The Project Approach in Edmonton, Alberta
Sylvia C. Chard
University of Alberta, Canada

The Project Approach has been developing in Edmonton, Alberta, in a number of early childhood education and day care settings since 1990. This development has been facilitated particularly by the work of teachers in the Child Study Centre of the University of Alberta and staff in the Department of Elementary Education. For the past few years there have been in-service courses at the University for teachers wishing to implement the Project Approach in their classrooms. The in-service education opportunities for local teachers and child care workers have coincided with some direct attempts to improve early education and raise standards of provision for young children in the Province of Alberta.

The Child Study Centre has a history of more than a quarter of a century of excellent practice in the field of early childhood education. Throughout the 1990s the Project Approach and ideas from Reggio Emilia have been influencing practice in the CSC in a number of ways. The growth of the Centre from a preschool and kindergarten to an educational program for children ages 3-8 has contributed to its visibility in the community. The program for children in grades 1 through 3 is administered as an alternative program for the Edmonton Public School Board. The productive partnership between the University and the school board has facilitated the development of rich project work and has encouraged local teachers to come and see children's work in progress.

Teachers in local schools who have taken the Project Approach course offered each term at the University have been successful in adapting the ideas for their own classrooms. As project work became established in a few schools and preschools in the Edmonton area, so too has the quality of work done by teachers in the course. Within the course they have been able to learn first-hand from other teachers' presentations about the benefits of this way of working with children. The project work in Edmonton has also contributed to the quality of the projects featured on the Project Approach Web site:

Last year The Hundred Languages of Children exhibit of Reggio Emilia came to Calgary, Alberta, and many teachers traveled from Edmonton to see it. In the CSC and in many classrooms the Project Approach and the ideas from Reggio Emilia are helping teachers in a mutually supportive combination. Teachers report that they have been able to implement practices which have helped to interest children in school work and, for many children, to raise the standards of their work in the classroom.

The CSC also offers opportunities for research to graduate students in Early Childhood Education at the University of Alberta. In this catalog we feature the work of four University of Alberta Master's in Education students who have studied project work in relation to other issues for teachers in the field. The two theses and two papers were on assessment and evaluation, the engagement of children's minds, language learning, and the research process. Three of these were carried out through participant observation at the CSC. The fourth was undertaken by a teacher who observed and assisted the teacher in a local third-grade classroom where project work was already in progress.

The Project Approach Web site was designed at the University of Alberta and will, by the summer of 1999, be further developed as a resource site to support online courses on the Project Approach. An annual institute for Korean kindergarten teachers coming to study the Project Approach has been appreciated and will continue to be offered at the University. Through conference presentations, workshops, and visitors to the CSC we enjoy a rich exchange of experiences with other teachers from Canada and elsewhere. In the years ahead we hope to continue helping teachers and child care workers to develop project work that is increasingly responsive to their needs and interests.

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