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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL with children in creative pursuits. But more than that, The Little School has developed its own unique balance of presenting a flexible, open-ended, art- and play-based curriculum that guides children on their journey to becoming com- petent students, able to make abstract observations, generate questions or goals, and organize a process of inquiry. There is much learning happening at all ages at The Little School—from digging in the mud to creating an original ballet. As with any preschool program, The Little School takes care to promote math, reading, writing, thinking strategies, and motor skills to prepare young children for elementary school. But as this book illustrates, it also aims to support the deeper development that allows children to draw abstract learning from real projects. The school tries to help children fuse what Erik Erikson (1963) described as a child’s emerging self-concept with what Lilian Katz and Sylvia Chard (2000, 7) call “dispositions to observe and investigate.” The greatest gift any early childhood program can offer is a disposition and a tool kit for pursuing learning that is connected to one’s growing sense of self as competent and unique. It is in this context, then, that this book will consider cre- ativity as a means of helping children learn about learning, about themselves, and about themselves as learners. It will focus on what, for very young children, can seem the least brainy or academic of pursuits—sensory-based art projects—and sift out how explorations of texture, color, construction, structure, and sequences can act as what Vygotsky (1978) called a “scaffold” to another mode of thinking and exploring, in particular, abstract, evolving, collaborative projects. This book will look closely at how art projects, like imaginative games, build- ing projects, or science experiments, can act as an umbrella under which many different types of learners and explorers can inspire and extend each other’s growth and development. Ways to Use This Book My aim with this book is to fill a gap in the general approach to toddler curricula. I want to balance developmental and curriculum theories with accounts of real practice to help you provide inspiring and enriching art experiences for very young children. I want this book to be general enough to help you further your own approaches to your curriculum, but specific enough to give you new projects and ideas to use right away. You can use this book in a number of ways: •• You can reproduce the actual projects—and have something new to do in class tomorrow! COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction  3