Each day the door on Fern Court opens wide to welcome children for a new day at school. The school Director greets each child by name with a warm smile; teachers are waiting inside by the coat hooks ready to hear news from home, offer help with a coat or backpack, and help children say good-bye to parents and beloved caregivers. The inviting and exciting atmosphere of the classrooms draws children inside. Each class may have a different schedule, but most include a mix of Child-led, small group and full group experiences such as:
Our classrooms are open, light-filled spaces with high ceilings. Each room is filled with carefully chosen open-ended materials, including blocks, paint, dough, sand, water, art and writing materials, manipulatives, puzzles, musical instruments, science materials, and dramatic play spaces. Because of our excellent ratios and small group sizes, teachers are able to engage with each child as they expertly promote active involvement with the materials and gently encourage cooperation. Children use the materials and toys to explore, to experiment, and to play with each other. These experiences are the foundation of our play-based curriculum.
Group meetings bring children together to share news and full group experiences with their classmates. During this time, songs are sung, movement activities are enjoyed, and new games are introduced. Children may also acknowledge the assisting parent, look at the calendar to track school days versus family days, pick line leaders, or solve classroom problems as a classroom community.
Snack brings small groups of children together, with a teacher or assisting parent at each table, to enjoy a nutritious snack and talk with each other. Children learn how to pour their own juice, take turns in conversation, pass the cracker basket to a classmate and clean up their space when they are done. Teachers have the opportunity to hear news from home and support emerging self-help skills.
Outdoor play time is an important part of our day, during which many of our curriculum goals are supported. We have three outdoor play spaces for children to experience at school. Our outdoor classroom, connected to the school, allows for: exploration with nature as children garden, explore seeds and dig in the dirt; physical work as children dig with large shovels, build with heavy tree blocks and bricks, and creative opportunities as children engage in dramatic play on the stage or paint portraits of the flowers. A climbing playground, built with preschool age children in mind, is a short walk away. Directly across the street, the "fountain park" allows opportunities for large group running games, balls and hoops, sidewalk chalk and bubbles. In the winter, children enjoy sledding down the "hills" and digging in the snow with shovels.
Children develop a love for books and literature long before they can read. Books are always available in the classroom during free play time, and we set aside time each day for small and large group read-aloud times. Every day, after Snack, children have time for "book browsing". Children choose a book to look at on their own, or with a classmate. Teachers join groups of children to read to, giving them the opportunity to engage with small groups around plot, character, and illustrations. Teachers also read aloud to the full group, carefully choosing fact, fiction or poetry from our diverse library of children's books. As children begin to learn that stories have beginnings, middles and conclusions, they want to engage in story-telling as well. Story dictation is an important part of our early literacy curriculum.
When the school day comes to an end, children gather as a group to sing a song or listen to a teacher-spun story or book. This time is seen as an opportunity for quiet time together at the end of the day, to have a shared experience as a community, and to connect experiences in their school day and family life. Before heading to the door, children check their "school pocket" for their art work or special collections from outside time. After a kind good-bye from teachers, children are reconnected with parents and caregivers, eager to share their stories from their day at school.