Early Childhood Curriculum

Overview: Grades PreK 3s and 4s through Grade One

Early Childhood is the developmental time frame running from 0-7 years of age. The stages are broken down into: (early) 0-36 months, (mid) 3-5 years, and (late) 5-7 years old. There are significant developmental differences between these three stages in Early Childhood. In the preschool and early kindergarten years, imaginative thinking/inventive play tends to rule a child’s thought processes. He or she is guided by internal rules based on their own perspective of how they see the world. They are developing understandings of colors, shapes, numbers, oral and written language, concepts and seasons, among many other things.

By late Early Childhood, children are developing more stable understandings of the world around them. We call this shift a change from imaginative thinking, where understandings are based on one’s own perspective, to scientific thinking, where one begins to form conceptual understandings. What fosters this growth is a curriculum that gives 3-6 year olds the tools that promote thinking: use of blocks, water, art, music, language, nature-based learning, physical activities and hands-on learning experiences. The academic curriculum is designed to support developing skills such as problem solving and critical thinking. Our goal is to develop students who are ready for the Lower and Upper School curriculum by providing learning experiences that help develop the young child’s deliberate memory, mediated perception (knowing that some things are more important than others), logical thinking, sense of self-control and focused attention.



Diversity and Character Development

Diversity is a key aspect of our community. We are a richly diverse school community in terms of, but not limited to, race, family systems, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability level, economics and beliefs. Faculty members encourage open-mindedness by guiding students to make choices that show respect for self, others, property and school. We wish for our students to be considerate, confident and respectful members of our school community. Through demonstrated examples, empathic learning, discussions, stories and guided practice, students learn about different perspectives. We discuss ways to join groups and invite others to join in the play. We create understandings about how to deal with playground conflicts so that students feel safe to join in, knowing they will be welcomed and accepted.

Character Development

Kindergarten and First grade meets once every two weeks to discuss character development. Some of our most important skills include being able to join groups and welcoming others into a group. This way, everyone feels safe in the community knowing that he/she is always welcome.

Another skill that students work on is using conversation skills so that the other person’s perspective is being considered.

Through parent collaboration, we seek to build on these understandings. We look to our Harbor HAWKS Initiative for guidance and uniformity in terms of voice and message:

  • H is for Honesty: Do I accept responsibility for the things that I do or say?
  • A is for Achievement: Do I work hard and value perseverance? Do I support others in that goal? Do I respect the uniqueness of others? Do I simply do my personal best, because it is the right thing to do?
  • W is for Work Ethic: Do I persevere in my academics, arts and athletics?
  • K is for Kindness: Am I a good citizen? Do I show empathy and kindness to those around me?
  • S is for Sportsmanship: Am I a good sport? Do I let others take the lead sometimes and allow my own voice to step back when it is someone else’s turn to be heard? Do I play fair, whether I win or lose? Do I keep a good attitude and support my teammates or the other team?

Fine and Performing Arts

The Arts

In independent schools, we view the arts, athletics and academics as core pieces, with equal value, in the school curriculum. Students in Early Childhood have strong exposure to the arts; this includes art classes as well as music theory.

Art Classes: PreK 3s and 4s

In art class, students work with our Artist in Residence in a studio setting. Our preschoolers work in whole group instruction or sometimes in small groups, which rotate each week, depending on the project being developed. Since art is a centerpiece to preschool learning in the classroom, our preschool art class curriculum is designed to be a deeper and richer artistic experience. Students use a wide variety of tactile materials, such as clay, watercolors, sculpture materials, fabric and paint, in an environment where creativity is key. Preschool art is about self-expression; the adult’s hand should not be seen in the preschool art piece. Preschool art is about process; all pieces should look individual and one-of-a-kind. We integrate our curriculum so that the themes being developed in the preschool classroom are also explored artistically in art class. We want our students to have the opportunity to demonstrate what they are learning in other disciplines (language arts, science, mathematics) through the creation of a work of art.

Art Classes: Kindergarten and First Grade

Artistic expression and art fundamentals are critical aspects of our kindergarten, first and second grade art curriculum. At these stages, students are exposed to techniques, specifics artists, and great works of art, as well as key elements of art including: line, shape, form, space, texture, value, and color. Students often study important works of art and then practice the techniques unique to creating a similar piece of art. Key aspects of the experience include: developing a sense of aesthetic judgment and color theory, understanding how visual arts relate to history and culture, and showing appreciation of the creative works of self and others. SMART Board and iPad technology are used in the classroom to enrich understandings and to offer a unique form of multi-media art-based experiences.

