Our kindergarten children, affectionately called Eagles, are ready to discover, describe, and create. We explore the spaces of our classrooms—sitting together on the carpet, working together in groups at tables—and we extend our explorations to farm and field on our bus. We rejoice with our students as they appreciate the pleasure of communication. And we affirm their growing capacity to show cultural awareness, speak boldly, listen attentively, and solve problems.
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We pay close attention to each child’s mental, physical, and emotional growth, carefully designing our daily program to make sure everyone is included. That means worksheets are very rare, and homework at this age level is usually for parents: we provide frequent suggestions for reinforcing at home what’s happening in the classroom.
Reading and writing are integrated throughout the kindergarten program. Within our print-rich environment, reading for authentic purposes is a part of every child’s day. Whether we are reading the schedule to see what is next in our day, searching for information in a book, enjoying a story, reading a message from a friend, creating signs and labels for the playhouse, or writing a story, reading and writing in kindergarten always occurs within a meaningful context. Kindergarteners work on:
- Expressive and Receptive Language
- Phonemic Awareness (rhyming; identifying, segmenting, and blending sounds in words)
- Identifying and writing letters
- Producing the primary sound for each letter
- Reading some common high frequency words
- Concepts of Print (print moves left to right; 1:1word correspondence)
- Retelling the setting and key details of stories through drawings, creative movements, and conversations
- Making connections between books and own experiences
- Making predictions
- Spelling words phonetically
- Forming letters
- Communicating ideas through writing, drawings, and dictation
Math is integrated throughout the kindergarten program. We keep track of the days of school, noticing patterns in the base-10 number chart as we work towards the 100th day of school; every ten days, Zero the Hero flies in to help us celebrate. We create graphs about our community members as we learn about our identities, comparing and contrasting things we have in common with our peers. As we plan our topics of inquiry, teachers intentionally plan for ways that math can be integrated; we look for opportunities to integrate direct instruction on counting, sorting, comparing, collecting and representing data, measuring, adding and subtracting. Kindergarteners work on:
- Counting Principles
- Writing numerals
- Comparing collections of objects
- Solving story problems with small quantities
- Adding and Subtracting within 5
- Classifying objects by different attributes
- Describing measurable attributes of objects
- Identifying and describing shapes
In Kindergarten, inquiry is at the heart of our curriculum. Our approach supports students’ open inquiry, independent thinking, and respect for diverse views. We leave room for student questions, and we foster curiosity, openness to differing perspectives, and the desire to keep learning — lasting benefits of a good education. Our environment is carefully designed to encourage exploration with a variety of materials and mediums for creative expression and storytelling. Teachers design four or five units of study a year around questions that we believe are worth pursuing by people of any age. For example: What is our relationship with nature? How are we a part of cycles? How do we take care of a community? How do we study something? We also form small study groups in response to questions that arise out of the children’s interests, experiences, and explorations.
Through the practice of being in a musical community, children develop a disposition to musical learning. We believe music is a human birthright and all humans are musical. Children practice these cornerstones:
•Practice and learn to be aware of the behavior of the group and match my behavior to the group.
•Practice differentiating singing, speaking, whispering, (and shouting), and other vocal/mouth sounds.
•Practice matching pitch while singing.
•Practice having my voice match the other voices in the group.
•Practice finding a way to make a tap or clap match the group or the music (or both).
•Practice finding ways to have steady beat actions incorporated into musical games and folk dances.
•Practice moving in ways that match and respond to songs, recorded music, and folk dances.
•Practice moving in ways that match the movements of others in the group.
In the Studio, we practice being artists in a community space, with peer artists. Kindergarteners come to the studio in several configurations: in morning homeroom groups of 9, for rotations--a small group of 7 or 8 for three continuous days, and as a choice during explorations. Visual Arts is also an integrated component of the homeroom experiences, as the visual arts are a means for young children to express themselves, their thinking, and their learning. While children's making is at times closely connected to homeroom content, studio is also a time and place where art-making is the content. Kindergarteners practice:
•Engaging with a range of materials and 2D and 3D media including: drawing, painting, collage, clay, sculpture, natural materials, magna-tiles, sewing, and printmaking.
