Preschool children are forming lasting impressions of school and of themselves as learners. We believe that a positive Preschool experience is vital to future academic achievement, and our goal is to provide a caring and supportive environment in which each child enjoys many challenges and experiences much success.
Both pre-kindergarten and kindergarten curricula are based upon the premise that young children learn best when they are actively engaged. The activities we provide allow students to explore concepts in language arts, mathematics, science and global studies. Enrichment classes in art, cooking, music, Spanish and physical education are integrated with our units of study. In addition, the library is an appropriately active learning environment that our Preschool children enjoy.
The pre-kindergarten curriculum is based on the premise that young children learn best by doing and that active learning is fun. A day of special activities to celebrate the 100th day of school, a journey back to medieval times, and the making of a space helmet and oxygen tank are all positive learning experiences. Our chief goal is for every child to love school and feel successful as a learner.
Pre-kindergarten classrooms are set up in age-appropriate centers that include dramatic play, art, puzzles, manipulatives, games, blocks and building, sand/water tables, science materials and books. As the curriculum units change and children’s skills develop, corresponding materials are rotated into the centers and new activities are introduced.
In the beginning of the year, unit topics focus on the children themselves. Concepts include how they are changing and growing, their families and pets, how their bodies work, feelings and friendship. As the year progresses, unit topics take on a larger perspective when the children learn about dinosaurs, space, insects, animals and sea life.
By learning and playing with others, pre-kindergarten children are developing the social skills needed to be a part of a group. An accepting environment encourages a positive self-image and an awareness of others’ feelings. Learning how to share, take turns, negotiate, wait one's turn and make friends are by far the most important lessons learned in pre-kindergarten.
Pre-kindergarten language arts and literacy skills are presented and practiced in the many activities that encompass the 13 units of study that are the framework of the pre-kindergarten curriculum. While learning about dinosaurs, the solar system, etc., students are exposed to many forms of print, enriching vocabulary, new information that crosses into the areas of social studies and science, and multiple opportunities to actively explore and enjoy each unit topic presented. The scientific skills of observation, comparison, prediction and drawing conclusions are exemplified and practiced.
Through these unit-based experiences, reading readiness skills such as letter recognition, letter formation, letter sounds, listening, speaking and writing skills are developed. Additionally, the Handwriting Without Tears program is introduced in pre-k. Both teacher-directed and student-choice activities provide good practice for spatial, gross and fine motor skills, as well as an open and positive environment in which social skills are modeled and learned, independence is encouraged and accomplishments are celebrated.
Pre-kindergarten children develop their understanding of mathematics through the use of concrete materials. The hands-on activities are designed to help young children see the patterns, relationships and interconnections of math ideas and concepts. The variety of activities provides for concept and skill development throughout the year in areas such as patterning, classifying, comparing, counting and graphing. Daily calendar activities also help to strengthen math concepts. Pre-kindergarten children learn to write the numbers 1–9, work to recognize written numbers to 20 and participate in activities that help to build both accuracy and consistency when counting objects. As a child’s math understanding and skills progress, they are used to form generalizations, make predictions and associate symbols to a learned concept.
The kindergarten language arts program provides many experiences in reading, writing, speaking and listening.
The beginning reading program builds the foundation for a child’s understanding of letters as written symbols for spoken sounds. Letter sounds are then blended to form words, and words are combined as simple sentences. As children begin to read, supplementary readers are used to help build a large sight-word vocabulary and to give children experience reading simple sentences. Many “easy reader” books are available in the library and in each classroom.
Writer’s Workshop develops the concept that stories are written thoughts. Children are authors as they write or dictate and illustrate their own stories. Children are supported in recording their thoughts and observations. Invented spelling is encouraged to strengthen phonemic awareness and support creativity.
Children are exposed to a wide variety of poetry and children’s literature in the library as well as in the classroom. Story reading is a part of every school day, and children’s poetry is introduced and illustrated or dramatized.
Our challenging and relevant kindergarten mathematics program is based upon the premise that both mathematical understanding and procedural skills are equally important. Using hands-on experiences and mathematical communication strategies, we create a learning environment that develops critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills. Kindergartners have a special enrichment period devoted to math once a week, in addition to the daily math classroom lessons.
The mathematical skills we cultivate and reinforce include one-to-one correspondence, pattern recognition, sorting, classifying, matching, representing and writing numerals. Mathematical elements taught include numeration and number sense (including counting and cardinality), operations and algebraic thinking (including simple addition and subtraction), place value, measurement (length, capacity, time and money), data (graphing) and geometry.
Students learn mathematical concepts using a variety of manipulatives and concrete objects. Children study the properties and relationships of both numbers and geometric shapes through many experiences with pattern blocks, unifix cubes, geoboards, tangrams and everyday objects such as shells, bottle caps, keys, etc.
