This was the best day ever!
Such an exclamation is frequently heard in the kindergarten classrooms in Frazer Hall. Kindergarten students still have the enthusiasm and willingness to get messy and explore the world through play, while also reaching critical academic milestones. In many ways kindergarten is the sweet spot of Lower School. Here, students are developing skills that will forever change the way they interact with the world, such as reading, writing and adding. At the same time, Episcopal kindergarteners still have the opportunity to play and have fun while learning.
Recently, students in Sara Henderson’s classroom began putting books in their book box. The excitement for such an occasion is obvious in the wide grins on students’ faces. Students, teachers and parents have every reason to be excited about what is happening in Frazer Hall. Students may begin the school year only knowing letter sounds or recognizing the letters of their name, but by May they are reading. Kindergarten provides a tremendous transformation for these little Knights and it’s something Henderson is delighted to be a part of even after 17 years of teaching.
Kindergarten students are five or six years old. They are still filled with the wonder of exploration and discovery. They are eager to learn and eager to share what they have learned. Henderson and her fellow teachers, Maria Campbell and Erin Dufour, recognize this and intentionally make learning fun. “We try hard to balance between academics and play,” says Henderson. A sight word hunt, learning stations or pumpkin game day are examples of that balance. Students are having a great time on these adventures while also learning new skills.
"Let them be little."
Henderson says it’s important to remember that kindergarten students are still trying to make sense of their world. They may become overwhelmed with busy schedules and “big kid” expectations that are placed upon them. Allowing kindergarteners to be little and learn in age-appropriate ways helps them develop a love of learning that will serve as a solid foundation for their educational journey. For example, playing something as simple as Uno can be a great learning opportunity for kindergarten students. The classic card game helps them think strategically while also helping them with color recognition and fine motor skills. The same thing happens when they play with Legos, paint or make up performances in the puppet center.
Kindergarten is also a time when students are learning how to work with each other. Henderson says social/emotional learning is a big component of kindergarten learning. One example of this is the All About Me project in which students participate at the beginning of each year. Students share information about themselves and truly get to know each other. This helps them build a community and develop friendships with their classmates. Henderson says they use the responsive classroom approach to boost that sense of community throughout the year. Episcopal kindergarteners also have the opportunity to be a part of the larger school community. Each year, students are partnered with a senior as part of the senior buddies program. Senior students participate in special events with the kindergarteners, such as a Halloween party or the annual kite fly. The senior buddies program is one of Episcopal’s most beloved traditions with alumni remembering their buddy even after graduation.
Fundations, project-based learning, responsive classroom.
The kindergarten team is using best practices to help these little Knights reach their academic goals. The best part is that the teachers are staying true to the students’ age and tailoring the lessons in a way that resonates with five and six year olds. Whether students are making sets of ten using pumpkin seeds or visiting the band room to learn about sound, they are developing a true love for learning. Ultimately, the kindergarten adventures set the students up for continued success as they transition to first grade and beyond. They will be well prepared for adventures such as the first grade triathlon, the third grade vocabulary parade and the fifth grade global marketplace. These little adventurers are tomorrow’s leaders and we look forward to seeing where they go.
Are you looking for the right early childhood learning opportunity for your little adventurer? Episcopal is now enrolling for the 2020/2021 school year. Join us for a Lower School mini open house event on November 19th or December 3rd from 8:30 am to 10:30 am to learn more about the Episcopal experience. You can also contact our admission office at 755-2684, firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.episcopalbr.org/admission.html for more information or to set up a campus tour.