The Preschool Classroom
Preschool is a time for children to learn how to take care of their needs with increasing independence, help others, and take care of their classroom and school. Our program is designed to support and extend young children's learning through direct experiences. Children learn best when actively engaged, so we provide a balance of teacher-directed and child-initiated activities. Throughout the year we will focus on each of the following areas using many different topics and interests as the vehicle for doing so.
Our preschool children, affectionately called Honeybees, are encouraged to ask, evaluate, and decide; to stand up for themselves; and to listen to others with understanding. We draw each other in as we draw each other out. Learning to hear and tell stories is a central part of the program. Teachers start with what children do best: play. It’s natural for them to build, create, explore, and interact; we provide a curriculum and a loving space for each of those capacities to expand naturally to take in new ideas, facts, and social and physical skills.
Much of our work in preschool is to help children learn how to effectively relate to those around them: friends and classmates, family members, and teachers. We directly teach many strategies that help children deal with real-life situations such as entering play, refraining from interrupting their grown-ups, or conflict with a friend. We focus on negotiation with peers, expressing and understanding one's own feelings as well as those of another, cooperation and teamwork, and being a kind and safe playmate. We seek to foster resilience, flexibility, gratitude, and a positive outlook.
In preschool we are lucky enough to be at the start of an academic and social journey that will continue for many of the class members for the next 14 years and beyond. Therefore we strive to create a group that cares for itself as well as each person within. We teach skills that are crucial to being an independent thinker who is willing to take intellectual risk, as well as being a supportive social learner. We ask that people share their thoughts by waiting with a quiet hand and when the group is asked a question we often wait a moment before calling on someone so that "everyone has time to think." Through these types of words we model an understanding of individuals' unique qualities, as well as an expectation that the group as a whole will support each member within.
Preschoolers are encouraged to verbally express their thoughts and feelings in order to communicate effectively with those around them. Using language as a tool to express, share, and further one's thinking is one of our goals for the preschoolers. We model the value of words, both written and spoken, throughout the day. We tell stories (both real and pretend), read many, many books, and take delight in the taste, sound, and meanings of certain words and phrases. We encourage the children to familiarize themselves with the world of print by looking at books on their own and figuring out the story through the pictures. The children go to the library every week for story time and a chance to choose books for the classroom. We ask the children to express their thoughts pictorially and give us the language that goes with these pictures. The preschoolers often send dictated notes home; these might be love letters or messages about what is best to send for lunch. Either way they model the importance of the written word. We are vigilant about monitoring small motor skills, which are an integral part of the mechanics and art of writing. We are always careful to nourish the children's confidence in themselves as pre-literate thinkers and doers. Our biggest goal for the preschoolers is that they learn the value of words and language; as a group they are not yet developmentally ready to be taught the fine art of reading.
Young children are scientists by nature in that they are constantly thinking about the world around them and trying to understand and connect existing knowledge with new understandings. In preschool we observe, question, and interpret what we see. We think critically about our observations and hypothesize about what we do not understand. We experiment with substances like sand, water, light, and color both formally and informally. Our invention center encourages three-dimensional building and learning about what will make a strong connection based on the use of materials (glue, tape, string). We think about cause and effect and observe it by leaving water outside to freeze, or bringing a snowball inside and seeing it melt. Our campus allows for time in the woods, among the apple trees in the orchard, or seeing what rain does to a dirt path. Each class brings in new interests that we explore as a group, for instance dinosaurs, sea animals, volcanoes, or chickens. We look to increase our knowledge of the physical and natural worlds throughout these types of explorations and investigations and encourage an investigative approach to the life of our preschooler children.
Preschoolers are given many opportunities to gain skill, control, and coordination with both large and small muscles. This includes fine-motor skills (cutting, holding a pencil, sewing) and gross motor skills (time in PE and music, on the playground, walking through campus or taking bike hikes).
What do we mean by self-regulation?
It is the ability to calm one’s body and to notice when that is called for.
Self-regulation work is a cornerstone of all that we do in the Beginning School. We teach self-regulation strategies and techniques, and support them with guided practice. Becoming skilled at self-regulation makes all aspects of school and life easier and more pleasant. It underpins learning, increasing independence, making and keeping friends, being able to work together with others, and having the confidence that one can make a difference in the world.
Self-regulation is the ability to express one’s emotions clearly and appropriately in various situations. It is the ability to moderate one’s thoughts to problem-solve and learn effectively. Becoming good at self-regulation is a long process, but the payoff is immense. It’s never too early to begin with developmentally appropriate steps.