Play is the lifeblood of a healthy childhood. Creative play becomes harmonious from 5-7 years. At 5 years, the child is at the peak of creative play and is extending his or her concentration. A 5 year old will think about what to paint. He or she will want more details in their play objects, such as a door that can open on a truck, or eyes on a doll or stuffed animals. Play is the conjunction of the child's imagination with the world surrounding him. A tremendous amount of learning and development of social skills occur during play.
At age 6, a big change is taking place within. Previously, toys in the environment stimulated play. Now their inner world is pouring out into the world around them. Their vivid imaginations can make trains from rows of chairs, and aprons and creatures from scarves. Often, a 6 year old will begin the day talking about what they want to play. Imitating adult chores such as setting the table, or carrying firewood allow the child to experience purposeful work. Children come to kindergarten having mastered simple skills, such as putting on their own clothes, washing their own hands, learning to take turns, and learning to simply express their needs. At the kindergarten age, children want to acquire skills in the accomplishing of real tasks. They want to: grind wheat, wash napkins, knead bread, mix dough, plant seeds, harvest pumpkins, sew, form letters, and grapple with numbers. In the course of these activities, they are also learning math, language arts and science, all integrated into their tasks.
While first grade children are also learning skills and accomplishing tasks, they are beginning to show more interest in the areas of reason and language. These interests are developed through theme and project work.
Making sure that children can develop at their own pace, we try to provide appropriate play spaces and toys at the school. The nature table reflects changes of the season, helping children to connect with what is happening in the natural world. The walls are soft colors, so children can focus without to0 much distraction. There is a block area and baskets for building bridges and barns.
Nature and the garden are a large focus of the K-1 classroom. September begins with daily walks, noticing the changes that Nature brings. Children prepare the soil in May, sow seeds, tend the plants and harvest in the fall. Children begin to develop the skill of noticing, observing the shape of a leaf, or the appendages of a caterpillar. This skill of noticing is the foundation for scientific observation, which, over the years at the Village School, develops as the basis for all scientific study.
The kindergarten and first grade groups have separate reading and math instruction, though they will often have opportunities in reading and math when they can work together. The groups come together for circle, singing, snack and recess, common math and language projects, journal, art, crafts and other project work. As in the other mixed age classrooms, they will work together on projects, for example, on an animal study. In such a study, a kindergarten student may draw pictures, and a first grader may write single sentences as captions for his pictures.
Math is integrated throughout the day, inside and outside, counting, comparing, cooking, building, and in so many other activities.
The kindergarten and first grade groups work with the Investigations math curriculum, which is geared to the developmental understanding of these age groups. The math curriculum is hands on. Children use manipulatives, engage in group projects, and play games. Parent letters go home at the start of each new unit.
The kindergarten and first grade classroom aims to serve children at their individual developmental level. A kindergarten child who is interested in reading will be encouraged and assisted, and a kindergarten student who is not ready to read will be allowed to develop in other literacy areas. The classroom always has lots of books, lots of opportunities to read to children, as well as a Story of the Week.
An introduction to letters and numbers begins in kindergarten. A letter of the week is chosen, often connected with the story. The teacher carefully responds to the children's interest in letters and numbers with hands on projects and presentations. The weekly story develops on from preschool. More complicated stories are chosen. Children spend time dramatizing the story. Working with story develops language, sequencing skills, and an appreciation of human values. In the kindergarten year, children are beginning a great transition that will take them into beginning reading activity in the first grade.
First grade children will receive direct reading instruction, Village School style: book talk, shared partner reading, working with phonics, decoding, building a store of essential recognizable words, writing instruction, and writing projects that evolve out of the child's interests and the classroom themes.
Painting is a representation of the child's life. We paint regularly. Quality paper and paints are often used to bring out true colors and feed the child's imagination. We also use block crayons, which are wonderful tools for building coordination and strength in the muscles required for writing. As a bonus, the colors blend into beautiful shades.
We sing daily! We use rhythm instruments and move to music.
The K-1 classroom is the next step in the Village School social curriculum. By the end of preschool, children are ready to understand the concept of "sharing." In K-1, children begin to see the value of working together as a group, and partake in the daily experience of group work and play. The class family sits down for snack together daily, having prepared the food and set the table. Just like a dinner at home, the class shares and listens to each other with a lively give and take, learning and showing respect for each other. K-1 children are entering into an awareness of the feelings of others, which will develop and grow in the succeeding years.
Our aim, as with all Village School students, is for children to develop at their own pace, through teacher encouragement, self-motivation, peer interaction, and play.