There is an emphasis on problem-solving and the application of mathematical solutions to problems of daily life.
The kindergarten social studies topics provide the framework for the kindergarten curriculum. As each unit is studied, lessons in mathematics, language arts, science, music and art are related to the culture under consideration. The kindergarten social studies curriculum examines the family unit and the basic human needs of clothing, food and shelter. Children develop an understanding of and appreciation for cultural similarities and differences through stories, films, discussions, role play and art activities. Each social studies unit includes an assembly and culminates in a special celebration. Parents and grandparents are encouraged to share slides and/or artifacts pertaining to the country studied. The social studies units are as follows:
- My Family, My Home, USA
The weekly kindergarten science lesson correlates with the social studies curriculum. The objective is to provide a “hands-on” introduction to our natural environment. The children are given the opportunity to learn scientific concepts through active experimentation and exploration. Personal involvement is stressed, and critical thinking is encouraged. The program is flexible enough to include any “scientific finds” your child might like to share.
Durham Academy has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for innovation, leadership and excellence. Kindergarten children will be introduced to computer use for drawing and simple word processing. Skills introduced include logging on and off, opening files, using a drop-down menu and toolbars, as well as saving and printing files. Students will explore the use of various drawing tools in their illustrations. The lab is equipped with iMac computers; software used for kindergarten classes includes Kid Pix and Paintbrush. Students will also use Keyboarding Without Tears, a program that teaches pre-keyboarding, keyboarding, general computer readiness, digital citizenship and digital literacy. Students also are able to access iPads in the classroom for curricular work.
The physical education program provides an enjoyable introduction to what we believe is an important part of your child’s total development. By encouraging participation in a variety of activities, we explore many new opportunities in each child’s physical development. By encouraging cooperation and sportsmanship, we can help each child adapt to the “new” school environment. Preschoolers attend PE class three times a week.
The physical education curriculum emphasizes basic body management, locomotor and non-locomotor skills, manipulative activities, games of low organization, rhythmic activities and gymnastics. Specific activities within the program include movement exploration, conditioning, ball skills, games using balls, singing games, basic tumbling, relays, parachute, gym scooters, bean bags and games using no equipment.
The Preschool music program integrates song, speech, instruments and movement. The children’s natural affinity for singing and rhythmic action is nurtured through songs and musical games (corresponding to the language arts, science and social studies curricula); dances and interpretive movement; ear training (from tone matching to a sense of choral blend); rhythm studies; instrument playing (both barred and unpitched percussion); samples from classical literature (including a kindergarten unit on orchestral instruments); and visits from accomplished musicians. Preschoolers attend music class twice a week.
The Preschool classes present three programs during the course of the year: Fall Songfest, Grandparents and Special Friends Day, and Closing Exercises. Special performances provide opportunities for children to work together as a Preschool; to learn stage presence and voice projection; to build poise and confidence; and to share their musical accomplishments with an appreciative audience.
Whether rehearsing songs for a program, playing scales, steps and skips on the staff or dancing to a folk tune, the twice-weekly music classes have one overriding goal: to be fun and to generate within children a genuine, enthusiastic and lasting love of music.
At the Preschool level, the process of visual creativity is more important than the product. Art education reinforces students’ creative abilities by providing opportunities for visual self-expression. The visual arts enhance the creative processes through skill development. The curriculum introduces a variety of media for exploration, including drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, clay and sculpture. Preschoolers attend art class once a week.
Conversational Spanish will be introduced in informal, brief lessons and integrated within the pre-k and kindergarten curricula. Children will be encouraged to speak and to listen; lessons will be brief and frequent as recommended by language learning specialists. Preschoolers have Spanish class three times a week.
The Lower School library program, which serves both Preschool and Lower School students, emphasizes the value of books for enjoyment and learning and the nature of the library as a research facility.
Children in the Preschool visit the library to learn how to use the available resources for research and to select books to take home for sharing. Books may be checked out and returned on a daily basis, as the library operates on a flexible schedule to allow for traffic throughout the school day.
Parents are always welcome to visit the library.
Building and manipulative play help to develop spatial reasoning and encourage creativity and cooperative play. A weekly 30-minute period in kindergarten devoted exclusively to various building projects supplements daily play time in the classroom (during which building is one of many options). Kindergartners participate in the building period once a week.
Pre-kindergarten cooking classes correlate with the units of study. Kindergarten cooking classes follow an international theme, with classes cooking and sampling the cuisine from the five countries studied in the social studies curriculum: USA, Mexico, China, England and Kenya. Our cooking experiences emphasize good nutrition, offer new tastes and, most of all, are fun. Preschoolers attend cooking class once every other week.