Our approach to learning is structured around four major components, each equally important and all interrelated: Inquiry- and Play-Based Learning; Social Emotional Learning; Kindergarten Readiness; and Jewish Values.
Inquiry- and Play-Based Learning
At the STECC, we guide children through the process of learning how to learn: learning how to ask questions, how to form theories, how to conduct research, and how to integrate information. This foundation will carry our young learners through their academic careers. Children construct knowledge through direct experience with the world around them. Our teachers provide those direct experiences through the lens of subjects that are of interest to each particular class of children. We integrate literacy, numeracy, science, and creativity all into the daily learning that takes place in our classrooms.
Social Emotional Learning
One of the core values of our school is that children are competent and capable. Perhaps the most important role we play is to foster young children’s social emotional development. This takes many forms: helping children to understand and manage their feelings; teaching children to self soothe; fostering children’s self care; and facilitating social skills. Kindergarten and first grade teachers report that these skills are more important for success beyond preschool than any specific academics.
We work with even our youngest children to identify their feelings, read facial cues to understand how others are feeling, and develop strategies to manage those feelings. When children are upset, we provide them techniques to calm themselves. We teach our children self care both for their bodies and their belongings. Last but not least, we work with children to understand and follow rules, have appropriate interactions with their peers, and solve their own problems. Through careful facilitation with our teachers, our older children can learn how to choose and implement solutions to many conflicts that arise during social interactions.
Throughout our preschool program, and particularly in our Pre-K (4s class), we are preparing our children for Kindergarten and beyond. We have a dedicated STREAM (Science, Technology, Relationships, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) room, where the children go weekly in small groups to solve challenges based on scientific principles. We do not simply read books with the children, we ask them to answer comprehension questions and to make predictions. When we cook, garden, or paint, we integrate literacy and numeracy by writing recipes and instructions and by learning fractions and measurements.
Just as a Kindergarten or 1st grade class is structured, our Pre-K class has center-based learning. At these centers children are working in small groups with limited teacher supervision to complete discrete learning tasks, such as pattern-making and sorting. During center time, each teacher will work with one or two students at a time on a more in-depth project. In the Pre-K class, we teach children how to write uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and numbers using Handwriting Without Tears, an occupational therapy-based program for teaching writing to young learners.
We are a Jewish preschool with diverse children and teachers. The highlight of the week for all of us is celebrating Shabbat as a community on Friday morning. Our entire school joins together for a spirited Shabbat Sing. Then each class heads back to their room for a Taste of Shabbat, where they say the blessings, light the candles, drink grape juice, and eat challah. We say blessings before we eat snack and lunch, as a way to express our thanks for our food. Throughout the year, we study and celebrate each holiday as it occurs. We teach the story of the holiday and customs in a way that is age appropriate for 2s, 3s, and 4s. We approach each holiday through the lens of Jewish values.