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Goals for Development and Learning

Curriculum plays a vital role in achieving Head Start's goal of enhancing the social competence and school readiness of children.

Few aspects of Head Start matter to children as much as curriculum. This is true across all program options and settings-center-based, home-based, and family child care, in both Head Start and Early Head Start. Children remember their Head Start experiences: how they spend their time; what they do and accomplish; how successful they feel; who notices; and what staff and parents do as part of these experiences called curriculum.

The term "curriculum" might not come to mind when you hear children making joyful sounds or talking about the good food they shared with their friends, the bus ride, the variety of books, the water table, building with blocks, songs, or even hugs-but that's what it is all about for the child.

While each child is unique, there are some overarching goals for children in Head Start. One such overarching goal is to increase the child's everyday effectiveness in dealing with both his or her present environment and later responsibilities in school and life. Examples of more specific goals are:

  • Develop positive and nurturing relationships with adults and peers
  • Develop a sense of trust and security
  • Identify and solve problems
  • Express thoughts and feelings
  • Think critically
  • Increase self-confidence
  • Respect the feelings and rights of others
  • Use creativity and imagination
  • Work independently and with others
  • Develop literacy, numeracy, reasoning, problem solving, and decision-making skills that form a foundation for school readiness learning


The most important goal of our early childhood curriculum is to help children become enthusiastic learners. This means encouraging children to be active and creative explorers who are not afraid to try out their ideas and to think their own thoughts. Our goal is to help children become independent, self-confident, inquisitive learners. We're teaching them how to learn, not just in preschool, but all through their lives. We're allowing them to learn at their own pace and in the ways that are best for them. We're giving them good habits and attitudes, particularly a positive sense of themselves, which will make a difference throughout their lives.

Our curriculum identifies goals in all areas of development,

Social: To help children feel comfortable in school, trust their new environment, make friends, and feel they are a part of the group.

Emotional: To help children experience pride and self- confidence, develop independence and self-control, and have a positive attitude toward life.

Cognitive: To help children become confident learners by letting them try out their own ideas and experience success, and by helping them acquire learning skills such as the ability to solve problems, ask questions, and use words to describe their ideas, observations, and feelings.

Physical: To help children increase their large and small muscle skills and feel confident about what their bodies can do.

The activities we plan for children, the way we organize the environment, select toys and materials, plan the daily schedule, and talk with children, are all designed to accomplish the goals of our curriculum and give your child a successful start in school.


Ongoing Assessment

Once we've identified the goals and presented an array of learning experiences to support progress toward them, we assess children's prior knowledge and then track their progress in meeting the goals through ongoing assessment, observation, and recording of the child's development.

Parents and other adults in the child's life are encouraged to share with staff things they know about the child. No one knows the child better than his or her immediate family.With such input, parents and staff can plan a curriculum that reflects the needs and interests of each child in a group, whether the child is an infant, toddler, or preschooler.

All of the information we gather allows us to individualize learning experiences (increasing or modifying the degree of challenge) to make the Early Head Start and Head Start programs relevant and meaningful for every child.

The information on each child's progress towards achieving the goals is referred to as a "child outcome." This outcome tells us how the child is different at the end of the program than he or she was at the beginning. Sometimes this is referred to as "value added." How has the child benefited from his or her time in Early Head Start or Head Start? What documentation or "proof" do we have?


Specific Curriculum Components

Anti-Bias Curriculum

Children are aware very young that color, language, gender, and physical ability differences are connected with privilege and power. They learn by observing the differences and similarities among people and by absorbing the spoken and unspoken messages about those differences. Racism, sexism, and handicappism have a profound influence on their developing sense of self and others. 
All children are harmed. On the one hand, struggling against bias that declares a person inferior because of gender, race, ethnicity, or disability sucks energy from and undercuts a child's full development. On the other hand, learning to believe they are superior because the are White, or male, or able-bodied, dehumanizes and distorts reality for growing children, even while they may be receiving the benefits of institutional privilege. 

The "practice of freedom" is fundamental to anti-bias education. Curriculum goals are to enable every child: to construct a knowledgeable, confident self-identity: to develop comfortable, empathetic, and just interaction with diversity: and to develop critical thinking and the skills for standing up for oneself and others in the face of injustice. 

Anti-bias curriculum embraces an educational philosophy as well as specific techniques and content. It is value based: Differences are good: oppressive ideas and behaviors are not. It sets up a creative tension between respecting differences and not accepting unfair beliefs and acts. It asks teachers and children to confront troublesome issues rather than covering them up. An anti-bias perspective is intergral to all aspects of daily classroom life. 

For more information about the Anti-Bias Curriculum, please contact, 

National Association for the Education of Young Children 
1834 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. 
Washington, D.C. 20009-5786 
(800) 424-2460 
(202) 232-8777 


Creative Curriculum

The philosophy behind our curriculum is that young children learn best by doing. Learning isn't just repeating what someone else says; it requires active thinking and experimenting to find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in.

In their early years, children explore the world around them by using all their senses (touching, tasting, listening, smelling, and looking).

In using real materials such as blocks and trying out their ideas, children learn about sizes, shapes, and colors, and they notice relationships between things.

In time, they learn to use one object to stand for another. This is the beginning of symbolic thinking. For example, they might pretend a stick is an airplane or a block is a hamburger. These early symbols - the stick and the block - are similar in shape to the objects they represent. Gradually children become more and more able to use abstract symbols like words to describe their thoughts and feelings. They learn to "read" pictures which are symbols of real people, places and things. This exciting development in symbolic thinking takes place during the pre-school years as children play.

