The goal of education in Park's Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten program is to stimulate the healthy growth of each child's intellectual, social, physical, emotional, and ethical powers.
At Park, our Pre-Kindergarten is followed by a traditional Kindergarten experience that precedes first grade.
Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) is a time for children to experience the joys of learning in the classroom, on the playground, and beyond. Park’s beautiful campus is a place for young children to investigate life cycles of creatures large and small while using a variety of materials, resources, and tools. Pre-Kindergarten curriculum introduces children to the organization and routines of school. As the youngest children in the school take on their role as students, academic skills are introduced in a nurturing, caring environment. Building on the Pre-Kindergarten foundation, Kindergarten (K) students begin to focus on the skills that will be needed to tackle the rigors of first grade. Opportunities and expectations for reading, writing, mathematics, and science are incorporated into play and work. Offering two unique, yet complementary Kindergarten years supports the range of skills and developmental needs of the youngest learners in the Park School community.
In Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, children work on the academic skills necessary to become successful readers and writers. Park’s teachers build on children’s prior knowledge and abilities as they plan and facilitate authentic and intentional language arts experiences. The language arts program focuses on:
Listening is a primary intellectual skill. Children are guided to listen thoughtfully to each other in conversation, to their teachers, and to speakers during presentations.
Through conversation with both teachers and peers, children become increasingly proficient and confident in the use of oral language. Children practice speaking skills by sharing stories and information with their classmates during guided and structured activities.
The richness of classroom-expressive language and shared literature, including fiction and nonfiction texts, provides an important base for strong reading skills. Classroom libraries are extensive and care is taken to expose children to a diversity of characters and life experiences. Phonological awareness is taught in both small and large group settings through games, songs, and poems. Skills in letter recognition, sound and symbol correspondence, sounding out of simple words, identification of text features, and the building of an appropriate sight word vocabulary are emphasized. Individual and small group work support emergent and early readers. Group literature discussions center on building comprehension skills, expanding students' vocabulary, and relating literature to personal experiences.
Early writing takes many forms including scribbling, drawing, reproducing letters and numerals, and using invented spelling. Children in Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten have many opportunities to write daily.
Story journals and science observations provide structured writing experiences across the curriculum. We discuss elements of a story: characters and setting, as well as the beginning, middle, and end. Children consider writing as a process where stories are first orally told, then written, revised, edited, and published. In science, children practice looking closely and noticing details, making observational drawings, and then recording their observations in writing.
Making signs in the block area, writing notes and cards at the drawing table, making lists and “menus” in the dramatic play area, and creating stories and books with teachers’ guidance during “work time” are all examples of writing.
The librarian visits Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes weekly. In addition to bringing beautifully written and illustrated books to read to the children, the librarian also introduces books and stories that enrich and support our curriculum. In the spring, Kindergarten (K) children begin to visit the library where they select and check out books on their own.
Through the Technical Education Research Center (TERC) math curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, children explore mathematical ideas and reasoning, and apply problem- solving skills. This curriculum, which begins in second year of Kindergarten, continues through the Lower School years.
Play and mathematics are inseparable, and many important mathematical concepts are learned and practiced in the context of informal play. All Kindergarten classrooms offer rich mathematical experiences for children, which are grounded in play-based activities. For example:
• Building with blocks introduces children to concepts of shape, relative size, geometry, area, and measurement.
• Playing games involves mastering rule systems, counting, mastering one-to-one correspondence, and strategizing.
• Working with puzzles, tangrams, and pattern blocks sharpens spatial awareness.
• Observing, creating, and extending patterns engages children in algebraic thinking.
• Categorizing, sorting, and comparing attributes of various materials gives children experience in analyzing data, as well as using mathematical language.
• Designing surveys promotes critical thinking and consideration of methods for recording, analyzing, representing, and presenting data.
Park’s Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students are challenged to become keen observers and thinkers. Through modeling and coaching during small group and class discussions, children learn to ask investigative questions, articulate ideas, formulate hypotheses, and consider each other’s thoughts and opinions. They practice recording their observations and discoveries through writing, drawing, and graphing. Science themes include:
• The metamorphosis and migration of the Monarch butterfly
• The life cycle of frogs
• The properties of water
• Seeds and plants
In addition, the children enjoy field study sessions by engaging in seasonal studies involving our garden, the nearby woods, stream, meadow, and pond. Students also have the opportunity to explore classroom science collections. The Lower School science teacher works in small groups in the classroom.
It is essential to empower our youngest students with age-appropriate language and tools to develop an early understanding of human diversity and social justice.
Helping young students learn to be proud of their own identities, build on their natural curiosity, recognize similarities and differences, identify instances of unfairness, and develop empathy is at the center of our work.
We work to nurture childrens’ individual identities and to build a foundation for them to demonstrate respect for others, and to stand up to unfairness and injustice.
The primary goals of the Spanish program are for children to develop communication skills and an understanding of the diversity of cultures within the Spanish-speaking world. Kindergarten (K) students meet with the Spanish teacher in small groups and are introduced to targeted vocabulary and features of Hispanic cultures through crafts, games, stories, and songs. Connections with the classroom curriculum are often established, allowing for additional opportunities to practice vocabulary and discuss culture in a variety of contexts.
All Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students examine the broad themes of connections and change. Throughout the school year, students build upon the connections they make with their teachers and classmates and begin to connect with the broader Park School community. Fourth grade students partner with Pre-Kindergarteners and Kindergarteners as “reading partners,” and eighth grade math students join Kindergarten (K) students to create musical instruments together. As teachers guide students through these experiences, they begin to feel the importance of being part of a larger community. Many activities and projects arise from the current population of Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten parents and children. Teachers guide students based on their interests and teach them to observe, learn, and ask questions about subjects that they find meaningful. These interests often evolve into in-depth learning in the classroom. A project-based learning initiative develops each spring in Kindergarten (K) based on the interests of the class as a whole.