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The Foundation Stage programme at GEMS Wellington Academy — Silicon Oasis (WSO), rated ‘Outstanding’ for eight consecutive years, has always been centered on child-led pedagogy, moving away from ‘cookie cutter’ worksheets and learning to focus instead on developing children as individuals and allowing them to exercise their creativity. The WSO Nursery takes this approach even further, with a complete focus on each child as an individual while embracing the true Reggio Emilia approach, says Ami Maclennan, Nursery Director. Excerpts from an interview.

What are the key principles of the Reggio Emilia approach? How does enrolling a child in nursery following this approach give them a head start in life?

Reggio Emilia is a popular approach to teaching and learning around the world. Children are given the opportunity to engage in authentic ways with the world around them, and encouraged to question, wonder and explore. Reggio Emilia allows children from a very young age to use their voice in their own lives and learning.

Teachers, as observers and facilitators, need to be flexible, knowledgeable and creative in how they respond to each child and understand their place in the classroom. Experiences are set up for children and their reactions lead to a specific topic or theme.

What is the GEMS group’s vision behind launching this specialised nursery, especially in terms of the location, in Silicon Oasis?

We are dedicated to our families and the wider community. The WSO Nursery will extend this family even further, providing the first steps for a child’s educational journey. We want to give every child the best possible start, and we believe the Nursery will achieve this by getting children ready for school in a way that will not only prepare them but also, more importantly, nurture them in a way that only attending this setting can provide.

Teachers, as observers and facilitators, need to be flexible, knowledgeable and creative in how they respond to each child and understand their place in the classroom.

- Ami Maclennan, Nursery Director

What facilities — both infrastructurally and academically— does this nursery provide over its competitors?

Within the Reggio Emilia approach, the environment is considered to be the ‘third teacher’. The WSO Nursery classrooms are designed to avoid plastic toys and resources that stifle creativity, focusing on natural materials that encourage children to use their imagination and decide for themselves how they would like to interpret different resources.

Resources are not limited to typical pre-school toys, but extended to include a selection of real-life objects such as clay tools and basic cooking utensils. All children grow and become ready at a different pace, and this is where we will create individual learning plans based on our deep knowledge of the developmental milestones and readiness levels.

Please tell us a little more about the indoor discovery hub and the outdoor learning environment that the nursery provides?

This is designed as a complete, natural playground, bringing the outdoors indoors. Children can explore to their heart’s content, developing physically, socially and emotionally. Due to where we live in the world, outdoor learning opportunities can be somewhat limited, so this is one of our main philosophies — to encourage a love and relationship with nature in a way that promotes confidence and builds resilience.

The Nursery will also have its own outdoor learning area where children can explore water, sand and mud, engage in their own imaginary play and even plant and grow their own crops.

How will your nursery prepare children with all the skills needed to transition into FS1 and beyond?

By combining our ‘Outstanding’-rated Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) British curriculum with the Reggio Emilia approach, children will experience an integrated, holistic learning experience that will develop their own personalised interests but also enable them with the skills needed to make a flying start into FS1.

Come along to our Open Day on Wednesday, August 18, where you can find out more and register free! Event attendees will receive a free uniform set worth Dh600 when enrolling on the day.