Play provides the foundation for academic or "school" learning. It is the preparation children need before they learn highly abstract symbols such as letters (which are symbols for sounds) and numbers (which are symbols for number concepts). Play enables us to achieve the key goals of our early childhood curriculum. Play is the work of young children.


Fit for Me

Fit For Me: Activities for Building Motor Skills in Young Children is a program of developmentally appropriate gross motor activities for preschool and kindergarten children and for primary-grade children with special needs. This field-tested program introduces young children to a wide range of movements. Through these movements, the program develops basic motor skills, increases self-confidence, and can lead to a lifetime of healthy physical activity. In addition, the activities reinforce such concepts as size, shape, texture, sound, smell, relative position, and language.

For more information, please contact:
American Guidance Service
Circle Pines, Minnesota 55014-1796


Food...Early Choices (Chef Combo)

Food - and the attitudes, values , and behaviors related to food - plays a basic part in everyone's life - each and every day. Not only is food physically necessary for energy, health, and growth, but it also plays a vital role in the social, psychological, and economic aspects of life.

Education about food and nutrition makes very basic and important contributions to the quality of life. Nutrition education also makes important contributions to the total educational program for young children. Activities with food are necessarily personal, concrete, and involving important criteria for significant and successful learning experiences. In addition, learning activities related to food open the way for learning and developing in many other areas.

Early experiences with food establish attitudes and behavior patterns which have lasting influence; early nutrition education programs can make an important and lasting contribution to a young child's life.

Food...Early Choices provides a variety of opportunities to teach young children about food and good eating habits. Every activity and every resource material is designed to be appropriate for the young child and to provide a rich educational experience. Not only are nutrition concepts learned, but the activities also contribute to the child's social, emotional, and cognitive development.

For more information about Food...Early Choices, please contact,
Oregon Dairy Council
Nutrition Education Services
10505 S.W. Barbur Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
(503) 229-5033
(503) 245-7916 [FAX]

Food...Early Choices is copyrighed by the National Dairy Council, Rosemont, IL 60018-4233.


Developing Understanding of Self and Others (DUSO)

Developing Understanding of Self and Others (DUSO) is a program designed to help children of preschool age understand social and emotional behavior. DUSO encourages children to develop positive self-images, to become more aware of the relationship between themselves and other people, and to recognize their own needs and goals.
The DUSO approach to learning makes extensive use of listening, discussion, and dramatic play to focus on feelings, communication, and problem solving. Activities include stories, guided fantasies, puppetry, role play, feeling word activities, career awareness, music, and art.

For more information on DUSO, please contact,
American Guidance Service
4201 Woodland Road
Circle Pines, MN 55014-1796
(800) 328-2560
(612) 786-9077 [FAX]


Heart Power

Heart Power is a comprehensive supplemental program but it's flexible, too. You can use the many components in a variety of ways to teach and motivate children to learn, live, and love the behaviors that contribute to a healthier heart today and for a lifetime.

For more information on Heart Power please contact:
American Heart Association Schoolsite Program
(800) AHA-USA1


The Heart Treasure Chest

The Heart Treasure Chest focuses on the heart, how it works, how to tell if it is healthy, and how to care for it through proper diet, physical activity and rest.
The program is designed according to how children learn. It presents concepts about the heart and it's care which children can understand.

The program provides many "hands on" and sensory experiences for children's learning. These experiences can be used with different age levels.

The program offers opportunities to extend learning into the home through the parent involvement. Cooperative efforts betweenhome and school establish and reinforce positive behavior patterns early in life.

For more information on The Heart Treasure Chest, please contact:
American Heart Association
National Center
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231-4596


Here We Go, Watch Me Grow!

This curriculum filled with a year-round collection of enjoyable learning activities to help young children make smart, healthy choices as they learn about the world. This preschool health education curriculum provides comprehensive coverage of all the important health areas, including:

  • growth and development
  • mental/emotional health
  • physical health
  • family life
  • nutrition
  • disease prevention
  • safety and first aid
  • Widely field tested and carefully developed this curriculum offers activities and content that are free of gender and race bias.


Second Step

Second Step for Preschoolers is a curriculum designed to reduce impulsive and aggressive behavior in young children and increase their level of social competence. It does this by teaching skills in empathy, impulse control and anger management. The goal of this program is to build children’s social skills and self-esteem by giving them tools to solve everyday problems. Children who learn and use the skills presented in this program are more likely to get along with other people and do better in school.

Skills and lessons in the program include:

  • Empathy Training
  • Impulse Control
  • Anger Management

For more information on Second Step for Preschoolers, please contact,
Committee for Children
172 20th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
(800) 634-4449
(206) 322-5050


Talking About Touching

Through this curriculum, children are taught safety rules to use with things and safety rules to use with people. The first section includes traffic, fire, and water safety. The second section teaches children safety rules to use with older people regarding talking, touching and feelings. Most families have their own safety rules dealing with these topics. This curriculum encourages children to learn and apply their family safety rules.

Children learn a number of skills to use when applying their family safety rules:

  • Recognize unsafe situations in their environment.
  • Recognize potentially unsafe situations involving people.
  • Determine safe and unsafe touch.
  • Assert their ability to say “no” to unsafe situations and touches that are unsafe to uncomfortable.
  • Tell someone about unsafe situations and unsafe or uncomfortable touches.

For more information on Talking About Touching, please contact:
Committee for Children
172 20th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
(800) 634-4449
(206) 322-5050


Bright Smiles, Bright Futures

Oral hygiene education


Online Resources

Most of these associations publish position papers and research reports which are available from their web sites.