In Preschool, students start to emerge as confident learners who can partner with teachers as they build skills and track their personal progress. The tone is set early in the school year, students experiment with goal-setting, documenting what they'd like to learn that year. These aspirations hang on the classroom wall all year long.
In a play-based, student-driven classroom, lessons are shaped by the materials that teachers provide. The Preschool classroom is full of materials that connect with traditional academic disciplines. Baskets of colorful blocks and figures invite sorting and stacking that suggest basic math. Ramps, pulleys and balances lead to first physics and engineering projects. Magnifying glasses, measuring tapes and clipboards fuel scientific scavenger hunts.
In Preschool, written projects becomes more formal, with drawings captioned with the students' own first writing, or words dictated to the classroom teacher. This work is carefully dated and included in a folder where students can track their own passions and ideas—and writing skills—over the course of the year.
By the end of the year, the students' ability to sustain long-term projects has grown dramatically. Block area projects might extend over several days; written work might continue over multiple pages; science experiments might include sprouting and caring for seedlings over the course of two or three weeks, and transplanting them in the garden beds outside their classroom doors.
Preschool students form a close relationship with their two classroom teachers. They also have an opportunity to connect with other faculty members as part of their visual art, library and PE curriculum. Over the course of the day, Preschool students interact in a variety of groups: sitting as a class in morning circle, collaborating in pairs or working alone during choice time, venturing to music, art and PE as half a classroom group, or coming together with their peers from Nursery on the playground twice a day. Students are also paired with third grade students who serve as "buddies" during thoughtfully designed adventures over the course of the school year.
- Language arts
- Social studies
- Heritage Language
- Physical education
- Visual arts
Early Childhood classrooms are print-rich environments where teachers foster a love of books. Cozy comfortable reading areas with a variety of age-appropriate printed materials are available for children who want to explore books and materials that reflect their identity, home, language, culture and interests.
Preschool teachers provide students with other written media—menus, recipe cards, phone directories, place books, and order pads—to build a sense of print awareness. They use a variety of integrated methods to help children learn to recognize letters, like helping a child locate their cubby by finding the first letter of their name, reading alphabet and other books, or using charts that connect pictures and words. Teachers invite children's participation during storybook reading by having them analyze visual cues, make predictions, and make personal connections, and they read to children daily, using age-appropriate, highly diverse literature including picture books, fantasy books, books that are predictable and repetitive, informational books, and culturally diverse books. Teachers read to children individually, as well as in small and large groups.
Teachers encourage children's interest in writing using enjoyable and engaging methods like having children dictate stories, helping them make books, encouraging them to attempt to write their names on their own work, or helping them make a list of ingredients for a cooking project. Students are encouraged to attempt to make their own names using a variety of materials like magnetic letters, play dough, rubber stamps, alphabet books, straight and curved wooden pieces.
Teachers model writing by making lists, messages, dictated stories, and charts, and explain the connection between spoken and written words.
A variety of writing tools—pencils, crayons, chalk, markers, and rubberstamps—and surfaces including paper, chalkboard, wood, and the concrete outside the classroom, are available to students throughout the day.
In Nursery and Preschool, teachers give students opportunities to explore math in a variety of ways to encourage an understanding of the language of math and instill a curiosity about numbers and arithmetic.
By providing children with collections of small objects, cash registers with money, number puzzles, counting books and games, and sorting materials, teachers expose students to ways math is integrated into everyday life.
When students generate their own games and projects, teachers will introduce concepts like comparison, counting, estimation, addition, subtraction, one to one correspondence, patterns relationships and classification, encouraging them to use their developing mathematical knowledge to represent, communicate, and solve problems in their environment.
The main objective of science in Early Childhood is to nurture a young person’s innate sense of curiosity and wonder about the world around them. The Early Childhood IDEA Lab provides an opportunity for all children in Early Childhood to use materials and engage in activities which build foundational skills of the scientific process and method like observing, exploring, using the senses, and asking questions.
Over the course of the year, Nursery and Preschool students are exposed to a wide variety of science and engineering experiences. Children explore earth science topics using sand, funnels, and sifters. They work with Beebots as they engage in the beginning steps of programming and robotics, and they use Rigmajig materials to construct structures. Children engage in the engineering process to explore the steps in design and problem solving, like making noise makers and constructing toys that move using Duplo simple machine kits. Exposure to the life sciences includes investigations with feathers, worms, flowers, nests, eggs, and insects.
