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Rethinking Kindergarten

Learn philosophies from early childhood masters that explore childhood development and creation of classroom resources while integrating play-based learning and foundational skills to reach your youngest students.

Early childhood students often have difficulty following the rules and routines of the art room. This course will facilitate a deep dive into a variety of strategies, tools, and methodologies sure to support these young artists in the art classroom. Course participants will investigate a variety of progressive philosophies, including Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Waldorf as well as techniques for integrating play-based learning and teaching foundational skills. This eight-week intensive course will provide participants with innovative opportunities to explore childhood development, create classroom resources, and revamp their philosophy of teaching younger learners.

See the course syllabus and Graduate Catalog for more details.

Required Materials

No text required for this course.

Additional Materials

  • Computer with basic audio and video output equipment
  • Internet access (broadband recommended)
  • Basic computing skills (see AOEU’s Technology Requirements)
  • Access to AOEU’s online learning platform, Brightspace, to view course content, submit assignments, and engage in discussion (provided)
  • A Google Drive account (not provided by AOEU)
  • Word-processing platform (Microsoft Office, Pages, Google Docs)
Graduate Credits
All courses will now close at 11 PM Central time on the 27th of each month. Graduate Credits 2 Graduate Credits
Price Graduate Credit $798.00
AOEU Course Code
Morningside Course Code
EDUC500 AOE013

Course Objectives

  • Develop meaningful curricular materials suited to the needs of today’s diverse students.
  • Evaluate various philosophies of early childhood education to inform and improve practice.
  • Develop opportunities for play-based learning and student-directed inquiry.
  • Gain strategies for fostering rich and ongoing partnerships with other adults in the learning community to further enrich the experiences of students.
  • Examine strategies for classroom and student work management.
  • Develop tools to assess and advocate for process-based classrooms.
  • Build and reference a library of resources to address the needs of diverse learners.

Course Breakdown

Week 1
Early Childhood Development and Foundational Skills
  1. Build knowledge of early childhood development and how it relates to art education.
  2. Develop techniques for teaching foundational skills and understanding children’s artwork
Week 2
Comparing Progressive Early Childhood Philosophies
  1. Research and investigate the three major progressive philosophies: Montessori, Waldorf, and Reggio Emilia.
  2. Identify common themes and differences between a variety of kindergarten philosophies.
Week 3
Tapping into the “Big Picture” of Kindergarten
  1. Learn about the history of kindergarten and how it has transformed since its inception.
  2. Interview a professional in early childhood education to develop a relationship for a future partnership and synthesize similarities and differences in philosophies of teaching.
Week 4
Process vs. Product and Learning Through Play
  1. Investigate how play and process are an integral part of the early childhood learning experience.
  2. Develop a series of play-based centers or units.
Week 5
Rethinking Space and Materials
  1. Rethink your classroom space and materials to encourage authentic learning.
  2. Design an action plan for the proposed changes to the classroom and art materials.
Week 6
Managing It All
  1. Consider a variety of readiness levels and how this impacts classroom management in kindergarten.
  2. Explore a variety of strategies for student engagement, classroom management, material organization, and activity transitions.
Week 7
Advocacy and Assessment Through Documentation
  1. Learn about documentation as advocacy and an assessment strategy.
  2. Discuss various ways to document student learning.
Week 8
  1. Reflect on major shifts in your teaching philosophy throughout the course and present learning to peers.
  2. Create a comprehensive tool kit of lessons, visuals, and planning documents.

Process vs. Product and Learning Through Play

A sample assignment from Week 4 of the class Rethinking Kindergarten

1. Research

Do some research of your own regarding best practices for classroom management in early childhood classrooms. Identify and discuss one particular play-based learning strategy or idea that you would like to implement in your classroom. Why are you excited to try this in your classroom?

2. Discussion

Reference specific ideas you might use to advocate for shifts in teaching and learning. Share an advocacy statement for specific stakeholders (i.e., parents, administration, the board of education) and gain valuable feedback from the instructor and peers.

3. Practical, Hands-On Application

After learning about the power of play in early childhood education, design three or more play-based art centers. For each, include a paragraph explaining how you will introduce them, photographs documenting materials and setup, and a resource for students to reference during the process.

What do past course participants think?

Hundreds of art teachers have taken the course Rethinking Kindergarten. Here’s what they actually think — without cherry-picking.
(12-month rolling average from all post-course survey respondents – Updated 1/28/2021)


Course content was relevant and current.


Instructor was knowledgeable and provided value-added contributions.


I achieved the goals I set at the beginning of the course. 

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