Nursery children complete the transition from home, learning the routines of group life and finding a comfortable place among their classmates. They begin to develop their independence and self-esteem through learning simple life skills such as dressing themselves, using appropriate table manners and having classroom responsibilities. The curriculum supports growth in language, pre-reading and writing skills, math, science, music, dance, art and various crafts. Because children this age are sensory learners, they are provided with a wide variety of materials for exploration, including paint, sand, water, and clay. Activities are designed to foster the individuals' developing skills and to focus on their ability to share materials, take turns and to listen, as well as to express their feelings and ideas.
Children in Pre-K use many of the same materials but with greater skill and in more complex ways. They have become more competent with language and can dictate stories, participate in group discussions and solve problems together. Four year olds can work more independently, but are also ready to collaborate with their peers on group block building projects or plan story reenactments with friends. They assume greater responsibility for their classroom through the assigned daily jobs and can direct their increasing attention spans and developing work habits to delve into selected curriculum units.
Over the two-year period, all children will receive a full complement of instruction. The nature of the specific activities will vary depending upon the developmental needs and interests of the children.
Our aim in language development is to increase the children’s use of language, i.e. speaking and listening; to encourage an appreciation of the importance of language; to cultivate an interest in the written word; and to foster a delight in the varied use of language. The following activities help young children discover the uses and value of language:
- “Public” speaking, singing, reciting finger plays and nursery rhymes during circle time.
- Develop the ability to express wants or needs through words rather than by nodding or pointing.
- Daily reading of books, storytelling, plays or puppet shows.
- Classroom discussions about stories and events.
- Recitation of simple poems, passages.
- Introduction to Spanish in Pre-K.
The classroom is an environment rich in print, so children begin to see the relationship of symbol to word, such as:
- Regular singing of the Alphabet Song.
- Match, label and identify letters.
- Practice the concepts of left-to-right and top-to-bottom.
- Practice sequencing and pattern.
- Begin practice in acquiring letter-sound correspondences.
- Pair of upper and lower case letters.
- Recognize one’s name and those of classmates in printed form.
- Begin practice in placing letters in alphabetical order.
- Beginning simple reading practice through our "Getting Ready to Read" program.
- Guidance in the proper handling of books.
The following activities support beginning writing skills:
- Open availability of a variety of materials that stimulate interest and practice in writing.
- Through child dictated stories.
- Develop the ability to express one’s thoughts, ideas and experiences.
- Learn to write their name and form letters with an appropriate pencil grip.
- Guided practice in simple handwriting activities and basic handwriting skills.
- Regular modeling of writing on the blackboard and charts.
Many math activities are woven into the Preschool’s day. Materials in the classroom that develop mathematical thinking include anything that can be counted, measured, exchanged, added to, subtracted from, multiplied, or divided. Young children develop mathematical skills when they build with unit blocks, pour water in the water table, count how many children are present at circle time, help set up the snack table with one napkin and cup for each child present, or measure ingredients for a cooking project. These materials allow children to engage in both open-ended exploration and more structured, organized activity with teacher suggestions and direction. The curriculum is designed to increase the children’s understanding of basic mathematical concepts: position and direction, sorting and classifying, shapes, patterns, number sense, time, measurement and problem solving. The following activities support early mathematical skills:
- Rote counting from 1 to 20 (and beyond if ready).
- Numeral recognition from 1 to 20.
- Practice of one-to-one correspondence.
- Match, sort and pattern activities and games.
- Color and shape recognition.
- Games using comparative terms such as large/small; larger/smaller; large/larger/largest).
- Practice of predicting and estimating.
- Introduction to ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.).
- Introduction to simple word problems.
- Stories and finger plays, which incorporate numerals and counting.
As with mathematics, the introduction of science to preschool children involves observation, examination and experimentation. Science is everywhere in a classroom of young children. Children observe and discuss change in seasons, plant growth, and cooking ingredients. Preschoolers have a natural delignt in and immediate connection with their senses. The following activities further develop children’s ability to observe accurately, ask questions and follow-up their inquiries:
- Read books and telling stories about animals, plants, weather and the seasons.
- The study and care for classroom pets.
- Observation and exploration of nature during park time.
- Multisensory examination of rocks, shells, leaves, seeds, etc.
- Playful exploration of the elements (sand table, water table, seasonal planting of bulbs and seeds, etc.) and the senses connected to them.
- Art projects and classroom displays that incorporate “natural” materials.
The children are exposed to a wide variety of materials with an emphasis on the process of creating. Their desire to create is supported by the following activities:
- Availability of a variety of materials for free time use.
- Planned art activities that address specific skills.
- Modeled use of materials including care and clean up.
- Projects where the whole group works together.
- Visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art give children exposure to fine art.
- The "Artist of the Month" program introduces the Pre-k class to master artists and their techniques.
- Visiting artists offer live action demonstrations of their work.
Our goal in the Preschool Division is t o nurture the children’s love of song, rhythm and music in the following ways:
- Daily singing during circle time.
- Moving rhythmically to music.
- Availability of simple instruments.
- Playing games using rhythm sticks or other percussion instruments.
- A variety of multi-sensory games that encourage watching, listening and responding.
- Listening to fine music.
- Weekly class with the music specialist.
Fine Motor Skills
The aim is to refine eye-hand coordination and encourage the development of finger strength and dexterity. Children participate in the following activities that will help support their fine motor skills:
- Practice in refining ability with writing tools and paintbrushes.
- Learning to cut with scissors and to use a hole-puncher.
- Guided practice in more independent dressing.
- Pouring sand, beads, seeds, liquids, etc.
- Arts and crafts activities requiring the use of small items.
- Model with gooey gunk, clay, beeswax.
Gross Motor Skills
Outdoor play in Central Park ensures that children have ample opportunities for physical exercise daily. Children also participate in the following activities that allow them to have fun, while at the same time improving coordination, balance, reflexes and stamina:
- Organized activities that provide practice in following a sequence of movements such as an obstacle course.
- Organized activities that provide instruction and practice in a particular skill such as rolling, throwing, catching and bouncing balls.
- Throwing objects to reach a target.
- Participating in group games (races and relays).
- Engaging in creative movement to music.
Attention, Stillness and Character Development
The practice of a short period of physical stillness and inner quiet throughout the day allows the child to find rest in his or herself, bringing peace and happiness. The children are also provided with opportunities which encourage the virtues of friendship, love, truthfulness, respect, generosity, kindness and responsibility. The following activities support the above aim:
- Focused attention
- Short periods of quiet throughout the day.
- Grace at lunch.
- Stories, passages and dramatic play depicting the virtues.
- Classroom responsibilities.
- Learning simple passages by heart.
Social and Emotional Development
Our focus is to guide them in learning to work and play in an expanding social and emotional circle. The curriculum provides specific instruction in appropriate action and speech. The teachers demonstrate the importance of respecting authority and assist the children in learning the value of cooperation. A broad range of activities and materials enables each child’s growth to proceed naturally.
The following routines provide instruction and practice in sharing, turn-taking and cooperative play:
- Classroom jobs that provide opportunities to contribute to the care and well being of their teachers, classmates, and to the harmonious functioning of the classroom.
- Family style lunch program where the children learn to share their lunch, to serve lunch to others, to use simple manners, and to engage in mealtime conversation.
- The use of stories, daily events and teacher example to provide instruction and practice in learning the importance of respecting oneself and others; how to accept change and handle frustration; and the value of friendship.