•Creating artworks for a variety of purposes and for varying amounts of time (some experiences are one day, while others span weeks).
•Using artistic language, including calling the materials, tools, and processes by name.
•Practicing sharing your artwork and considering changes you may make, as well as seeing and responding to peers’ works.
•Conversations about creations, working process, inspiration, problem solving, persevering, strengths, and challenges.
Every Kindergartener starts the year building a simple box. Beginning with this project allows students time to develop and practice newly learned skills at their own pace. The students use precut pieces of wood as measuring tools, which are referred to as units. This process allows the children to see how units link together, the basic concept of how a ruler works. Successfully building a 3-dimensional box emphasizes how measurement determines accuracy and balance. The rest of the year focuses on individual and collaborative creations--except for our final boat project. The goal in kindergarten woodshop is to try and build whatever is imagined. The kindergarten year in woodshop establishes a foundation for all kinds of creative thinking while empowering independence. Their finished work reveals a wide variety of understandings, creativity and craftsmanship! Some of the hand tools we use are: claw hammer, saw, coping saw, hand drill, brace drill, square, screw driver, sand paper, file, vise, C-clamp, bar-clamp and wood glue. Kindergarteners work on:
•Safe, purposeful and appropriate use of woodworking hand tools
•Simple techniques for beautiful craftsmanship
•Assembling parts in a balanced and logical manner
•Identifying the natural properties of soft wood (grain, knots and thicknesses)
•Using simple measurement strategies
Preschoolers are given many opportunities to gain skill, control, and coordination with both large and small muscles. They enjoy time in P.E. and extensive time outside on playground and exploring campus. Children begin to learn about the attributes of a healthy lifestyle, respect for individual differences and similarities, and how to participate cooperatively in physical activities. Preschoolers practice:
Simple games & movement skills
•How to play variations of tag games with classmates, moving from very simple to more complex movement patterns •Bodies need exercise to stay healthy and strong
Gymnastics & movement
•Proper use of apparatus
•Techniques for body control feet and hands, rocking, rolling, sliding, stretching, curling, turning
•Skills in transferring body weight
Dance & movement
•Locomotor activities: stepping, walking, galloping, jumping, hopping, leaping,skipping
•Non-locomotor activities: balancing activities, twisting, curling, turning, spinning, circling, stretching
•Pathways of movement: e.g. straight, curvy, zig zag sustained, sudden
Ball Handling Skills
•Fundamental movement patterns such as jumping or throwing
•Skills for throwing, catching, kicking, dribbling and trapping a ball
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) acts as an umbrella for all of the learning happening in Kindergarten and is integrated throughout our curriculum. Major goals of the Beginning School include helping children become their individual best selves and, concurrently, a community of learners. To that end, we continuously work on five SEL competencies*:
•Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. Kindergartners work on: expressing emotions, trying new problem solving strategies, identifying needs in a conflict situation, identifying strengths and challenges.
•Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward goals. Kindergarteners work on: transitioning to new activities, regulating body movements, regulating voice volume, matching energy level to the activity, choosing activities to match energy level, identifying needs, selecting appropriate strategies.
•Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior. Kindergarteners work on: reading body language to understand the emotions of others, comforting others who are upset, recognizing the impact of their actions on others, sympathizing with others, recognizing, articulating, and exploring differences between self and others, taking action to uphold kindness, safety, and fairness in the community.
•Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, negotiating conflict, and seeking and offering help when needed. Kindergarteners work on: building friendships, problem solving with others, discussing and practicing qualities that make a good friend, working and playing cooperatively.
•Responsible decision-making: The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions. Kindergarteners work on: making decisions about where to work and play, making decisions about with whom to work and play, trying new experiences, understanding why rules exist, making agreements that benefit the group, and supporting the community in upholding these agreements, articulating reasons for decisions and considering the impact of decisions.
*SEL competency descriptions based on the work of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).