22 NS ELCF Curriculum goals

Learning Goals and Objectives

Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world
—Maria Montessori

Learning goals provide a structure for early learning practice, guide educators’ reflections and critical thinking, and form the basis for the assessment of children’s learning and holistic development.

The four learning goals are

  • well-being
  • discovery and invention
  • language and communication
  • personal and social responsibility

These goals are consistent with the framework’s image and vision of children as confident and capable learners. Each goal is supported by several Learning Objectives that provide educators with specific reference points. These reference points are there to identify, document and communicate children’s progress to families, other early childhood professionals, and educators in schools. Over time, educators can reflect on how children have developed, how they have engaged with increasingly complex ideas, and how they have participated in increasingly sophisticated learning experiences.

Educators understand that children take different pathways to achieve these goals. Early learning does not focus exclusively on the endpoints of children’s learning; educators give equal consideration to improvements made by individual children and recognize and celebrate not only the giant leaps that children take in their learning but the small steps as well.


Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom.
—Rudolf Steiner

Well-being is a holistic concept that focuses on children being happy, confident, and healthy in all aspects of their development. For children, well-being implies that they are loved, respected, protected, and supported by their families and communities.

Dispositions to learn develop when children are immersed in an environment that is characterised by well-being and trust, belonging and purposeful activity, contributing and collaborating, communicating and representing, and exploring and guided participation.[1]

Children’s well-being is affected by all their experiences within and outside of their early childhood education programs. Educators know that when they attend to children’s well-being by providing warm and trusting relationships, they are supporting children’s learning and development. Educators understand that it is essential to ensure predictable and safe environments for children, that provide affirmation and respect for all aspects of their physical, emotional, social, cognitive, linguistic, creative, and spiritual needs. By acknowledging each child’s cultural and social identity, and responding sensitively to their emotional states, educators give children confidence, a sense of well-being, and a willingness to engage in learning. As children experience being cared for by educators and others, they become aware of the importance of living and learning together with others.

Children develop their own well-being and confidence as they learn more about healthy lifestyles, emotional well-being, and healthy social relationships. As children become more independent they can take greater responsibility for their health, hygiene, and personal care, and become mindful of their own and others’ safety. Routines provide opportunities for children to learn about health and safety. Educators understand tha good nutrition is essential to healthy living and enables children to be active participants in play, and they are responsible for providing many opportunities for children to experience a range of healthy foods.

The state of children’s well-being influences the way they interact in their environments. A strong sense of well-being provides children with confidence and optimism to develop new friendships, interact with groups of other children, participate in new types of activities, and measure and calculate reasonable risks. It also influences children’s readiness to persevere when faced with unfamiliar and challenging learning situations and creates opportunities for success and achievement.

Learning Objectives supporting the goal of well-being include:

  • children feel safe, secure, and supported
  • children become strong in their social and emotional well-being
  • children take increasing responsibility for their own health and physical well-being
  • children develop knowledgeable and confident self-identities

Discovery and invention

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Children use a variety of processes such as exploration, collaboration and problem-solving to develop curiosity, persistence, and creativity. Children who are effective learners are transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another, and are able to locate and use resources for learning.

Through play, children invent symbols to explore relations of power, truth, and beauty as they move between the world as it is and the worlds they create. In these possible worlds, children have the liberty to push the boundaries and explore who they are as members of communities engaged with age-old issues such as good and evil. Learning to be imaginative and creative requires open and flexible environments, rich in materials and role models that reflect the cultural life of their communities—the songs, crafts, languages and artifacts—and opportunities for children to invent their own cultural forms and symbols; to explore unique and innovative approaches to understanding their worlds.[2]

Educators recognize children as competent learners, and understand that they are capable of interacting with their indoor and outdoor environments to discover new concepts, problem solve, and create new ways of learning and playing. Children use their representational knowledge to invent new play—a rock may become a truck, a tree may become a house, and a line of chairs may become a train. Creativity allows children to create their learning environments over and over and in different ways. This type of active learning environment supports children’s confidence to be involved learners who are increasingly able to take responsibility for their own learning, personal regulation, and contributions to the social environment. Connections and continuity between learning experiences in different settings make learning more meaningful, and contribute to the integrated nature of children’s learning and development.