Music: PreK 3s and 4s

Music is the basis for Harbor Country Day School’s performing arts curriculum. Preschool students attend a minimum of two music classes a week in which various topics relating to music are explored. Singing and vocalization are of great importance to our music program. Singing, chanting, rhyming and rhythm activities are used to encourage active participation in an inviting environment. We believe that singing helps to promote a positive sense of community for even our youngest students. In addition to singing, preschool students use various rhythm instruments such as claves, egg shakers and drums to explore rhythm, timbre, and tempo.

Music: Kindergarten and First Grade

Kindergarten marks a more formal classroom structure for our music classes. Students attend music class twice a week and participate in both our choral and instrumental programs. Beginning in kindergarten, all students participate in chorus. Chorus is an important aspect of our music curriculum, as it fosters a sense of community, responsibility and teamwork. Students perform in the winter and spring concert each year and develop skills such as following a conductor, pitch matching and concert etiquette.

Harbor’s instrumental program begins in kindergarten with the use of hand bells and glockenspiels. Students are introduced to the concepts of pitched instruments versus rhythm instruments as they learn to play songs throughout the year. Dynamics, timbre and rhythm are emphasized as a precursor to our recorder program. First grade students participate in our recorder program. It is designed to challenge and stimulate a developing sense of multitasking and coordination skills. Through a differentiated approach, each student progresses through the program at his or her own rate, allowing for an individualized experience tailored to each student.

Foreign Language

Kindergarten and First Grade

In the grades K-1, students are exposed to the languages of Spanish and Mandarin in a natural approach. Our focus is on creating an immersion experience in which students receive meaningful comprehensive input via role-plays, chants, songs, games, poems and dialogues. At the end of the Lower School years students should have familiarity with basic vocabulary and rudimentary styles of conversation. In order to encourage global citizenship, special attention is paid to culturally authentic materials and activities such as: art crafts, foods, greetings, etiquette and customs of the countries studied.

Library

PreK 3s and 4s

Preschoolers visit the library to hear books read to them, which coordinate with what they are studying in the classroom. Preschoolers are introduced to library procedures, such as how to borrow a book, and begin to have book discussions.

Kindergarten and First Grade

During library read-alouds, kindergarteners practice reading comprehension skills such as identifying the beginning, middle and end of a story. They begin having discussions about books, are introduced to the idea of genres, story elements, and are exposed to the idea of fiction and non-fiction stories. Kindergarteners begin to see that the library is a shared space in our school where we appreciate a love of literature. By first grade, students are working on identifying elements in a story: character, setting, plot, and are identifying some genres, in addition to fiction and non-fiction elements in stories. They are developing an understanding of how to use the library materials.

Literacy

Early Childhood Curriculum

Overview: Grades PreK 3s and 4s through Grade One

Early Childhood is the developmental time frame running from 0-7 years of age. The stages are broken down into: (early) 0-36 months, (mid) 3-5 years, and (late) 5-7 years old. There are significant developmental differences between these three stages in Early Childhood. In the preschool and early kindergarten years, imaginative thinking/inventive play tends to rule a child’s thought processes. He or she is guided by internal rules based on their own perspective of how they see the world. They are developing understandings of colors, shapes, numbers, oral and written language, concepts and seasons, among many other things.

By late Early Childhood, children are developing more stable understandings of the world around them. We call this shift a change from imaginative thinking, where understandings are based on one’s own perspective, to scientific thinking, where one begins to form conceptual understandings. What fosters this growth is a curriculum that gives 3-6 year olds the tools that promote thinking: use of blocks, water, art, music, language, nature-based learning, physical activities and hands-on learning experiences. The academic curriculum is designed to support developing skills such as problem solving and critical thinking. Our goal is to develop students who are ready for the Lower and Upper School curriculum by providing learning experiences that help develop the young child’s deliberate memory, mediated perception (knowing that some things are more important than others), logical thinking, sense of self-control and focused attention.

PreK 3s and 4s

Preschoolers’ reading/writing interests and skills are an important part of how we proceed with literacy. It is important to instill a love of learning without pushing the individual child in age-inappropriate ways. Preschool readiness is a part of how we approach the balanced literacy program in preschool. The elements we use in kindergarten, first and second grade are all there, but our approach is more centered on teacher-directed read alouds, literary discussions, and early stages of phonics instruction. We encourage inventive spelling as a way to support letter/sound connections. Our three year olds explore shape recognition as a precursor to letter recognition. We learn our names through repeated exposures in circle time. We practice fine motor skills, such as using play doh, cutting with scissors, building blocks, and beading, which prepare students for holding a pencil. Using read alouds, teachers model intonation and reading comprehension strategies. Children are exposed to concepts of print. Multisensory approaches are used to practice writing letters. Fingerplays and rhymes support phonemic awareness. Upper and lower case letters are introduced through a variety of exercises.

