At Sandra Lane, we believe that children learn by experiencing the world. Our program offers a developmentally appropriate curriculum designed for the specific needs of the individual child in a classroom setting. Our teachers use the Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences developed by the Massachusetts Department of Education as a tool to guide curriculum planning. We offer hands on learning opportunities for the development of the Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, History, Health, and the Arts. The following is adapted from the Guidelines:
The foundations for learning in the English Language Arts are critical to all other curriculum areas as well as to the child’s social and emotional development. Children develop the basis for verbal communication in early childhood, beginning with nonverbal social exchanges. They begin to appreciate literature and the joy of reading by being read to in family and early care/education settings. A solid foundation in language development in the years before a child enters school promotes success in reading and writing in the future. A well-planned program will encourage children to learn about the world around them. Preschoolers are more likely to want to read and write when their imaginations have been regularly stimulated by being read to. (Guidelines, p. 7)
Mathematics relates to ideas and concepts about quantity and addresses logical and spatial relationships. At the preschool level, the foundations of mathematical understanding are formed out of children’s concrete experiences. Mathematical experiences are not limited to “math time.” They are embedded in almost all daily classroom activities, challenging teachers to be alert to opportunities for facilitating mathematical understanding. Mathematical thinking is incorporated into block play, dramatic play, sand and water play, and outdoor play. Children make connections between mathematics and musical experiences or art when they explore rhythmic or visual patterns or symmetry. Preschool children will learn to recite numbers in order, compare quantity, comprehend position, and match objects in one-to-one correspondence.
Number concepts become significant to children when they develop out of experiences that are functional in their world. Preschool activities can build their understanding of number concepts, and also build foundations for understanding characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes. (Guidelines, p. 13)
Young children are naturally curious. They wonder what things are called, how they work, and why things happen. The foundations of scientific learning lie in inquiry and exploration — these are the tools of active learning. Fostering young children’s sense of curiosity about the natural world around them can promote a lifelong interest in it. Scientific learning is not limited to a particular “science time.” Early childhood teachers look for opportunities to develop children’s understanding of scientific concepts in all content areas. To do so, children observe things first-hand as much as possible. The younger the children, the simpler and more concrete the activities will be. Our library has scientifically accurate books about animals and their environments such as field guides, as well as fictional stories. In all activities, teachers make sure they use, and encourage children to use, the precise language of science. (Guidelines, p.19)
At the early childhood level, learning in history and social science is built on children’s experiences in their families, school, community, state, and country. Preschoolers explore beginning concepts of history and social sciences with questions that are important to their lives such as “Who are the members of my family?” “Where do we live? Who are our neighbors?” Teachers are alert to and ready to build on children’s immediate interests. Meaningful topics around social studies often emerge spontaneously out of children’s play and conversations, and teachers provide materials and resources to help children further explore their interests or questions.
One purpose of the preschool curriculum is to help children to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed in community life, as they learn to cooperate, share, and respect the rules of their classroom. They also learn about the basis for a democratic society when they participate in simple decision-making for the group. A second purpose of the preschool curriculum is to begin the development of their civic identity. Children listen to stories about the people and events we celebrate in our national holidays and learn why we celebrate them. They also become familiar with our national symbols. Our children are exposed to maps and globes, pictures of the President, and the American flag. Holidays are presented in ways that are meaningful to three- and four-year olds. (Guidelines, p. 27)
Health: Physical, Social, and Emotional
In the preschool years, brain and body development are critically linked. It is through physical activity and body movement that the brain internalizes the foundations of laterality (left, right), directionality (up, down, in, out), and position in space (over, under, behind). These concepts are critical to mathematical thinking as well as to beginning reading and writing. They lay the basis for the child to “see” how letters are formed and put together in patterns called words, and to translate this understanding into symbols on paper in the form of writing. Children are encouraged to engage routinely in block building, or other spatial and manipulative activities, as well as in music, art, dramatic play, and language activities, in order to stimulate both sides of the brain.
At Sandra Lane, we place strong emphasis on both gross and fine motor development activities. Developing the large muscles gives support to the small muscles in the hands and fingers. Outdoor play is an integral part of the daily curriculum, all year and in all seasons, and is viewed as an opportunity for learning. Activities will promote sound physical development and help children develop both skills and confidence in using their bodies and the equipment they play with.
Socially, preschool children are moving into a wider circle of relationships with peers and with adults other than family members. Many children need to learn how to play in a group setting. Three-year-olds are egocentric and have a hard time waiting for a turn. Four year olds who have had some experience in groups may be aware of group expectations but still need to be reminded of rules and routines. Teachers guide children so they develop the ability to share, take turns, lead, follow, and be a friend.
Emotionally, the young child’s growing independence involves taking gradual steps away from the security of an adult’s presence and protection and fulfilling the drive toward separateness and individuality. Preschoolers’ drive for independence needs to be supported by adults who set reasonable limits for them and give them security. The foundations for children’s confidence in themselves, their relationships with other children, as well as their trust in the adults who teach and care for them, are influenced, if not established, in early childhood. Children need to feel safe in order to feel free to explore, and they need meaningful feedback from significant adults who delight in their successes and reassure them in their failures. As they begin to exercise independence, it is important to allow children sufficient time to work on tasks until they are satisfied with the results. (Guidelines, p. 31)
The goal of arts education for young children is to develop and sustain the natural curiosity, expressiveness, and creativity that very young children often display. Arts education begins with a foundation that emphasizes exploration, experimentation, and engagement of the senses, and discussion as paths to understanding. Young children use the arts to explore sensation and their understanding of real and imagined events. They try to find out all they can about the expressive qualities inherent in different forms of communication. Through what they choose to dramatize, sing, or paint, children let others know what is important, trivial, appealing, or frightening in their lives. Depictions of faces and forms develop fairly predictably in young children. Although “realistic” products are not the goal, preschool-age children can learn some basic techniques and begin to develop aesthetic preferences. (Guidelines, p. 39)