What I did this summer at Learning Circle Preschool

We’ve just finished another wonderful summer experience at Learning Circle Preschool!

The Summer Science and Arts Program at Learning Circle Preschool is an integrated arts enrichment program with a focus on the natural sciences, storytelling and puppetry, art, music and creative movement.

Each day, the program includes time for children to participate in both visual arts and music/creative movement classes, along with time for snack, free play activities and outdoor play, in a highly individualized and nurturing setting. Teachers observe the children’s interests and, guided by an understanding of child development, organize the curriculum to extend the children’s thinking and knowledge about topics of importance to them.

Teachers are partners in learning with the children, and model the curiosity, research and documentation skills, ability to ask questions, and engagement over time that are hallmarks of deep learning. Diverse experiences, learning styles and interests are all valued as children and teachers cooperate together to create a “community of learners.”

The result is an experience that is both fun and serious – children actively involved in playing and learning at the same time.  To see this in action, look at the pictures in the gallery.

On the last Wednesday and Thursday in session, parents are invited to join the program for presentations and activities planned by teachers with the children.

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It’s not surprising that, given the natural environment surrounding the school, this year’s children were very interested in investigating woodland habitats, especially the wide variety of birds we heard and saw daily around our playground. Children also developed their observation skills as they examined the many types of insects, worms and spiders inhabiting the playground and other freer areas around the school. Butterflies captured everyone’s imagination, and we shared an in-depth project about butterflies and their life cycle over several weeks of the program.

Children were also drawn to conversations about tide pools and ocean life, using many examples of shells and ocean stones from our school collections, found objects, books for research and storytelling, blocks with which to create puppet theaters and other props for storytelling, and art media to extend this interest.

Teachers offered some basic gardening experiences to the children early in the program so that we could all take care of our gardens over time. Our first task was to think together about what new plants would need, and to prepare some gardening spaces. We started a vegetable container garden the first week, planting beans and Swiss chard that we had started this winter.  We planted flower container gardens as well, with a variety of sizes and colors of marigolds. Other raised beds now have peppers, tomatoes, squash, and carrots. Everyday jobs have included watering our gardens and checking to see if our other plants need water. The garden is doing well and we were able to harvest a few peppers and lots of Swiss chard already!

If we shared one “big theme” this summer, it was about forces in motion. What is wind? What makes a wave? Why do some objects roll and others slide? How can we design ramp systems for balls to roll faster or slower? How does a pump work? How can we move water from one container to another?

There are always many stories unfolding when children come together and begin to form a classroom community. Some of those stories attract the attention of the group as a whole, and these become central themes that teachers can support with conversation, materials and time. The examples above are only a small sample of the many experiences the children shared this summer.

For example, the gardening process continues into Learning Circle’s regular session, where returning children who participated in the Summer Arts and Science program will be able to carry on with their summer gardening and see it harvested in the Fall.  A few open spaces remain in the regular program, so there is an opportunity for your children to join this exciting, continuing learning process.