Children develop an understanding of themselves and their world through active, hands-on investigation. A supportive, active learning environment encourages children’s engagement in learning which can be recognized as deep concentration and complete focus on what captures their interests. Children bring their own sense of self and their previous experiences to their learning. They have many ways of seeing the world, different processes of learning, and their own preferred learning styles.

An example of a learning disposition is the disposition to be curious. It may be characterized by: an inclination to enjoy puzzling over events; the skills to ask questions about them in different ways; and an understanding of when is the most appropriate time to ask questions.[3]

Active involvement in learning builds children’s understandings of concepts, as well as the creative thinking and inquiry processes that are necessary for lifelong learning. They challenge and extend their own thinking, and that of others, and create new knowledge in collaborative interactions and negotiations. Children’s active involvement changes what they know, can do, and value, and transforms their learning.

Educators’ knowledge of individual children is crucial to providing environments and experiences that optimize children’s learning.

Learning Objectives intended to support discovery and invention include:

  • children develop curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, and imagination
  • children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem-solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesizing, researching, and investigating

Language and communication

Language is the tool of the tools.
—Lev S. Vygotsky

From birth, children communicate with others using gestures, facial expressions, sounds, language(s), and assisted communications. Responsive adults support the development of language throughout early childhood

  • by giving language to a baby’s gestures (Oh, you want the teddy bear!) and expressions (Ah, you like this applesauce!)
  • by repeating toddlers’ expressions into full sentences (You want to read the book again?)
  • by probing and extending possibilities for language development when engaging in conversations
  • by providing opportunities for children to express their ideas, ask questions, and share stories

Educators appreciate that children are social beings who are intrinsically motivated to exchange ideas, thoughts, questions, and feelings, and who use a range of tools and media, including music, dance and drama, to express themselves, connect with others and extend their learning.

Early Childhood Educators provide opportunities for children to be able to communicate their feelings, thoughts, and ideas through careful and thoughtful design of the environment, and the educators’ own use of language and expression. Educators are skilled at maintaining a special balance in their exchanges with children—to respond to children’s expressions in ways that inspire children to continue their communication, rather than replacing children’s language with their own.[4]

Children’s use of their first language underpins their sense of identity and their conceptual development. They feel a sense of belonging when their language, interaction styles, and ways of communicating are valued. Children who hear, not only their own first language but the languages of other children in their program and community, begin to learn about the rhythms and sounds of all languages, and cultivate a sense of personal attachment to their own language, which contributes to their sense of personal identity.

Educators understand that children communicate with more than their words. Their constructions with blocks, art work, playdough figures, and pretend play scenarios all provide information about various stages of childhood development, interests and abilities, and how children interact both with the learning environment and other children. Educators encourage children to ask questions, and by analyzing those questions, educators assess children’s learning concepts, use of language, and pursue the types of things that children wonder about. When children are encouraged to re-tell an event, describe a painting, or explain what’s happening in the dress up corner, they have the opportunity to practice sequential thinking and reasoning. This expression and communication helps both educators and parents learn about children’s thinking, their ideas, and who they are.

Experiences in early childhood education programs build on children’s range of experiences with language, literacy, and numeracy within their families and communities. Positive attitudes towards, and competencies in literacy and numeracy are essential for successful learning. The foundations for these are built in early childhood.

Learning Objectives supporting language and communication:

  • children interact verbally and nonverbally with others
  • children engage with a variety of texts and gain meaning from them
  • children express ideas and make meaning with a variety of media
  • children begin to understand how symbols and patterns work
  • children use technology to access information, investigate ideas, and express their thoughts
  • Acadian and Francophone children in French minority language communities develop strong foundations in French

Personal and social responsibility

What children learn does not follow as an automatic result from what is taught, rather, it is in large part due to the children’s own doing, as a consequence of their activities and our resources.
—Loris Malaguzzi (Edwardo et al. 2011)

From infancy, a child’s relationships and experiences begin to influence the development of a uniquely personal sense of identity. Identity is not fixed at birth, but is shaped by a child’s family and community, interactions with others, culture, language, and experiences. Children who grow and develop in safe, secure, responsive, and consistent environments are more likely to develop the confidence to explore their environment and seek out new experiences. Children who are respected for their ideas, competencies, talents, and aptitudes develop a sense of themselves as competent and capable individuals.

