The Pequenos program for students turning 3 by September 1 provides a positive social experience with a rich variety of developmentally appropriate activities. We offer a gentle introduction for young children to learn how to socialize and become part of a larger community that is not their immediate family. We do this through the Reggio Emilia Approach, which is described as a student-centered and constructivist approach that utilizes self-directed and experiential learning in a relationship-driven environment. Basing the program on self-guided curriculum through the principals of responsibility, respect and community through exploration and discovery.
We foster an environment in which children learn to negotiate respectfully, solve problems creatively and collaboratively and feel comfortable communicating with many different kinds of people. Class time is a space in which they learn to negotiate with others and express themselves through multiple media. We provide and create opportunities in which children discover more about themselves and the world around them through tactile and emotional experiences.
Children should have the freedom to discover who they are. We encourage them to have confidence in themselves and to cultivate a curiosity for the world around them. Our children form deep relationships with teachers and classmates, and gain an appreciation for the diversity of individuals in their community
Young children become increasingly skilled as communicators during these first years of school. The school environment encourages all forms of communication – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Activity areas are set up to accommodate groups of varying sizes, promoting interaction and communication between children. Group meetings are important in order to share ideas and experiences with each other, to develop a sense of community, and to communicate information that children need during the day. Children are encouraged to recognize and appreciate the feelings and ideas of others. Role modeling, cooperative play, songs, symbolic play with puppets and literature all help validate the children’s feelings and self-esteem while promoting an appreciation of individual differences.
Literature and books are a central part of every school day. The classroom has its own library of books, which is supplemented with books from other classrooms as well as the school library. There are weekly visits by the school librarian. Children are also encouraged to bring favorite books from home.
Literature is used to expose children to the joys of reading and storytelling. It also enhances the classroom’s integrated curriculum, reflects the interests and needs of the children, and exposes them to the conventions of language and reading. Children are encouraged to compose their own stories through one-on-one oral dictation with the teacher, group “language experience stories,” or individually.
In addition to group activities, reading and writing materials are made available during “independent choice” periods to encourage those students who are interested to feed their curiosity and expand their skills.
Observation and comparison are key elements in math for pre-schoolers. 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 each day, or measure ingredients for a cooking project. Students gain increased understanding of similarities, differences, sorting and grouping, and learn to express this information visually, physically and orally. They may construct simple graphs and charts to present information, or make use of math manipulatives including pattern blocks, Unifix cubes and Geoboards.
Direct experience is the foundation for learning in early childhood. Social studies, therefore, is based on the child’s own familiar experiences. Through literature, interactive games, dramatic play, songs and activities, children explore themselves, their families, friends, school and neighborhood, and learn to celebrate their differences. Learning how to get along with peers and adults in a school environment by developing the social skills necessary for group interaction is of prime importance.
Families are encouraged to play an active role. Parents, siblings, caregivers and extended family members have the opportunity to interact with the children in the classroom in a variety of social and educational activities.
As with mathematics, the introduction of science to pre-school children involves observation, examination, exploration, prediction and experimentation. Science is everywhere in a classroom of young children. Sand and water play provides endless opportunities for creatively pouring, measuring, floating, sinking and combining materials. Cooking is possibly the most satisfying science activity for young children because the results can be eaten! Ingredients are cut up, measured, combined and cooked while the changes are discussed. Science studies are enhanced by Rio Grande’s Science specialist, who goes into the classroom to instruct and contribute materials and expertise.
Physical Education and Movement
The children meet once a week with a Specialist for both Physical Education and Movement. During these classes the children engage in a variety of exercises and games designed to help develop body awareness, motor skills, stamina, and an enjoyment of group participation in physical activity. Focus is on motor development and mastery of skills.
The children also spend one hour a day outside using the outdoor equipment which requires the use of both upper and lower body gross motor skills. Building and digging with a variety of tools, and group games such as, Duck, Duck, Goose.
Artistic expression and experience are a fundamental part of our 3-year-old program. As children are just beginning to develop expressive language, the arts support skills in this area while providing solitary and interactive creative experiences in a variety of media. Drawing, painting, printing, collage, sculpture, sewing and weaving, for example, are all activities that not only provide a medium for artistic expression, but also help develop dexterity and fine-motor coordination.
The primary goal of music class is to give children an enjoyable and supportive musical experience through singing, movement, games, stories and percussion instruments. Children are engaged in singing, finger plays, dancing, playing rhythm instruments and listening to many styles of music as a regular part of each school day. The music in the class also supports the different learning styles in the classroom.
To foster connectedness, Pequenos are paired with a specific mentoring fifth grade buddy. The buddies meet every Friday to share an academic activity. The buddy relationships formed over the year often blossom into long-term friendships, and offer the Pequenos an expanded notion of family and friendship, while giving the fifth graders a sense of empowerment and leadership responsibility.