Children are scientists. They observe, enquire, predict, test and re-test, with not a single white coat in sight. Watch the excitement on children’s faces when exploring the bubbling qualities of baking soda mixed with different liquids; or marvel at how the child not using words to communicate indoors will find the words he needs to show his excitement of the sensory garden or of his freshly planted seeds. Scientists don’t need desks, they need to wonder out loud.
Providing an environment rich in wonder and opportunity, the Preschool of Sciences celebrates the naturally enquiring minds of children. We believe children who see themselves as capable of making a difference go from learning about their world to being the difference in it. This focus on confidence and individuality is entwined in the culture of our school and we consider developing children socially and emotionally, working hard on their confidence in their abilities and ensuring there are no mistakes in learning to be the cornerstone of a foundation for life.
During their early years children are instinctively driven by their senses, and motivated by real experiences that are meaningful to their world. At Pre-School of Sciences we focus on the STEM approach, that being the understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Really though, STEM simply gives a label to what children are already doing naturally during play… exploring, observing, asking questions and predicting. Children choose to play that way because it is fun for them, and by encouraging children to take this lead, they are developing cognitively with real learning rather than just memorizing. Simple really. “There are no greater natural scientists and engineers then young children. Inquisitive learners who learn STEM concepts through play. High quality early learning environments provide children with the structure in which to build upon their natural inclination to explore, to build, and to question.” (JD Chesloff shared by Rae Pica in “What, Teaching STEM in Preschool, Really?“
Adults have lots of requirements of their child’s pre-school and hopefully the information in these pages helps answer most of your questions, but for children it is much more simple. They want to have fun! Our school lives and breathes this. Play and learning are one and the same and we embrace how children can construct their own learning much better than any adult can. After all, our children have very specific ideas about what they like with vivid imaginations to go with it. Our job is to celebrate that individuality and turn it in to the confidence to investigate.
Close relationships with key adults offers a secure base from which children naturally gain the confidence to become independent and full of initiative. Playing alongside adults with a deep understanding of how children think and learn, the role of the adult is one of collaboration. Our children are not given answers by their teachers. Their enquiries about rainbows, about why it goes dark at night, about why the class gecko has webbed feet, about growth, decay and life are met with an adult who also declares, “I wonder?” Children gain understanding and have the time to naturally absorb the logic they have discovered.
Connected holistically to language, literacy, maths, social skills, expressive arts and beyond, our science based approach provides experiences aimed at fostering creativity and a love of learning that will inspire them for life.
Our commitment to young children, our knowledge about the way they learn and our love for all things science form the heart of our values as a school.
“First and foremost, we believe that if children feel loved, secure and heard all areas of their development happen organically.”
Provide children with a solid and loving relationship with key adults and they have a secure base from which to play and learn with confidence and independence. Through our Kindness Curriculum, our focus on STEM practices and our Montessori and Reggio Emilia approaches to early education (our Curriculum) our focus is ensuring children are confident in their abilities, know there are no mistakes when experimenting, feel capable of innovation and of affecting the world they live in and above all, feel they are an important and appreciated member of their community.
Communication is purposeful and valued in all it’s forms while children are learning the skills they need to use language for thinking. We believe communication is a process and even our youngest scientists’ attempts at communication are observed and responded to long before they ever speak a word.
The pace and interests of every child are supported and children are treated as individuals. Our children learn at their own pace, being as thorough or as fleeting as they choose. They are given as much time as they need to re-visit an activity and supported by staff who understand how to engage your child and ‘wonder out loud’, children become the leaders in their learning.
At The Pre-school of Science we believe parents are the primary educators – no one knows your child as well as you do! We encourage you to share your child’s ‘wow moments’ with us to allow us to build on their successes and we invite you to be as involved as possible in your child’s time here. Your input is invaluable to our approach.
Our curriculum, our philosophy and our values are there to help children develop into people who look on the world as something they are excited about; and children who are confident in their ability to make it a better place.
By now you have an idea of what we teach and why, but what are our children learning, and does a science and kindness based curriculum really benefit children right through pre-school?
The strides children make in their abilities as they move from their second to their third birthday are so incredible it can be hard to keep up!
Children are starting to be expected to consider themselves in relation to a wider world and navigating this can be as emotional and confusing for children as it it exciting and new. Our 2’s are not considered ‘little 3’s’, rather this stage of their development is embraced. They are helped with their developing sense of self through starting to name and acknowledge emotions, and using these to start understanding the tricky world of social interactions. We work on moving from playing alongside other children to developing friendships and collaborating in each others play, remembering that solo play and expressing how we feel is healthy and age appropriate.
We do lots of early skill activities with our 2’s to help them with future reading, writing and problem solving. Large round arm movements, such as dancing with ribbons in the wind strengthen the shoulder and arm muscles essential for pencil grip later on. Imaginative play with items recognised from around the home or from favourite stories allows for story recall which is a perfect basis for early learning when they are ready. Their non-verbal communication is noted and acted upon by teachers trained to be in tune with the complexities of the world of our 2 year olds.
