Scripted Programming


Recently, the topic of themes and scripted programing for young children caught my attention. Some educators love scripted programming. They revel in the themes and projects that celebrate a particular time of year, holiday, or season. In my work with school age children, themes and scripted programming have always been present.

When I started my career in early childhood education we learned about creating a curriculum. It always included themes and scripted activities. Being a professional educator meant that you maintained a large calendar filled out months ahead of time with pre-planned activities for the children. Activity choices determined by the months of the year, seasons, and special events within the community. Our role as professional educators was to blend in math, science, and language to create an activity mix that offered the children a well-rounded educational experience.

As my career moved forward, I was a co-teacher with people from different cultural and educational backgrounds. During this time I learned new philosophies about working with children. In collaboration with my new colleagues, we started our transition away from scripted programming and embraced the project approach. Instead of focusing on creating programming, we collaborated with the children and created projects based on their interests and inquiries.

Did our change in approach mean that scripted programming went away?

During most of my career in school age care, the administration has embraced child directed learning. But as pressure from parents, school partnerships, or licensing agencies grew we were required to offer a set of pre-planned activities. The desire to make afterschool look and sound like school is strong. In school age care, it may be the single determining factor of what the children experience.

While respecting children’s ability to create and engage in their own work, we made compromises to our practice and scripted programming remained. The educators did not create the scripted programming it was created offsite by the admin folks. The scripted programming did not interfere with the children who engaged in their own work. Scripted programming was made available for children who wanted to explore it. 

The truth of our practice is that some school age children find less comfort with having choice. These children are happiest when engaged in work directed by an adult. This is a small percentage of children, but they are part of the learning community. These children do engage in their own work at times, but are more comfortable when offered a project idea and then running with it.

Scripted programming helps school-age educators offer choice to the children that want to make crafts, cook, and engage in other activities with pre-determined outcomes. In our program most of the children do their own thing. Educators come along side the children as co-learners and travel along the learning journey. Children who are not involved in free play or project work often look to the monthly calendar of scripted activities for something to do. 

Will the day come when school age programs offer less scripted programming and more child directed opportunities? I am not sure. I have been in the field for twenty-four years and scripted programming has always existed. 

Early education is more progressive with programming than school age care and is evolving at a quicker rate. I hope that someday the offerings for older children with evolve too as new educators come into the field with fresh ideas. I know some great educators who are doing amazing work with school age children. Their programs inspire me and give me hope for the future. 

Does your program use scripted programming?

What are the outcomes of offering scripted programming to the children?