April 21st was National Kindergarten Day. I must admit I had not heard of this day until recently, but it seems to be the perfect opportunity to thank our wonderful kindergarten teachers, and to elaborate the many ways our own kindergarten serves as the crowning pinnacle for all of our other wonderful programs at LANK. The very first kindergarten was started in Germany by Friedrich Wilhelm August Frobel in 1837 under the premise that the transition from home to school should be an easy one, and the best way to achieve that ease would be for children to learn through play and experience. It seems uncanny that 180 years later, LANK’s preschool and kindergarten are doing just that! Play and direct experience are core values for us at every stage of classroom learning and development.
At LANK our children are encouraged to engage in many different types of play; dramatic, gross motor, constructive, and imaginative. In my role as director, I frequent all of our classrooms, and the “learn through play and experience” is on display throughout the building in all programs. In kindergarten, all of the children’s previous preschool experiences seem to pave the way for the more academic benchmarks and standards that are expected, without compromising the playful aspect that is so crucial for young children. Our kindergarteners benefit from their previous experiences with these types of curriculum experiences, and the small class size that allows this to flourish.
As an example, the kindergarteners were recently engaged in a unit on measurement. How wonderful that balance scales were provided so that children could explore concepts of heavy and light. Of course there was direct instruction, but there was also time to play with the tools, and make their own observations and conclusions based on experience. Learning in this way is only possible because of the small class size that enables children to have direct contact with the materials. The class also routinely enjoys artistic expression through “draw what you see”. This might be a drawing of pumpkin decomposition, sketching their classroom playground tree, painting a vase of real flowers or our favorite visiting chicks, Salt and Pepper. There is no better hands-on activity STEM activity than building a maze with cubes, and then blowing a marble through its nooks and crannies to determine the most efficient pathway. The children are indeed learning, yet these sorts of experiences are both joyful and playful. Most kindergarten curriculums include learning full name, address and phone number. I loved that our children made paper bag houses to resemble their own, and then set up a community with streets, signs, important buildings, and of course their own homes!
Another favorite kindergarten activity is to celebrate the 100th day of school. Our students understood the significance of this large number by piecing together a puzzle that was started on their first day of school and completed on the 100th. Each day of the school year they placed a new piece into the puzzle frame to reveal a little more of the photo. Once complete on day 100, the puzzle exposed a class photograph taken on the first day of school. They also made adorable hats with ten strips of paper, and ten fingerprints on each strip. This was a wonderful way to demonstrate understanding of that large number.
Happy National Kindergarten Day! We couldn’t be more proud of our unique program. Please enjoy the photos that accompany this blog—many of the pictures will take on greater meaning after this brief introduction to the special learning that takes place in our kindergarten.