In fours, preschoolers work on letter sound correspondence, first sounds in words, and early inventive spelling (sounding out words by practicing what sounds they hear). They practice writing their name and capitalizing the first letter in their name. The upper and lower case letters are introduced. Rhymes, and first sounds are introduced in circle time, and through stories and fingerplays. Storytelling and comprehension is reinforced through student directed retelling of stories. We use methodologies that relate to the Teacher’s College of Reading and Writing program, which is later introduced in kindergarten. Preschoolers practice hearing word boundaries, learn that words are made up of sounds, practice rhymes and syllables. Students develop understandings that there are patterns in words and recognize some high frequency words.

Kindergarten and First Grade

Kindergarten builds on the literacy skills introduced in preschool. The kindergarten program supports a print-rich environment and has a strong phonics component. Students begin the Teacher’s College of Reading and Writing program, the first lesson of which is to think creatively about story ideas. Kindergarten is a time of intense story telling creativity and we capitalize on this by freeing the child of an expectation for perfect spelling by encouraging inventive spelling. This allows a child to use any word, even for those for which the child does not know the correct spelling. Inventive spelling encourages phonemic awareness. During the kindergarten year, students learn to blend sounds to form words, they learn to recognize syllables and can hear and say rhymes. We use Words Their Way for Emergent Spellers as a source of support with phonemic skills development. Students work on handwriting, distinguishing letter patterns, and begin working with word families.

First graders are developing the skills needed to improve independent reading and are beginning to read to learn. As decoding gives way to fluency, a first grader’s reading comprehension improves. Focusing on high frequency words helps improve fluency. The first grader begins to fall in love with characters in stories, becomes familiar with folktales, and uses illustrations to support comprehension. First graders begin developing understandings of letter patterns known as blends and diagraphs. Nuances of word patterns, such as the concepts of plurals, contractions, compound words, and synonyms/antonyms, greatly expand reading skills. In writing, students learn to add details to stories, to write sentences, and to vary their sentence structure. They practice writing stories with a beginning, middle and ending.

Mathematics

PreK 3s and 4s

Our preschoolers are highly curious and engaged mathematicians! They like to compare and contrast volumes, mix and pour liquids, sort objects by colors and create patterns using blocks. During daily meetings, age-appropriate mathematical concepts are introduced to the whole group, and children practice these during our centers time, either independently or with guided practice in small groups. They work on visual patterns, sorting objects based on two features, identifying one- and two-digit numbers, and recognizing shapes and numbers. Counting and one-to-one correspondence, especially for 4s, is emphasized.

Kindergarten and First Grade

Our approach to mathematics in kindergarten is conceptual and problem solving oriented. Students show how they solve problems using written language, illustrations and number sentences. The curriculum focuses on describing patterns, sorting objects, making predictions, identifying odd/even numbers, shapes and simple addition and subtraction. Language of greater than/less than is introduced. Children study time, ways we measure time, and money. In first grade, students reinforce the skills learned in kindergarten but also begin working with fractions, place value and data interpretation.

Physical Education

PreK 3s and 4s

PreK 3s participate in Physical Education a few times each week. Students are introduced to basic locomotor skills throughout the year, using child-centered activities. The children learn about moving through general space while maintaining one’s personal space. By engaging in movement challenges, the students begin to develop social skills, gross motor coordination, and eye/hand, eye/foot coordination. In each class, a variety of musical genres are employed both as signals and for student motivation. As the school year progresses, listening skills are encouraged, with music as one of the tools used to help develop emerging listening capabilities.

PreK 4s participate in Physical Education classes several times each week, where they engage in a wide variety of developmentally appropriate activities and experiences. Locomotor skills are practiced throughout the year. These include power walking, leaping, galloping, and skipping, all cued with music as a signal. Manipulative activities, using early childhood equipment, are explored during class. Child-centered activities during PE class allow the students experience frequent successes and improve their social skills, while encouraging the continual development of physical fitness levels. By the end of the year, each child develops a love of movement.

Kindergarten and First Grade

Our Physical Education program supports the physical, intellectual, and social development of our Kindergarten and First graders. The students are exposed to a wide variety of activities in PE class. Through movement education, students learn and develop proper techniques of fundamental locomotor skills, such as skipping, galloping, sliding, leaping. Warm-up activities for every class include gross motor coordination using motivational music, and movement exploration activities are practiced throughout the year. Eye/hand and eye/ foot coordination, large muscle coordination, and balancing skills, along with listening skills (sequencing) are all developed through the use of a manipulative activities and exercises.

Throughout the year, students are encouraged to begin developing their skills at taking turns. They participate in low organizational and group games aimed at further improving aerobic fitness, cooperation, learning strategies, and sportsmanship. The students learn to work independently, with a partner, and in a group.

