PRESCHOOL & PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAM
At Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences, we believe that education involves the whole child– heart, hands, and head. We strive to help children become balanced, integrated and harmonious human beings. In our Preschool and Pre-k Unicorn class we believe in supporting a passion for learning, wondering, and self expression, but also in the development of good character, a healthy sense of self, and positive qualities such as resilience, respect for self and others, generosity, compassion, and caring. Social and emotional development is an important foundation for all that we do.
In keeping with our whole-child approach to learning, we believe that the best environment in which children thrive and grow is in an environment that is safe and supportive, stimulating and challenging, fun and playful, and open and expansive.
We bring together a teaching team that embodies these qualities, to create an optimal setting in which children can live and learn. We welcome parents and extended families as an integral part of this circle of working, playing, dancing, and laughing, where we teach and learn together.
We approach education in the Unicorn classroom through a reflective practice inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach, honoring the child as competent, capable and resilient. “The 100 Languages of Children” honors how each child learns, discovers, and makes meaning of the world around them, through the expression and exploration of different mediums, or “languages”, like clay, paints, wire, movement, song, storytelling, writing, blocks… believing that real intelligence arises when children are given opportunities to engage not only their intellects, but also their hands and hearts, learning through cooperative experiences in community with other children and adults.
In the practice of the Reggio Approach, the curriculum emerges from teacher observations, notes and photos taken of children’s investigations. Reflection meetings happen weekly to see what students are exploring, and weekly schedules are made, which outline activities to deepen each student’s investigations and learning. The weekly activities may have a “provocation”, or a catalyst for exploration; it may be materials set out by teachers in response to student interests, the construction of a new center in the classroom environment, or new materials may be made available for children to explore.
Documentation panels are made of student’s learning and discoveries; these panels are often comprised of photographs, artwork, teacher observations, and quotes from children. They are read to students and displayed for them to view, which deepens the student’s learning, as well as the teachers’ understanding of the students’ interest. Panels are hung in the hallway and in the classroom for families to see.
LICENSING AND ACCREDITATION
We are licensed by CYFD (Children Youth and Family Department) as a Five Star Preschool/Pre-K Program in the state of New Mexico. We are also nationally accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) which is the highest designation for a quality preschool program, as determined by the NAEYC Accreditation Standards.
We support and nurture opportunities for each child to grow within the main areas of development while working with the New Mexico Early Learning Guidelines.
Providing a rich environment that meets the state and national standards creates the foundation for a life of learning, which prepares children for kindergarten and beyond.
Our rich Language Arts program is embedded in our daily curriculum, such as learning phonics through the “Letter of the Week” program, and through song, reading signs, labels in English and Spanish, names around the classroom, learning rhymes and songs, telling and making up stories, listening and reflecting on stories read during “Story Time,” expressing oneself and learning to write the letters of the alphabet and the conventions of writing, through our Handwriting Without Tears Program. Our Language Arts Program nurtures children to develop skills through which they use as one of the “Languages” in the “Hundred Languages of Children,” to express themselves as they learn and make meaning of the world in which they live. This child centered approach to supporting emergent readers and writers is best practice, to set the foundation for conventional reading and writing in elementary school, as well as creative thinking through the language of literacy.
We value all languages spoken by students and foster the development of a child’s home language, as well as the development of the English language. Spanish and ASL are integrated in our daily curriculum and our daily routines.
The Numeracy program is integrated throughout the classroom and daily schedule. Children have opportunities to use numbers and counting as means for solving and determining quantity, such as counting books to read on nap mats, toys to pick up outside, or reading the number cards for snack time to serve themselves the correct number of items, or having the “Number Job.” They learn to recognize shapes when having the “Shape Job”, where they have fun learning how to describe, compare and create shapes or find them around the classroom. We also teach how to use shapes when drawing. They explore measurement like length, height, weight and time through the daily schedule, and in their play with the materials around the classroom, as well as learning to sort, classify and group materials by characteristics and attributes through their interaction, play and cleaning up the changing materials in the classroom. Providing multiple opportunities for children to touch, see, create and explore materials and early concepts in algebra and geometry provide the building blocks for success in math into kindergarten and up.
The natural sciences program involves children exploring the world around them with their senses, hands-on work with various materials, plants, and simple experiments. Local field trips around the school and neighborhood take children to outdoor classrooms in which living things are seen, touched and experienced in their natural home. The wonder of nature is cultivated through simple activities, such as helping in a school hoop house garden, exploring the cycles of nature and caring for animals.
SOCIAL EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Self, Family and Community
Our Social Emotional program is the foundation of the school. It starts in the Unicorn class and continues up through all the grades. In the Unicorn class children spend time exploring feelings: what they look like, feel like and what they are called. We learn about feelings through ASL, interactive stories, books, drawings and body movement. Teaching and discovering our school character traits (Respect, Trust, Courage, Honesty, Compassion and Stewardship) sets the tone for our school and classroom culture. All students learn how they embody them everyday. The students learn how to share and how to express their needs and feelings. The students also learn how to handle uncomfortable situations, using either their words or American Sign Language. “Compassionate Communication” skills are also taught, which help the children learn how to identify and name feelings and learn to say what they need.
The Preschool/Pre-K Program is nestled within a larger school community, with an Elementary and Middle School. Accessing the support of this community is fostered by using other grades as experts, who share what they are learning in their learning expeditions, as well as developing rich relationships through Community Service with older students being “Big Buddies” to the younger students. This relationship and community support deepens as students go through the grades at Arts & Sciences and become Big Buddies themselves as they grow through the different grades, maintaining rich relationships with the students and teachers at Arts & Sciences.
The Preschool and Pre-K classroom is seen as a pivotal foundation where children come to know themselves as active, happy, and successful learners, and as important and special members of a large Arts & Sciences school community.