Early Childhood Education at Grace Episcopal Day School (Preschool-Grade 1)
Protecting Childhood, Loving Learning
As a knowledge-based, content-driven approach to educating young children has trickled down from Grade 2 to Grade 1 to Kindergarten and even to Prekindergarten in classrooms across the country, Grace has moved in the opposite direction. Our Early Childhood program weaves expertise about how children learn into our pedagogy from Preschool through Grade 1, protecting childhood and nurturing the curiosity that is the seed and spark of a lifelong love of learning.
Emergent Curriculum: Grace’s Way Into Learning
The hallmark of Early Childhood education at Grace, emergent curriculum grows units of learning from ideas that “emerge” from the students themselves. Emergent curriculum uses principles of play-based learning – imagining, pretending, observing, wondering, questioning – to build on children’s curiosity. With the facilitation of highly trained teachers, one child’s observation can lead to another’s question and grow into a unit on a topic such as space travel or robotics. In these units, students as young as three draw, tinker, build, research, sing, share, and dramatize. This way of teaching and learning builds a culture of inquiry and academic engagement that benefits Grace students through Grade 5 and beyond.
Growing with Grace
The years from Preschool through Grade 1 at Grace are marked by exponential growth and gentle transitions. Physically, fine and gross motor skills become more controlled – even graceful. Intellectually, children grasp abstract concepts more readily. Socially and emotionally, children work together and resolve conflicts with greater ease and independence. In Kindergarten and Grade 1, math, reading, and writing instruction become more deliberate, preparing students for the upper grades. But free play, dramatic play, and project-based learning remain essential, as does the cultivation of a warm and nurturing learning environment. These elements are all of a piece with what our mission calls “academic excellence.”
Click on the tabs below to learn more about how and what our youngest children are learning at Grace.
Our Preschool and Prekindergarten program is designed to meet children exactly where they are, and help them grow, during these important developmental years. At Grace, our day together is structured to allow time for exploring, moving our bodies, working together, caring for ourselves independently, and learning to cooperate and share. In small groups and with the support of our master teachers, early childhood students at Grace develop a sense of belonging and of bravery: to try new things, to ask big questions, and to take their place in the larger life of the school and world around them.
Our youngest students start their day on the playground. The open space and a wide variety of activities allow the children a more gentle transition from home to school. The teachers are available to connect with families during drop-off, and each child is gently greeted and encouraged to choose an activity: tricycles, scooters, sandbox, climber, and tire swing are only some of the choices.
After the big muscle play of the playground, the children are ready to move to their classrooms. Preschool and Prekindergarten students start their time inside with Morning Meeting, where we greet friends, share ideas, and make plans for choice time. Choice time includes dramatic play, sensory play, art, and activity centers related to topics the children are currently exploring and learning about. Our Emergent Curriculum approach means that Preschool and Prekindergarten students at Grace are likely to be deeply engaged in multi-level, teacher-supported play around a topic.
With an average class size of 13, and two teachers per classroom plus a floating assistant for a portion of the day, our Early Childhood program is a place to connect, grow, and thrive. Preschool and Prekindergarten students also benefit from class time each week with our specialist teachers in music, science, and P.E. In addition, our Prekindergarten class uses the "Get Set for School" curriculum from Learning Without Tears as preparation for kindergarten.