The Preschool Curriculum
Literacy begins at birth. Preschool children are acquiring language, learning to listen, and beginning to recognize that written symbols have meaning and are used as a method of communication. Our Preschoolers are helped to express themselves and build vocabulary by being read to, by looking at books, and by dictating their own stories. A trip to the library to hear a story and choose a book occurs weekly. Language is valued as a positive way to resolve problems and issues in the classroom. Teachers monitor and guide each child to ensure their development of visual and auditory discrimination, use of oral language, ability to answer questions and follow verbal directions, and ability to remember previous events and apply that information.
Mathematics is a way of ordering and thinking about the world. As soon as a child thinks of himself or herself (one) and others (more than one), the child is beginning to understand and learn math. Mathematical concepts develop though the hands-on use of materials such as manipulatives, puzzles and Cuisenaire rods that allow children to discover and explore early math principles. When children are building in the block area, playing with sand, setting the table, taking only two crackers for snack, or following a recipe chart, they are developing mathematical skills and concepts, including matching, sorting and grouping, patterns and sequencing, one to one correspondence, part/whole relationships, spatial relationships, and number concepts.
Science in our Preschool means more hands-on exploring, experimentation, and discovering. Children learn science by engaging in activities such as observing grass grow, watching butterflies emerge from their chrysalids, and studying and researching ponds or owls. They care for animals in the classroom, observe growth in themselves and others, and observe the weather. Other science activities include using magnets, color wheels, and magnifying glasses. Older children may take trips to the park to observe seasonal changes, in addition to learning about day and night, the clouds and stars. Their observations lead to “scientific” predictions and eventually to finding ways to record their observations.
Social studies allow Preschoolers to explore and understand their immediate environment and learn respect for and acceptance of a variety of ideas and opinions. Children begin to learn about their classroom community, its routines, rhythms, and rules. By sharing their different backgrounds and holiday traditions, and by exploring a variety of cultural and ethnic cooking activities, stories, music, and dances, Preschoolers discover the many wonderful differences and common threads that bind individuals together. After children become comfortable in their own classroom, they are introduced to the wider school community: interacting with Lower School buddies, watching performances by other classes, and participating in school-wide events such as the all-school art show.
Art is a form of communication that comes naturally to children. It is experiential and exploratory and does not always need to be planned or purposeful. Our Preschoolers have opportunities to be creative every day, using a variety of materials including paint, markers and crayons, clay, and collage. Art activities develop fine motor coordination, awareness of color, shape, size, and texture, and understanding of spatial relationships and that symbols hold meaning. They develop self-expression and provide emotional outlets for our students. Our Preschool classes also engage in musical activities daily. Classes sing or play rhythm instruments and listen to a wide range of music representing different styles and cultures. As children sing, do finger plays, or imitate animals in a song, they use their imaginations and improve coordination. They develop an appreciation for patterns and the musical variety produced by rhythms, melodies, and musical instruments. They also simply learn to love music and find joy in singing together.
Dramatic play allows children many opportunities to grow socially and emotionally as they use their imaginations: in the house area, the block area, with a basket of small figures, or on the roof in free play. Children in a safe, supportive environment with the guidance of teachers can imitate the adults in their lives, play out real life roles, reflect the relationships and experiences in their lives, express their needs, reverse roles, mirror their own growth, and problem solve and experiment with solutions.
On the roof, in the gym, and during dance, children are developing an awareness of their bodies in space. The ability to move with skill, care, thought, and imagination is a learning process for children as they gain control of their own bodies. In the classroom, the children learn how to move safely and appropriately. On the roof playground or in the gym, they have the opportunity to run, jump, climb, play with balls, ride bikes, and move with freedom. In dance, they learn many different ways of moving as they explore a variety of themes and music. The themes are often related to classroom activities such as fall leaves, dragon dancing for the Lunar New Year, or snow gently falling to the ground.
Service Learning is an important and inherent part of a BFS education. To properly serve their community, children must first learn what a community is, what it means to be part of a community, and one’s role in serving his/her surrounding communities. In the Preschool, we build this necessary foundation through our ongoing curriculum and community service projects such as participating in collections of pennies, books, food, or clothing for various organizations. Each class also takes a turn baking a special snack for a local women’s shelter.