Preschool

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Preschool is a time of amazing growth—physical, social-emotional and intellectual. Every time a child asks “why”, explores a new object, interacts with others or tries something for the first time he/she is learning about the environment, people, and concepts that he/she’ll continue to build competence with for the rest of his/her life. Our teachers know and celebrate this in every aspect of our preschool programs. We incorporate the HighScope and Reggio Emilia approaches and are guided by the California Desired Results assessment process, Learning Foundations and Curriculum Frameworks. These approaches share some key beliefs: children are inherently competent, they learn best through meaningful experiences in a rich environment with peers and knowledgeable adults as guides and collaborators.

Environment

Our classrooms abound in materials that invite children to actively explore and that reflect their diverse interests and learning profiles. The areas of the room represent the learning domains that connect to later school content: language and literacy, math, science, visual and performing arts and social science. We have environments that are safe, child accessible and appealing to all the senses.

Routine

Our consistent daily routine helps children feel safe and secure. Children quickly internalize the predictable order of the day and know they will have opportunities to self select activities as well as interact one-on-one with a teacher and participate in teacher guided experiences in small and large groups.

The elements of the children’s day in our programs include:

Small Group Time children work daily as a member of a group of 8-12 and with a teacher who has tracked their development, interests and strengths. Hands-on activities are planned and led by the teacher using research based school readiness curriculum resources that bridge to kindergarten standards.

Large Group/Circle Time being a part of a larger community is something that takes a bit of practice for young children. Our large group/circle times include get to know you activities, movement, music, pretending games and physical fitness activities. In addition to the joy that comes from shared experiences, children build their ability to listen, express emotions and take turns.

Plan-Do-Review – we support children’s ability to make plans, carry them out and reflect on them, a life skill that encourages critical thinking, initiative and self-reliance within the framework of the school community. Our teachers ask children to choose something they would like to do from among the many classroom options and then fully participate with them as they follow through with their ideas. They ask children questions and think with them about what is happening to help them to extend and expand their understanding and skill development. Review follows with a small group discussion of how the plans went, what they discovered and possible next steps.

Outdoor making a connection to natural surroundings and engaging in physical activity with playful and attentive teachers happens daily in our programs. Children are explorers in this environment, as well as movers, climbers, and riders. They also can act out dramatic play situations they have experienced.

Curriculum

In our programs we surround children with learning opportunities. We develop and grow basic academic skills through child and teacher guided activities and interactions. Our literacy and math curricula are research based, developmentally sequenced and based on skills that lead to success in school and beyond. As teachers identify children’s interests, strengths and level of development, they add materials to the classroom and design engaging activities incorporating language and literacy, math, science, visual and performing arts, physical, health and safety concepts and skill building.

Transition to Kindergarten

Moving from preschool to kindergarten is one of the biggest milestones for children and families. Because our programs establish partnerships with elementary school teachers we plan events, visits and information exchanges to make the transition as smooth and comfortable as possible. Our teachers work closely with families to identify each child’s readiness profile and offer simple at home activities that families can do with their child to support the learning in the program and continued growth of the child.

Family Engagement

Families are an integral part of our programs. We have an open door policy and value input and involvement that result in partnerships and continuity in the child’s home and center life.

PRESCHOOL- DEL NORTE CDC, Oxnard, CA

“Can Worms See Under The Dirt? Big Questions from Little People”

Our preschool teachers at Del Norte CDC utilized a specific strategy to support childhood learning called K-W-L during a study in which our preschoolers learned about worms. K stands for what you do know, W stands for what do you want to know and L stands for what you are learning or have learned.

K-W-L, first developed by Carr and Ogle (Carr, 1986; Carr & Ogle, 1987),  ties together prior knowledge, questions or desires to learn more and the conclusions from the learning in a graphic organized way. The children can see their learning in action, reflect on what they are learning, and make adjustments as needed to continue on the journey of answering their questions. Prior to engaging in the K-W-L process, teachers observe and question the group during different times of the day to get an idea about their interests. They introduce ideas to the group based on the observations and support the group in determining what their investigation will be. Our preschool programs strive to spark children’s innate curiosity, nurture their sense of wonder and help them develop new knowledge reflected in and part of their daily lives through inquiry, engagement, integration, innovation & creativity.

The preschoolers embarked upon an investigation to answer the age-old question, “Can worms see under dirt?” During this project, preschoolers utilized their questioning, inquiry and critical thinking skills while studying worms.

When we asked the children how they came up with the idea to study worms, one of the girls in the group explained that, they found them living under big rocks and small rocks in the yard. Then the whole group chimed in to talk about their worm study.

“They live under the rocks with pill bugs and ants too. They are called night crawlers and earthworms. They live in holes in the ground under the dirt. They do not like the sun, they like the dark. Worms eat food people put in the dirt and then the worms poop out the food and it becomes soil. They do not have bones they have segments. They do not have eyes either. They use their tail to feel the ground. They can feel people walking because the ground moves. We measured them and they are not all the same size. Sometimes they are big and sometimes they are little.”

During this process, the preschoolers observed worms in the yard with magnifiers and collected them. They drew observations of the worms, measured them, used books, and the internet to research information. The children used this research to build a worm habitat for observation. During their observations, they made worms out of clay and collected other materials to create a worm model. Following the activity, the children completed the “What We Learned” section of the K-W-L chart.

Young children’s questions can be used as a powerful tool to expand their minds, inspire new ideas, and solve problems by finding solutions through innovation. Children need opportunities to ask significant questions that clarify their point of view, the point of view of others and lead to other possible solutions. By intentionally teaching questioning skills, our teachers can facilitate a process for deeper learning, creativity, problem solving, innovation and reflection.

 

Preschool – Green Valley CDC, San Jose

Green Valley Preschool invited dental students from Carrington College to visit the children at the center last summer. The children were very curious about their teeth and how to take care of them following a visit from the dentist at Healthy Kids Foundation. The dental students prepared presentations for children in all 5 rooms of the center. Each team had plenty of visuals such as charts with food and teeth graphics. They kept the children engaged by providing hands on activities throughout the presentation. The dental students showed children healthy food vs. bad food, how to properly brush their teeth and what can happen to their teeth if they do not take care of them.

Our Director Quy, her staff and teachers believe that the more knowledge we provide preschool children about healthy living, the more likely they are to make good choices. They plan to continue their partnership with Carrington College and other schools to bring the latest practices and information to their program so that it can be passed along to families.