Social studies in Early Childhood focuses on interpersonal relationships through the themes of family and the community. From morning circle and read-alouds to individual choice time and collaborative play, children develop a deeper awareness of themselves and their relationship to others in their families, their classrooms and broader community outside of Gordon’s walls.
The curriculum aligns with the national social studies standards and addresses questions such as What makes a family? What makes a friend? What is a community of care? What does fairness mean? Embedded in the daily life of Gordon's youngest students, these questions ensure that social studies work is a part of every day in Early Childhood, sparking relevant conversations in a variety of classroom and playground contexts.
As early as Nursery, teachers and students work together to identify and explain expectations for classroom behavior. Playing in the classroom and exploring outdoors, students actively work on learning how to cooperate and collaborate with others, how to share about themselves, and how to listen to their classmates.
Teachers engage students in one-on-one and small-group conversations about individual similarities and differences and guide students in thinking about how to build a classroom community where everyone belongs. Teachers use books and other resources that illustrate diverse races, ethnicities, cultures, ages, abilities, genders, family structures, and non-stereotypical gender roles so that every student can feel valued and represented.
Morning circle is an important routine where students gain practice speaking, listening and asking questions and children have an opportunity to learn more about each other as an important aspect of empathy and building community.
Gordon's Heritage Language program is for children in Nursery to fourth grade who come from Spanish-speaking households. Students meet with their Spanish teacher to share stories and play games in Spanish. The active and experiential learning environment hopes to develop a sense of affinity and community by having children share their stories and cultural traditions of Gordon's Spanish-speaking community. Heritage Language meets during the school day for Nursery to first grade, and after school in second, third and fourth grade.
Children in Early Childhood enjoy physical education classes twice per week in the Nelson Field House and, at times, the beautiful grounds at Gordon School. In addition to learning rudimentary and fundamental movement skills, Early Childhood physical education emphasizes joyful and purposeful play, language, literacy, and communication skill development through cooperative games and fitness activities. Students are encouraged to challenge traditional gender stereotypes, discover new possibilities and capabilities, and strengthen individual self-expression.
Children in Early Childhood are introduced to the library beginning in Nursery, with once a week trips to meet with the school librarian for read-alouds and book selection. The Joukowsky Family Library houses a vast collection of multicultural and bilingual books; all children can reach for a library book which reflects their background and experience and also find books that expose them to the experiences and perspectives of others. Gordon's youngest students learn to appreciate what access to a library means for their growing curiosity and awareness of themselves as learners and library patrons. Working closely with classroom teachers, Gordon's librarian supports children’s inquiry and discovery of the world of books.
Preschool music is full of exploration and discovery, finding joy in all aspects of music. Classes always begin with "Hello" and "Greeting" songs from around the world. Lessons then progress from songs with small movements to dances or large movement activities, to playing various percussion instruments in imitative or improvisational songs. Each lesson contains five or six songs in various languages, meters, styles and tempos. Concepts like fast-slow, high-low, and loud-soft are woven throughout the curriculum. Pitch matching and steady beat work are continually emphasized and reinforced throughout the year.
Through experimentation, repetition and play, Preschool students explore music and become more comfortable as musicians. Preschoolers' fine motor skills are developed through the use of triangles, hand drums, castanets and rhythm sticks. Large movement games, folk dances and group drumming require cooperation, concentration and coordination. They learn to sing, dance and play instruments in various tempos and with various timbres.
During every activity and dance, children sing continuously, which helps connect all aspects of music making. Each song is carefully selected for appropriate range and thematic content. Materials are also linked to classroom topics throughout the seasons.
The multicultural, play-based curriculum explores beat, rhythm, pitch, timbre and dynamics through world folk songs. Simple songs from various countries are woven throughout the lessons, introducing children to the diversity of the world's music.
The Preschool visual arts program is designed to instill a love of materials and guide young children through the process of creating a piece of art. The program is multisensory with a goal of beginning to foster an artistic sensibility: the ability to notice and explore a variety of art concepts like line, shape, color and texture and even feelings.