While many think of academics as the core of education, there have been recent shifts in the fundamental way learning is viewed and approached. One of these more significant shifts came with the rise of the whole-child approach—policies and practices that move the focus from a narrowly defined set of academic standards to a concept of success that encompasses long-term developmental health.
The whole-child approach is particularly championed when it comes to early childhood education. The goal of this approach is to equip students with the skills necessary to be fully prepared not just for elementary, middle and high school but also eventually for college, fulfilling careers, healthy relationships, and successful citizenship. This is done through a more holistic and comprehensive look at all of a child’s needs, including the emotional component. It also emphasizes a collaborative approach between the child’s school, fellow students, family, and community.
Schools Embrace the Whole-Child Approach
The Malvern School, which is headquartered in Glen Mills, PA in the United States, is a private year-round preschool that serves children ages six weeks to eight years, and it serves as a prime example of the kind of learning institution that wholeheartedly embraces the underlying concept of whole-child education.
“The Malvern School always seeks to raise the bar in early childhood education,” says Kristen Waterfield, the school’s cofounder and president. “We encourage children to meet their highest potential, but that potential isn’t one-dimensional. As a teacher and a mother, I have always felt strongly about the importance of developing the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social growth of the ‘whole’ child, and this is key to our educational philosophy.”
While some detractors of the whole-child approach fear the loss of academic rigor, schools like The Malvern School demonstrate that the enhancement of emotional intelligence need not come at the expense of more traditional intellectual development.
“When my business partner, Joe Scandone, and I founded the Malvern School 20 years ago, our goal, first and foremost, was to provide exceptional programming,” says Waterfield. “And we wanted that exceptional programming delivered by forward-thinking, college-degreed educators. By starting to build this dual foundation of emotional health and academic intelligence early, we truly believe we’re setting up children for success throughout their lives.”
Parents and Caregivers Recognize Success
Parents and caregivers of the young children who attend programs like The Malvern School are pleased with the concrete, positive results. With the continuing success of its curriculum, The Malvern School, which began in 1998 with only 20 employees, now employs 580 educators and operations and business professionals over 26 locations throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, United States, and central and southern New Jersey, United States.
“Departing from the traditional model of day care or childcare programs, our schools focus on diverse programming that enables children both to learn and to feel loved,” says Waterfield. “This has fueled the school’s ability to become the largest privately owned preschool in Greater Philadelphia [Pennsylvania, United States].”
While some educational shifts may be more fad than lasting ideology, the whole-child approach only seems to grow in popularity every year as parents seek to provide their children with the best pathways to success.
“Since 1998, The Malvern School has educated more than 30,000 children—a number that continues to grow significantly,” says Waterfield. “With our steadfast focus on providing value to the community, we continue our journey to bring new educational opportunities to children and families, and we have plans to open additional schools in 2019.”
Parents, however, aren’t the only ones recognizing the significant work done by educational institutions in this sector. For her innovative work with young children, for example, Waterfield recently earned a Gold Stevie® Award in the Entrepreneur of the Year category in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
To learn more about Waterfield and The Malvern School, visit MalvernSchool.com.