THE GOAL OF PRESCHOOL IS TO FOSTER CHILDREN'S LOVE OF LEARNING
At Smart Love Preschool, we provide a setting that promotes young children’s long-term academic success by strengthening their social-emotional well-being while also sparking an enthusiasm for learning.
Our curriculum follows the themes most meaningful to children—Me, My Family, My Home, My School, My School Community, My Neighborhood Community and My School Yard and Garden Community (plants and animals). The curriculum provides many opportunities for progressive and integrative learning and expands on the State of Illinois Early Childhood Education Benchmarks across all domains from Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Science, Art, Drama and Music.
When school begins in the fall, children are introduced to the learning community in a gradual and fun way so they associate school with enjoyment. One way this is done is by creating a family space that shows a collage of each child’s family (child, siblings, parents, grandparents, family pet, etc.). For new students, this provides an immediate, comforting connection for the child. For returning students, it is a source of dialogue and connection with their peers. The notion of family extends to the classroom as children further explore how we are similar and different from one another. Teachers extend this learning through sorting games and counting games, taking polls about how many children live in houses or apartments, or with siblings or pets; creating their and family members’ names with letters; doing word plays; learning songs about the children’s names; art projects involving gluing furniture pictures onto a drawing of different rooms; and building home structures with blocks. This becomes the foundation of the community, where each child feels valued and understood, and learning is exciting.
As school progresses, many opportunities for science learning occur both in the classrooms and garden. Our gardener-in-residence engages children in how plants grow from seed to table and relates it to how they themselves grow. In the classroom, children begin planting with soil blocks, “dirt towers” and seeds. They observe the entire plant life cycle as they grow their seeds into “plant starts,” to be planted in the garden. The plants are then cared for in the gardens and harvested year-round. The children use their harvested produce to create tasty pizzas, pesto, smoothies, and veggies with dip. At the end of the growing cycle, they sort and dry seeds for planting next spring. Throughout this process, the children talk about how plants make food out of water and sunlight and how worms and insects help out. The children especially enjoy our “worm bed.” Our red wiggler worms are fed, held and thoroughly investigated. The children experience how the joy of worms create the best compost for strong growing plants.
Our extensive gardening curriculum leads into learning connections between recycling, solar energy, photosynthesis, animal life cycles and science concepts. Though these concepts are quite abstract in a typical preschool setting, the way the children are introduced to this process makes it easy for them to grasp.
As children become comfortable with their classroom and classmates, they naturally become curious about the world around them. They explore and create activities that involve their neighborhoods and the people that support the neighborhood, such as police officers, fire fighters, doctors, etc. Socio-dramatic play gives the children fun and exciting ways to recreate the world around them.
Teachers set a template for learning that expands children’s curiosity and inspires all of their ideas. Learning is then much richer and opens the door for greater connections. All learning skills needed for further learning in math, literacy, science, art, and social science are incorporated throughout these ideas. For example, by connecting children’s activities about people’s homes to animals’ homes, they can begin a detailed study of birds and their nests. Just like the real birds, children create their own bird nests from materials they gather outside, create a bird egg and then a baby bird so they can begin to understand nature’s lifecycles.
In these ways, learning at Smart Love Preschool occurs as an accompaniment to enjoyable activities instead of as a result of less dynamic activities, such as memorizing facts. We always ensure that our curriculum is age-appropriate, fun, exciting and challenging but doable for the children in the classroom and make adjustments to keep it varied and interesting.
Play is the means by which children learn readily. Educators at Smart Love know how to play with learning in mind. When children are given the gift of an early childhood education at Smart Love, learning becomes a life-long love.