Science

Our Early Childhood Science program is one where students from preschool through second grade have science at least twice each week, with a dedicated, Early Childhood/Lower School science teacher. Students study the biological sciences, earth science and physical science. Our science teacher visits the preschoolers twice each week with hands-on lessons such as hatching baby chicks, caring for caterpillars, and studying ant farms. Students learn about light and shadows, friction and gravity, air and motion. They maintain a Long Island ecosystem fish tank and learn about the ocean, farm life, adaptations and hibernation. Kindergarteners study the five senses, living and non-living organisms, migration, hibernation and habitats. They learn about recycling by creating their own recycling stations and study endangered animals and habitats. In connection with the social studies curriculum, in science, kindergarteners bake pies and cook applesauce. They maintain their own ecosystem fish tank and learn about food webs in relation to their class pet, Chip the rabbit. Much of their curriculum takes place outside where they take samples from trees, study root systems and look for worms. Students in first grade learn about insects and spiders, cold and warm blooded animals, and use measurement to make scientific observations. Field trips to go apple picking with kindergarteners and a trip to the local grocery store, to study nutrition, take place during the school year. The scientific method is introduced. The first grade students keep a fish tank in their classroom.

Social Studies

The Early Childhood social studies curriculum begins with the classroom. Early on, especially in preschool, we instill a sense of community in the classroom, first by developing trust between the student and teacher, then by creating routines and structure that helps to foster good feelings between peers in the classroom. We share our customs and traditions while modeling respect for others. Students learn about different people in communities. By kindergarten, we introduce a greater sense of community as well as community helpers, symbols of patriotism, holidays and introduce map skills. Children are developing a burgeoning sense of responsibility to self and others. In first grade, students develop understandings related to citizenship. They study important historical figures as well as U.S. states, with special emphasis on New York. Map skills are explored to a greater extent, especially through the unit related to Flat Stanley. Across grade levels, students are given opportunities, in age-appropriate ways, to engage in higher-level thinking, to problem solve, to negotiate and to develop understandings related to facts versus opinions. A strong emphasis is placed on the ideas of citizenship, community and respect.

Technology

PreK 3s and 4s

Based on the most recent research related to technology and the young child, we teach our threes and fours three main ideas about technology: technology can be fun, there is a safe and responsible way to use technology, technology can teach us things that we don’t already know. Our iPad to student ratio is 1:4 with 10 minute sessions of supervised use. Applications are related to letter/sound correspondence, categorical reasoning, thematic reasoning, and letter formation. Preschool teachers use laptops to illustrate concepts, such as when students are learning about oceans and studying jellyfish – images and videos bring this learning to life. Technology is a part of a preschooler’s world in limited, but meaningful ways.

Kindergarten and First Grade

Our kindergarten and first grade students use technology to enrich understandings and to organize, evaluate and synthesize information. They learn practical applications for managing and organizing information: how to create, save, store and retrieve their work. They learn about internet safety, and learn to use technology responsibly. Students have access to laptops and iPads. SMART Board and iPads are used as teaching tools in classroom lessons.

In their technology classes, our kindergarteners use technology to view their world globally. They use Google Earth to make real world connections to where they live and create an address page on the web. They create iBooks, learn programming language, (through the use of a program called, SCRATCH), and learn the basics of how to store information on a server. Specific skills include Powerpoint presentations, logging in and shutting down, saving information on the server, and some fundamentals related to using the server.

Our first graders expand on these fundamentals. Beginning in first grade, computer programming-, using SCRATCH, plays a more central role. Students learn how to think through their own mental representations to approach real world challenges in a computer-based environment. They learn that by manipulating commands, they can create solutions to physics-based problems: the roll, angles and vectors, the bounce, properties of matter, etc. Students use Powerpoint more independently to create and present their work. They use U.S. Mint to practice equivalencies and to study details and inscriptions on coins. Basic skills developed at one grade level are added upon at the next level.

A Week in Pictures

Quote of the Day

As I dropped my kids off this morning and proceeded to take a flight, I never had a moment's pause about leaving them in the care of the school while I was beyond their reach. That kind of trust is priceless.

—Current Parent

Quote of the Day

"Harbor Country Day is all about educating the whole child with teachers and staff who care, small classes that stimulate thought, and a community focused on children's character and leadership development."

—Parent

Quote of the Day

"Students are nurtured as they move through our school,allowing them to feel safe and supported by our staff. As a result, they not only gain the mastery of the basic skills presented in our challenging core and co-curricular offerings, but are also enabled to think creatively and work collaboratively to effectively solve problems that come their way- skills essential for success in the 21st century."

—Mr. Joe Ferber, Former Interim Head of School

Quote of the Day

"The field trips, class sizes, curriculum and mentoring nature of the community, forged for me a foundation that I rely on today and every day. Some of the best things in my life have come from my Harbor experience."

—Andrew, Alumnus

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