From the Chair

Honouring a champion of early-childhood education

Fraser Mustard was a tireless advocate for giving children essential social and emotional.

by Liz Papadopoulos, OCT

Fraser Mustard, a Canadian pioneer of early childhood development whose work helped pave the way for full-day kindergarten in Ontario, died last November just after the release of the report, The Early Years Study Three Years Later, which he and Margaret McCain co-chaired.

Mustard’s main goal was to convey the crucial importance of a child’s experiences in the first six years of life. He stressed that the development of the brain in the early years of life, particularly the first three years, sets the base of competence and coping skills for the later stages of life.

He gave voice to three main messages:

  • The years before five last a lifetime.

  • It takes a village to raise a child.

  • Pay now or pay later.

  • He became a tireless advocate for sound early-childhood learning programs that give children the social skills and emotional control they need to focus and learn in structured learning environments.

    A lot of what he stood for has been embedded in the new full-day kindergarten program, where teachers and early childhood educators work together to implement a safe and healthy learning environment.

    Anyone who teaches kindergarten knows how much progress a child can make through play.

    I am fortunate to have had an opportunity to teach in an all-day, every-day senior kindergarten program for two years. Anyone who teaches or has taught Senior Kindergarten knows how much progress a child can make through exploratory play.

    Through play-based learning and small-group instruction, children develop a strong foundation for learning in all areas, including language and math. They engage in healthy physical activities and the arts, and develop socially and emotionally through interaction with their peers.

    Meaningful, developmentally appropriate, play-based learning is especially important for children in Ontario schools because of our diverse demographics and various levels of learning experiences. And what better way to teach the concept of inclusion, but through play.

    A quality, fully staffed kindergarten program can establish for our students a level playing field in a routine setting and a love for school. It is also the time when teacher-parent relationships are forged.

    The spirit of Mustard’s philosophies is also aligned with the College’s new three-part Specialist Kindergarten Additional Qualification course, which the College approved in 2011.

    For example, this course helps teachers create challenging and engaging learning experiences that can build children’s confidence, encourage them to continue to see learning as both enjoyable and useful, and provide a strong foundation for their future intellectual, physical and social development.

    The demand was high for this new course. Teachers were clamouring for it because it provides them with the opportunity to gain the specialized knowledge they desire.

    This AQ is part of changes and additions to the Teachers’ Qualifications Regulation. The changes flow from the findings of the College’s 2006 study Preparing Teachers for Tomorrow.

    The specialist Kindergarten course provides the right tools to promote holistic, play-based environments that stimulate inquiry and enhance learning and development for each student.

    It’s about helping teachers set a strong foundation for the next generation of Ontarians and the future of good global citizens. I think Mustard would be proud.

    by Liz Papadopoulos, OCT