Nature and Ourselves, Harvest, Shapes, Penguins, and Simple Machines
The Kindergarten curriculum goes hand in hand with children’s natural curiosity and interest to learn. Social growth and cognitive skills are encouraged in creative, playful ways that surround the process of learning with enjoyment.
Mini units throughout the year prepare Kindergarteners for future year-long core studies which begin in First Grade. Our changing themes — Nature, Ourselves, Harvest, Shapes, and Simple Machines — are explored in depth and provide a way for young children to make sense of themselves and the world around them. Theme studies serve as a catalyst for a broad range of learning experiences and help promote further exploration and discovery. For example, a study of penguins encourages social and emotional development as students learn about the community and family life of penguins; the unit on simple machines is a perfect STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) experience providing a hands-on understanding of how things work.
Through daily exposure to class discussions, conversation, storytime, and singing, children are encouraged to express themselves while immersed in a variety of linguistic settings. Group discussions based on daily activities are guided by the teachers and serve to foster listening skills as well as to develop expressive language as each child is given an opportunity to answer questions or to reflect on activities. In Kindergarten, the focus is on developing phonemic awareness, pre-reading, pre-writing skills, and an appreciation of literature. Our philosophy is that each child will develop reading and writing skills at his or her own pace. Planned activities related to letters and their sounds occur regularly throughout the year. Helping children to understand symbolic relationships of all kinds (for instance, that pictures stand for objects and that the squiggled lines on a page stand for written words) provides the bedrock for learning to read.
Library: Kindergarteners continue to look closely at a book’s illustrations to enhance their understanding of a story and their empathy for the characters in the story. They dive more deeply into non-fiction, beginning to identify some of the text features that are unique to informational books. They begin to engage in genre studies, looking for patterns and commonalities in genres such as poetry, tales, and adventures. Their understanding of the library’s organizational system continues to develop as they are guided in how to use a book’s spine label as a source of information about genre and content.
Math is naturally woven into the fabric of the entire Kindergarten curriculum. Following a hierarchy of developmentally-appropriate skills, our goal is to have children develop a broad understanding of a variety of ways to think and talk about math. Hands-on experiences allow students to manipulate tools and objects to fully understand mathematical processes, such as sorting, counting in rote fashion as well as with one-to-one correspondence, making comparisons, estimating, patterning, measuring, and deriving logical conclusions. In addition to these hands on experiences, Kindergarteners begin to routinely document their knowledge of these topics in a formal way.
In Kindergarten we continue to build upon our observation skills. In addition to discussions, the students also make sketches and diagrams of their observations. The themes of seeds, fruits and flowers, shapes in nature, simple machines, and scientific investigation are explored with greater attention to detail and increased independence in conducting experiments, such as planting seeds in different conditions, exploring magnetism, or determining patterns in density, floating and sinking.
In Kindergarten French class, we reflect as closely as possible the process by which children acquire their first language. To engage the students and make the learning memorable, the instruction is based on the children’s immediate environment and fantasy world. The class relies on basic vocabulary and simple language structures which the children become familiar with over time. A typical lesson may include puppets, movement, imaginative play, games, music, drawing, and storytelling.
Music: Our music goals in Kindergarten are: to inspire appropriate and imaginative responses to music using the voice and the body, and to lay groundwork for music literacy through guided critical listening. Materials include American folk songs and games, Far Brook songs, songs and games from around the world in their original foreign language, and formal repertoire of the classical canon, with a focus on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Children learn to access their head voices and to aurally recognize basic elements of music, such as beat and rhythm, high and low, marching and swaying, forte and piano (loud and soft), smooth sounds and bouncy sounds (legato and staccato), walking notes and running notes (quarter and eighth notes), or tutti and solo.
Dance: Dance at the Kindergarten level builds upon the experience gained during the Nursery year, working with a developed movement vocabulary and building towards performance work. During the fall semester, dance classes reinforce classroom learning about insects — butterflies, ants, grasshoppers — to develop performance work for sharing. The students understand how to create dance with the movement qualities of each insect and collaborate with each other and the dance teaching artists to create dances. In the spring, students share dances connected to themes they explore later in the year.
Art: Kindergarten students build on their skill development and expand their options with tools and materials. Their understanding of the formal aspects of art are the basis for visual expression. Learning about shapes in their classroom provides an excellent opportunity to support the creation of a painting which includes two versions of one original shape that is combined together. This project is influenced by the work of artist Frank Stella who introduced the concept of an irregular edge on the painting perimeter and included sculptural elements which extended beyond the perimeter of his flat surface paintings. A paper sculpture of penguin families highlights their study of penguin species and introduces another opportunity to experiment with a three dimensional format. Direct observations of natural phenomenon continues to be an important method of understanding the visual world.
Woodshop: The Kindergarten curriculum continues to build upon the skills introduced in the Nursery. With a few more advanced projects completed in the beginning of the year, the students gain experience and strength with the woodshop tools before exploring their creativity by free building sculptures.
Social and Emotional
Daily interaction among the Kindergarten students provides ongoing awareness and conversations centered on a wide a range of social and emotional topics. Exploration of these routine experiences through small and large group discussions and related literature further enhances students’ recognition and appreciation for individuality and diversity. The topic of each child’s uniqueness and differing style and approach to life is explored and celebrated throughout the school year.
Kindergarten students have sports class 4 times per week for 30 minutes each class. Cooperative games are played daily and students learn to interact with each other and understand their role in the group. Locomotor and visual motor skills are improved through games, drills, and free play with other students. Students learn the importance of being physically active each day. Every month the students are introduced to a Sports Changemaker. This is an athlete that has made a difference in the world through improving social conditions and fighting for justice and fairness.