So what might the STEM curriculum look like for a 2 year old? Sensory, sensory, sensory! Think walking on different textures with bare feet, or making rainbow jars from different liquids, oils and gels and exploring them with light. Children can try pushing cars through sticky gloopy mud to compare it to pushing them through water, or my personal favourite, make rainbow coloured bubbles ‘en mass’ by running with a soapy tennis racquet. If a 2 year old can touch it, smell it, squash it, inspect it, throw water at it, light it up or eat it, they’re happy scientists who are making cognitive connections naturally.
By now children have found a real joy in friendships and are learning together more and more. Teachers can observe their play and wonder out loud about ‘what might happen if’…and children will start to take this lead and run with it!
Early cognitive skills are embedded in our interactions with 3’s and age appropriate expectations give them a sense of control and empowerment. Giving out the plates to a table of 6 when the teacher only gives you 5 plates requires problem solving and language for thinking
Children are still navigating the world of social interactions but being kind to others, and being able to expect kindness in return, helps children at a time of rapid social and emotional development that only serves to enhance their ability to think more deeply than before.
STEM activities for 3 year olds can get pretty complex! Children are starting to explore engineering and problem solving, and may even start to make predictions about what will happen next. A simple experiment with raisins in a glass of clear soda invites enquiries about air and pressure, and the time served joy of making boats out of leaves and testing their qualities on the water is great for drawing out language for thinking. When they’re ready for something more complex, mixing materials to make magic waterproof sand can encourage predictions about what happens if they add more of one or another ingredient.
Our 4’s are really on the move! Every day gaining more confidence in their abilities with an attitude for learning that has been fostered to be fearless and playful. Children are growing more confidence in self care and the care of others and find pleasure in being given tasks such as caring for the class animals or plants. Really showing independence skills now, children are really quite skilled in predicting routines, recording findings, planning their own activities and taking control of their day.
Teachers will get alongside children and scaffold their learning. In addition to ‘wondering out loud’ with the children, teachers will be encouraging predictions and re-tests of their theories. This process expands the ‘zone of proximal development’ (Vygotsky) and takes children from what they know by themselves, to what the are capable of working out with the help of someone else. The brain of a 4 yer old is advancing indeed.
STEM activities for our 4’s are limited only by your imagination. Children may design straw bridges and test their strength using different materials placed on top. If they’re feeling particularly scientific they may even record their findings on paper. Children might explore the construction qualities of marshmallows and pretzels – always a favourite. We might engage the chidrens senses by going on a sound walk through the grounds, where we stop and listen at different intervals and talk about what we can hear and why. Children may take this a step further by choosing a stick on which to tie things they find other walk to talk about later. This is great for language and re-call skills. Furthermore our 4’s might explore weight and balance with nothing more than a small tree stump, a plank of wood and a few friends. This is science at its most fun!
Located within a synagogue, many of our values as a school are deeply entrenched in Judaism. Values such as tzedakah (charity), tikkun olam (repairing the world) and hesed (acts of loving kindness) are central to our philosophies and curriculum. There is a well known Jewish analogy that considers a child like a seed. If watered and nurtured they will grow strong roots that form the foundations for the rest of their lives. Our commitment to the Montessori and Reggio Emelia approaches to early education is underpinned by this belief and our primary role is to nurture children as individuals.
Most education systems view and treat children as developing adults, meaning their experiences are based around what they can grow up to contribute as adults. We view children as important in their own right. The stage they are at right now is important and their actions and contributions as a child matter and are valued. The Jewish philosophy of “teach your child, according to his way” reflects our own values, as does embracing the whole child as part of a family and wider community. With this in mind the Montessori and Reggio approach is typical in Jewish pre-schools.
Our preschool embraces the rich tapestry of our neighborhood and by adopting Jewish values and traditions within our inclusive science based curriculum we can support our communities’ newest members.
Aimed at teaching children kindness, empathy, social competence and an awareness of their ability to affect their world, the Kindness Curriculum is a mindfulness based curriculum developed by leaders in psychology and education.
Research carried out at the University of Madison-Wisconsin found that children who participated in the Kindness Curriculum earned higher marks in academic subjects than those who did not.
Published in the journal ‘Developmental Psychology,’ children were also found to show greater improvements in areas that predict future successes such as health, educational attainment and financial stability.
The role of early education is not to teach children to remember the alphabet or to count as high as their memory will allow. That is not school readiness. Early education needs to nurture a child’s spirit in a way that makes them innovative, independent problem solvers. To be ready to learn children need to be able to regulate their emotions, tolerate age appropriate delay (having to delay instant reward for something better later); they need to be able to maintain attention and control impulsive behaviours. Through this children achieve more success in their activities and so gain the confidence to investigate further.
“The modern world requires a modern approach to childcare and early education. Children also need to learn understanding and empathy, and to view themselves as an important part of a global community. It puts the world at their feet!”
Our Kindness Curriculum sees children treated with kindness and respect, and in turn helped to show that to others. They have the opportunity to care for plants, grow food, care for a wide range of animals and have age appropriate responsibilities towards their friends. Children are helped to think about their community and the people who help them and to reflect on their role in eachothers lives. The Kindness curriculum on any given day might just be about learning to stop and take a deep breath. The spellings can wait.