Membership in communities involves interdependency. It is as simple and as complicated as this: we need to take care of each other, and we need to take care of the natural and constructed world around us. When children engage in respectful, responsive, and reciprocal relationships guided by sensitive and knowledgeable adults, they grow in their understanding of interdependency.[5]

Throughout the early years, children develop their own identities, and understand how they relate to others. Participation in high-quality, play-based early childhood education programs gives children the opportunity to test out different roles, such as taking turns being the doctor, patient, store clerk, and airplane pilot, and understand and appreciate other perspectives.

Interactions with other children and adults provide opportunities to learn how to listen to other opinions, promote one’s ideas, and resolve conflicts. Outdoor play cultivates a respect for the environment, and allows children to experience their natural environments in a first-hand and concrete way, and to understand their roles and responsibilities in taking care of our world.

Infants and toddlers begin to develop a sense of personal responsibility when they learn to feed themselves and recognize their belongings. Toddlers take greater responsibility for themselves when they accomplish self-care tasks, such as toileting and washing their hands.

Helping children develop strong personal identities, awareness, and sense of responsibility means educators spend time developing skills and strategies to help children regulate their emotions, problem solve, and communicate with others. Educators understand their own responsibility to model respect for children, families, and each other as professionals. They also understand the importance of creating inclusive environments that respect diversity and support all children to participate in activities regardless of their skill level or development.

In school age care settings, children’s sense of responsibility for their learning is co-determined and skills and attitudes towards life-long learning are consolidated. Children actively involved in community building develop common interests and learn about citizenship.[6]

By the time children are in their early school years, they are able to create rules for fair play, and modify and re-shape those rules in consideration of fairness to the group, or to ensure that all children have a chance to be included. Participation in games with teams encourages a sense of fair play for all and a sense of responsibility to the team.

Learning Objectives supporting personal and social responsibility
• children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy, and respect
• children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities, and how they can actively participate in them
• children respond to diversity with respect
• children become aware of fairness
• children become socially responsible and show respect for the environment


Learning Goals and Objectives (pages 47-54) from Capable, Confident, and Curious: Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework.

Province of Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2018). Capable, Confident, and Curious: Nova Scotia’s Early Learning Curriculum Framework. https://www.ednet.ns.ca/docs/nselcurriculumframework.pdf

  1. New Zealand Ministry of Education. 1996. Te Whãriki. Early Childhood Curriculum. Wellington, NZ. Learning Media. p.45
  2. Makovichuk, L., Hewes, J., Lirette, P., and N. Thomas. 2014. Play, Participation, and Possibilities: An Early Learning and Child Care Curriculum Framework for Alberta. Edmonton, AB: Government of Alberta. www.childcareframework.com p. 99
  3. (New Zealand Ministry of Education. 1996. Te Whãriki. Early Childhood Curriculum. Wellington, NZ. Learning Media. p.44
  4. Flanagan, K. 2012. PEI Early Learning Framework—Relationships, Environments, Experiences. Charlottetown: PEI: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/publications/eecd_eyfrwrk_full.pdf  p.69
  5. University of New Brunswick Early Childhood Research and Development Team. 2008. New Brunswick Curriculum Framework for Early Learning and Child Care—English. Fredericton, NB: Department of Social Development, Government of New Brunswick. www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/education/elcc/content/curriculum/curriculum_framework.html p. 34
  6. Australian Government Department of Education and Training. 2011. My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Child Care in Australia. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. www.docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/my_time_our_place_framework_for_school_age_care_in_australia_v4_1.pdf  p.7


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