Northeast South Dakota Head Start Program has aligned its curriculum and assessment tool with the domains to ensure that children make progress toward expected goals.
Curriculum is a plan that includes the goals for children’s development and learning, the materials and experiences through which children will achieve these goals, and what staff and parents do to help children to achieve these goals. Activities and the play environment are responsive to the varying temperaments, learning styles, languages, and cultural background of the children and families in the program. Lesson plans including plans for individualization are developed for home-based and center-based programming. The Northeast South Dakota Head Start curriculum isThe Creative Curriculum for Preschool, 4th Edition. Other supplemental resources are used to enhance the curriculum.
Ongoing assessment is required for all children enrolled in the Head Start program. Results help staff plan curriculum experiences that address each child’s individual strengths and needs. NESD Head Start uses Teaching Strategies Gold. This system is aligned with Head Start Ouingtcomes Framework and the Creative Curriculum goals and objectives and offers the following.
Head Start staff use information from well child exams, developmental screening, assessment, ongoing observation, and insights from the child’s parents to determine how the program can best respond to each child’s individual strengths and needs. This means that staff makes decisions about how to set up the play environment, what materials to place on shelves, and the kinds of experiences they will offer based on their knowledge of each child and of the group of children. Providing purposeful learning moments that match children’s needs insure on-going development and positive outcomes.
Head Start supports the inclusion of children with disabilities in an integrated setting by offering opportunities for placement and adapting the curriculum to meet their unique needs. This inclusive experience is beneficial for all children and fosters confidence and positive self-esteem. The staff works collaboratively with their Local Education Agency (LEA) to assist families in accessing services. Children with disabilities may be referred by other agencies or identified through participation in the Head Start program.
The Northeast South Dakota Head Start program promotes mental health and wellness by supporting children’s social and emotional development.
Parents, as the primary caregivers of their children, play a central role in ensuring that their child’s emotional needs are met. Staff seeks to enhance each child’s ability to form warm and trusting relationships with adults through providing experiences that support the social and emotional well-being of young children. These early relationships have a great affect on how children view themselves and what they expect of the world. Building respectful and responsive relationships with children and their families is important to enhancing the mental health environment within the program.
The following mental health supports are provided to children and parents.
All children have basic emotional needs, including the need for protection and safety, consistency and predictability, trusting relationships, and feeling as though they have an effect on the world. Research tells us that children who have secure and positive relationships demonstrate more confidence, have healthier peer relationships, are able to seek adult help, and have higher achievement throughout the school years.