Early Childhood (Preschool)

The Early Childhood program (ages 3-5) promotes positive growth for young children through active play and focused inquiry. We aim to ensure that a child’s initial exposure to school is a positive and happy one. The Early Childhood program is deeply rooted in the Reggio Emilia approach, which is consistent with our School’s own philosophy and beliefs about learning and young children.

The faculty possesses a thorough understanding of child development and works collaboratively to design a program that is responsive to children’s natural curiosity and their capacity to pursue fascinating lines of inquiry over time. We view children as competent and capable and provide them with opportunities for exploration and self-expression through multiple modalities and media (commonly referred to as “the hundred languages of children” by educators in Reggio Emilia). Daily documentation of children’s work and ideas informs this facilitated learning, using running transcripts of conversations, and audio, still and video recording. These traces give teachers, who are insightful observers of children, a window into the progression of the children’s thinking and influence curricular decisions reflecting the individuals in the program. We invite families to participate in this process by studying the documentation to better understand their children’s day at school, to share personal connections to topics under study, and as inspiration to extend the learning at home.

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Expressive Languages & Learning

The Waynflete Early Childhood program is strongly influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach, which provides engaging ways to think about the nature of the child as a learner and the role of the teacher. The content of the curriculum is uniquely suited to the group of students enrolled. The curriculum is developed in direct response to the interests and capabilities of the current students. Teachers encourage children to explore their own questions and further their own interests while guiding students to challenge themselves; this is the backbone of the Early Childhood program at Waynflete. Recent topics for long-term study have included tree houses, rainbows, draonflies, turtles, orchestras, and cephalopods.

Students’ opinions, ideas, work process and products are documented during their time in the Early Childhood program. Documentation is another form of listening and helps us understand children’s thinking, and ultimately their learning. This documentation takes many forms, including wall panels, journal entries, individual and group digital portfolios. It provides context for on-going discussion and collaboration among teachers, students and parents, as well as a means of evaluating students’ growth and development. Reviewing the documentation helps guide the direction of the curriculum as well. Teachers compile documentation of the curriculum during the year and produce a year-end product, either a bound book or DVD. Each family receives electronic access to this documentation as well as a copy of their child’s digital portfolio at the close of the school year.

Environment as Teacher

The Reggio Emilia approach emphasizes the impact of environmental planning and design on learning. The Waynflete Early Childhood classroom is thoughtfully designed to use the physical space to support learning and curriculum planning that guide experiences of open-ended discovery as well as the constructive posing and solving of problems. The Early Childhood teachers focus on how children move through space and how they use space. They have designed their environment with articulated content areas that offer a sense of organization and flow. Attention has been paid to the lighting, textures and colors in the space to cultivate a sense of calm. The atmosphere is thoughtfully created with muted color, soft lighting and a variety of features. Furniture is arranged to provide areas for larger movement, the arts, language, science and math exploration as well as building and dramatic play. The space includes its own entrance from the playground, a separate area for cubbies, bathroom facilities, and a small computer and kitchen area. Part of the space has built-in risers for group meetings.

Children have access to the playground directly outside the Early Childhood space that includes climbing equipment, swings and a natural building area. Early Childhood teachers expand opportunities for outdoor play by taking advantage of areas beyond the School’s regular playground areas. Early Childhood students regularly use all outdoor areas of the main campus as well as the School’s Fore River campus that includes playing fields and an extensive system of trails and outdoor classrooms.

Collaboration & Communication

In the Early Childhood program, students interact as members of a self-directed learning community. The curriculum, described as emergent/negotiated, is highly collaborative. Teachers take the lead from students, acting as facilitators as children explore their interests and begin to construct their own knowledge. The developmental capabilities and needs of three and four year olds influence curriculum decisions as well. Teachers set appropriate educational, social, emotional and physical goals for each student.

The Early Childhood teachers' background in the Reggio Emilia approach and dedication to those educational principles are evident. Full advantage is taken of faculty members’ special talents and experiences; one team member is an artist, and another is a musician. Collaboration extends beyond the boundaries of the Early Childhood classroom to include the resources available at a school embracing Early Childhood through Grade 12. Early Childhood students routinely visit the Upper School Marine Biology Lab and employ Upper School teachers as visiting experts to help illuminate specialized content areas. Working with the Theatre Department to present and film a class play in the Franklin Theatre, and regularly participating in art exhibits in the Waynflete Art Gallery are other examples of collaboration within our school.

Communication and collaboration with parents are important aspects of the Early Childhood program. Informal, face-to-face communication occurs daily during drop off and pick up times and formally during scheduled conferences and through reports and digital video documentation of each child’s Early Childhood experience. Parents’ ideas are welcomed and their expertise is often tapped during long-term class projects.

Reggio Emilia at Waynflete

The Reggio Emilia approach closely aligns with the over-arching mission and beliefs of Waynflete School, as well as with the day-to-day practices of faculty, staff and students throughout the School. The School’s statement of purpose affirms “Waynflete’s mission to engage the imagination and intellect of our students, to guide them toward self-governance and self-knowledge, and to encourage their responsible and caring participation in the world. Their enthusiasm for learning thrives when they have opportunities to discover, to create and to invest themselves with a passionate interest in areas both familiar and new. We are devoted to the education of the whole person: mind, body and spirit.”

Students own their learning at Waynflete. Teachers take the lead from students while they pursue their own curiosities and explore their interests. Early Childhood students thrive on the combination of security and challenge that this program provides. Self-care and independence are taught, as well as playful exploration. This is an initial school experience for many of the children, so working to set expectations for school is important. Play is integral to learning at this age so play drives a good portion of the work in the classroom. Students move fluidly between real and fantasy worlds at this age; in Early Childhood we celebrate their imagination while introducing them to the research tools necessary to investigate the real world. Much of what we do is listen to the students and provoke deeper inquiry. Encouraging children to explore their own questions, while teachers guide them in the process is central to the Early Childhood program.