The children at our preschool grow their own food. In a changing world that requires resourcefulness and adaptability, the skills and habits learned through growing your own food to eat are key. Children help choose what to plant from our seed library, learn how to care for it and carry out these tasks daily. They then harvest the food for their snacks and meals, helping to prepare them for cooking and eating. A sun-warmed strawberry or a sweet pea straight from the plant has even been found to help develop a snacking preference for fruits and vegetables. By having children grow their own string beans, carrots or radish, they develop a sense of pride in eating what they have lovingly nurtured to fruition and can in turn learn about healthy eating in a meaningful way. Using it to grow food to eat, children understand that they are the impactful influence required and through patience, perseverance and skill they have a tangible reward for their efforts. Everything we strive to teach children, all under one glass roof.
With the right level of planning and supervision, the plants inside our greenhouse become teachers in their own right. Children learn to listen to the plants and follow their lead. When the cucumber needs more time to grow, it’s sharp peel and prickly leaves communicate this to little fingers. When children see sagging leaves, they know the squash is thirsty and asking for a drink. They become able to identify plants by the leaves, so even without any visible strawberries it is still known as the strawberry plant. Children can peacefully tend to peppers, basil, marigolds, beans or lettuce. They know their names and uses, they are closer to the organic food chain and can identify them at source.
Gardening teaches our children the importance of caring for the environment. When children are gardening they can easily see how important it is to take care of the Earth if they want their garden to grow and produce healthy plants. It creates the perfect opportunity to talk about concepts such as pollution, pesticides and recycling.
The careful planning and responsive care fostered by year round gardening directly reflects the skills we teach children at the Pre-school of Science. Gardening makes children feel competent. They are enjoying an activity often reserved for adults and can have rare opportunity in their young lives for the kind of peaceful thinking that happens when we tend to plants. In fact the American Journal of Public Health states children perform better mentally when they have access to green spaces and the improvements in memory and attention are even more significant when exposed to activities like gardening.
The daily gardening responsibilities for all children allow for a different perspective on their abilities and the impact of their competence. Most activities in a STEAM curriculum offer the children the chance to make an impact immediately. Adding dish washing liquid to milk and food coloring to watch the swirls for example; or working together to construct using boxes and watching as it collapses under weight and pressure. Gardening is different. It teaches responsibility and patience. It teaches the impact of care, sunlight and water on the growth over time. In a world of instant gratification it teaches children that small actions repeated every day can have the biggest and most rewarding impact on both themselves and the wider world.
An acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math,
The Preschool of Science introduces the most basic foundations of science, technology, engineering, art and math through active observation and exploration of the world around them. More than that, it fosters an environment of excitement in giving things a try. STEAM education helps children understand implication and creates critical thinkers.
Through well resourced free play and focused exploration, our junior aerospace engineers take delight in constructing airplanes, rockets and helicopters. Even our youngest scientists can start exploring wind and trajectory. It’s amazing how much further you can throw with a wind machine at your back. Children may take on some chemical engineering, investigating the properties of several concoctions to make their own goop, play doh, fizz or bubbles. Civil engineers of all ages can explore the concepts of building and construction through hands-on exploration. Think bridges, roads and skyscrapers taller than the teacher!
A STEAM focus close to our hearts at the Preschool of Science is environmental preservation. Children will learn to care for animals, help plants grow and create protection from the sun’s heat. They will investigate natural processes like erosion, animal adaptations, and plant growth. Children discover ways that we can be inspired by the world around us to take on all sorts of challenges.It allows children to explore, make predictions, experiment and question what they understand. Whether that be the addition of salt to their investigations with ice, their observations of wildlife numbers after building a bug hotel, or exploring what difference sand makes to the feel of shaving foam between our toes,children feel the impact of their contribution.
The Kindness curriculum has its roots set firmly in mindfulness. The more aware children are of their own thoughts and feelings the more able they are to empathize with the feelings of others and to respond to them in an impactful way. Consider this; children are naturally better equipped to practice mindful techniques than adults as they tend to enjoy a moment for what it is rather than it being tainted with other thoughts and feelings. A child jumping up and down in a muddy puddle is not concerned about or distracted by what she has to do later that day. A quality that seems to diminish with age. Through simple mindfulness techniques we teach children to stay in the moment. To enjoy every feeling and motivation it gives you and to go wherever it leads you. In turn children are less easily distracted, can maintain deeper thinking for longer and can draw real enjoyment from their experiences.
Our kindness curriculum is woven into the fabric of our school and through daily practices children develop emotional literacy, recognize and appreciate the kindness shown to them by others and have plenty of opportunity to show kindness themselves.
The greenhouse play element is a great teacher of the kindness curriculum and one that is utilized as part of our daily routines. Children learn to care, learn to be patient, and learn what another living thing needs to thrive. Our whole environment at the Preschool of Science encourages kindness to life and beyond the greenhouse children care for themselves, each other, our outdoor space and our animals.
Children may be in charge of tidying up the rain boots or collecting food for a class pet. They learn what it means to help others and this fosters an environment of co-dependency and community as children can also see what their friends and teacher do to help them.
‘Kindness’ in itself is a non-tangible concept for children so we teach the kindness curriculum as something a little more concrete. We regularly discuss what it means to be kind and equally to be unkind. We practice small acts of kindness like saying hello, smiling at the new child in class to help them feel welcome or letting a friend go first in a game. Teachers model good manners and help even our youngest scientists with their ‘please’ and ‘thank you’s’ through words and sign.
Every morning at circle time children give a penny in the tsedakah box. When the box is full the children talk about where they would like the money to go; deciding for themselves the contributions they would like to make.
Children may play breathing games to help them notice their breathing patterns and so learn to control them. A popular game is having the children choose a ‘breathing buddy’ to place on their tummy while they lie on their backs. Children are encouraged to breath slowly and deeply to rock their breathing buddy off to sleep. A great mindfulness technique for adults too!
Children will explore topics such as the weather, recycling, waste materials, animals, oceans and change as part of their STEAM curriculum to instill an early awareness of environmental issues and a love for our planet.
With their teacher, children may spend time talking about the people in our community who help us, such as the bus driver or person who works in the local shop. They may then discuss something kind they could do for that person and carry it out, maybe making a card or baking a cake. Children are also given the opportunity for random acts of kindness.
Teachers will use stories to help children explore feelings and discuss them, supporting the beginnings of emotional literacy and allowing children to recognize what different feelings look like in other people. We explore what to do if we are playing and a friend starts to cry or say no, and how we should stop playing and ask if they are ok. We also discuss our right to say no and how we can expect kindness in return. Though this children reflect on their sometimes overwhelming emotions and change their relationship with them. Which part of the body felt angry, happy or upset? What is our impact on the feelings of others and our own?
At the Preschool of Sciences we have animals come visit us once a week. We encourage children to take part in the care of animals as a wonderful way of empowering them. There is something special about children’s interest in animals and in most cases they have an instinct to want to care for and nurture creatures that are small and vulnerable. Including the care of animals in a child’s daily life greatly enhances their ability to learn responsibility for other living things and a respect for life. It is the natural extension to our focus on caring for plants and an explicit display of the Kindness Curriculum.
Supporting children in their growing awareness and interest in animals can lead to deeper feelings of empathy in young children, more positive classroom relationships and social-emotional development. As children have experiences with animals they learn about the needs of others (such as for food, shelter, water and space) and that not all needs are the same. Underpinned by their love for animals (and so others) is the ability to positively impact their world.