Independent early education 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. Children are 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 two through six-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.
Preschool 2s Overview
Our littlest learners at Harbor Country Day School, near Smithtown and Northport in Suffolk County, NY, experience a school setting that introduces them to socializing with peers which begins the starting point that nurtures kindness and empathy. We believe in the importance of educating the whole child, which at this age includes the social, emotional and cognitive developmental skills. There is a balance between open-ended play and structured learning time as this approach fosters a child’s love of learning, creativity, exploration, and discovery.
Our staff provides a nurturing and loving classroom environment that children enjoy. Our students will build trust through joyful experiences as they begin to understand the world around them. Preschool 2s follow a play-based program with an emphasis on exploration, discovery, sensory play, and social learning. The small class size enables teachers to get to know students and their families. The balanced program includes structured activities with opportunities for creative play. The curriculum is designed using a thematic approach that includes activities such as crafts, science explorations, and interactive play. Students will use their senses to learn about different topics and make connections to the world using a hands-on approach.
The 4:1 student-teacher ratio provides individualized instruction to each child. Students have the opportunity to work on at their own pace and the teacher will be able to accommodate the needs of each child. Our small class size enables our littlest learners to feel the warmth and compassion from our teachers as well as a true connection to their peers.
Early Years Program Hours and Schedule
The Preschool 2s class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 AM – 11:30 AM. Additional days are possible as the program grows for the 2020-2021 school year. The schedule for our Preschool 2s provides structure with a mix of both whole group and small group activities, along with a time for exploration and play.Establishing a routine gives the children a sense of security and something to look forward to each day.
Preschool 2s Daily Schedule
8:30 - Arrival Time
8:30 – 9:30 - Free Play
9:30 – 9:40 - Clean Up
9:40 – 10:00 - Snack
10:00 – 10:35 - Recess
10:35 – 10:50 Special Classes (Music & Art)
10:50 – 11:10 Projects
11:10-11:20 – Circle Time
11:20 – 11:30 – Pack Up
11:30 – Dismissal
For more detailed explanations of our preschool and kindergarten curricula, we invite you to review our Early Childhood Curriculum Guide below.
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.
Kindergarten 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 they are always welcome. Another skill that students work on is using conversation skills so that the other person’s perspective is being considered.
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, which 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
Artistic expression and art fundamentals are critical aspects of our kindergarten art curriculum. At this stage, 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 for 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.
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 concerts 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.
In PreK 4, student receive a semester of Spanish and a semester of Mandarin. Teachers use stories, songs, fingerplays and puppets to introduce languages in an entertaining and captivating way. Our goal is to create a learning experience that lays a foundation for learning to understand or speak a new language other than one's own.
In kindergarten, 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.
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.
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 and 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.
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 PreK 4s, 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 Teachers' College Reading & Writing Project, 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 builds on the literacy skills introduced in preschool. The private kindergarten program supports a print-rich environment and has a strong phonics component. Students begin the Teachers' College Reading & Writing Project, the first lesson of which is to think creatively about story ideas. Kindergarten is a time of intense storytelling 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 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.
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 PreK 4s, is emphasized.
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.
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 to 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.
Our Physical Education program supports the physical, intellectual, and social development of our kindergarteners 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, and 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.
Students in preschool and kindergarten 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. Much of their curriculum takes place outside where they take samples from trees, study root systems, and look for worms.
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 map skills. Children are developing a burgeoning sense of responsibility to self and others. 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.
Based on the most recent research related to technology and the young child, we teach our PreK 3s and PreK 4s 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.
Our kindergarten 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.