For many children, our Preschool Classroom is their first experience sharing a classroom with others as well as saying goodbye to parents and caregivers. We see this classroom very much as a bridge from home to school. Our goals are mainly that children learn to be part of a community, to feel comfortable at school, and ultimately to enjoy making connections and learning together.
Our play-based philosophy in itself, goes a long way towards helping children feel comfortable and at home in the Preschool Classroom. When children enter with their caregivers, both the environment and the teachers beckon them to play, create, and express themselves. What could be more natural and inviting for a young child? As they explore, warm and engaged teachers make tactful observations and ask thought-provoking questions that extend and scaffold children’s play and ideas. In time, children learn that what they think and care about matters. Trust is built.
In both of our classrooms, teachers focus a great deal on social and emotional learning. But in the Preschool Classroom especially, it is central topic of conversation each and every day. If you invite a group of young children together to play, conflicts of interest will naturally arise. Children will need warm, attentive, and understanding teachers to teach them how to express themselves, listen to one another, and manage their emotions. There is nothing more important that children should be learning at this age and again, nothing we focus on more.
As the year unfolds as children grow more comfortable, we are afforded more opportunities to introduce children to more academic concepts such as letters, numbers, colors, counting, shapes, and patterns. We keep it light and incorporate these lessons through classroom toys and materials, books, large and small group-times and through their play. Every day, children have opportunities to express themselves and explore in blocks, play dough, puzzles and manipulatives, dramatic play, and art. These developmentally-appropriate activities are part of our Preschool Classroom every day.
With time and practice, children learn to master these experiences and express themselves further. They also learn the important skill of making choices in the classroom–following their intrinsic motivation and interests. Observant teachers take their questions, expressions, and ideas and build upon them–creating an emergent curriculum that is meaningful, organic, and constantly evolving.
But what this age needs most from the adults in their lives is warm understanding and guidance and they get that here. Children leave our Preschool Classroom with the strong sense that school is inviting, engaging and safe and that their teachers care about what they have to say, what they create, and what they do. The foundation for a lifelong love of learning has been established.