Signature Programs in the Beginning School
Several innovative programs truly stand out to make our Beginning School exceptional among its local peers, and no doubt, among early childhood programs around the country. Below we've featured just a few such areas of excellence.
There is strong evidence to support the benefit of block play in helping young children understand and practice concepts in math, writing, reading, engineering, and motor and social skills. Beginning School Principal Carol Blackwell has followed the research of Denver University Professor Douglas Clement for many years, and he has made the case for block play as a learning tool in the journal Science.
Mr. Clement said there is not a time in a student’s academic life more important than preschool, and no learning more important than building a solid foundation in mathematics. “Blocks are a versatile play material,” Principal Blackwell said. “You can teach all areas of the curriculum with blocks."
Art and Aesthetics
Children's experiences in peaceful and aesthetically beautiful environments profoundly affect their learning. Our classrooms, hallways, and Looking Ledges are created to support the development of dispositions such as curiosity, creativity, cooperation, and confidence, and these dispositions facilitate success.
Teaching art to young children must be purposeful, involving, and integrated, and our Beginning School has a unique program that provides all of that. Each year the faculty and our early childhood art specialist focus on one basic element of art—color, line, texture, form, value, or shape—and the creativity begins. Using line, for example, our three-year-olds illustrate the lines of a forsythia bush, and learn that two points anchor each line and that lines can be horizontal, vertical, or crosshatched. They decorate classroom windows with colored yarn, creating line art while internalizing a basic lesson in geometry. This is how students acquire a conceptual foundation for observing and exploring their world.
"Discovering a problem, planning a solution, testing a solution, and sharing the results all advance children's thinking skills." —Principal Carol Blackwell
Teaching Engineering Concepts to Young Learners
Beginning School children use many tools to discover and learn concepts in architecture and engineering. Tools such as a wind tunnel, adaptable ramps and balls, and a captivating assortment of blocks were enough to get the ball rolling. Director of Technology Integration Christian Waters often introduces the fundamentals of electricity to students in a kindergarten classroom using “conductive play dough.” There are gasps of excitement and plenty of laughter as Mr. Waters sketches out the flow of electric current along a conductor—adding a happy face to the completed circuit. “The electricity work in kindergarten is designed to build a foundation of experiences that will support later understanding in future grades when children explore electricity in a more formal way,” Principal Blackwell said. All year long, Beginning School teachers provide opportunities for children to explore ways to think like engineers.
Learning to think critically is not an overnight process, and neither is the growth of a pumpkin. Rowland Hall’s 4PreK pumpkin studies may just be the perfect example of how young children acquire the ability to develop a theory, hypothesize an outcome, and measure results, all without fully understanding the formal words for these processes. To them it feels like play. The children begin by planting pumpkins in the science garden, tending to and observing the growing gourds, taking a field trip to a pumpkin patch, then, as fall wanes, watching their pumpkins go back to seed. This is the gentle unfolding of a lifelong love of learning.