Ana Maria de Araújo Mello
Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil
Fellow Since 1989
This profile was prepared when Ana Maria de Araújo Mello was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Modern theories of child development and education have established that from the moment of birth individuals are social beings who, when stimulated, can and do interact with their environment. Based on these premises, which refute the age-old belief that very young children interact only on a one-on-one basis usually with the mother or surrogate, Ana has designed a system of situations that create opportunities for interaction, turning daycare centers into valuable educational environments for children up to three years old.The basic principle at work is that children learn through imitation and play. Ana's curriculum works with three elements: spatial arrangements, objects, and the attitude of the caretaker, all directed towards stimulating play and imitation. The caretakers' attitude is basic to making this work. Ana feels that it cannot be expected of caretakers, especially in public or community daycare centers, to have or acquire the theoretical basis needed to understand the curriculum. However, a few simple facts and theories can be passed on. Also, simply applying the curriculum itself produces dividends; since the babies largely entertain themselves, the caretakers have more time for the necessary chores, and more energy to intervene when necessary. The curriculum helps create mutually rewarding environments.