Play-based learning stimulates the imagination while honoring childhood.

The Pond: K-2

Welcome to our classrooms in the Pond. Our primary hope for each younger child is that they will enjoy playing with peers, enjoy learning, and enjoy school. Our play-based environment, with its carefully-planned daily routine and wide variety of learning experiences, allows younger children the space and time to work on social-emotional developmental tasks. Academic learning takes place in a non-pressured way within the context of this caring, nurturing community of learners.

 

A 5, 6 or 7-year-old child is still developmentally in early childhood—curious, energetic, and eager to experience the world. The major developmental tasks of children are social-emotional as they learn how to fit themselves and their needs into the larger school environment.

 

Children in grades K-2 are just beginning to see outside themselves and consider the needs or feelings of others. They are working on self-regulation and being aware of their body in space as they transition through the school day. They are developing the ability to use words to express wants, needs, and feelings with both adults and peers, and to listen to the words of others. They are also learning to engage in group discussions, to wait for their turn, and to follow basic directions.

We meet the children's academic and intellectual developmental needs within the context of a nurturing community of learners. Our literacy and numeracy instruction is hands-on, highly engaging, and authentic to the child's own interests and purposes.

 

 

"Peace Town" -- An Example of Project Work in the Pond
The class begins with the question “What is a community?”  The theme starts with an examination of themselves, their families, and their homes through self-portraiture, art, and stories. The discussion flows and many questions emerge, “Can worms be a community? Can trees be a community? Must a community include buildings?” Open-ended questions allow the project to flow in the direction of the children’s interest.

 

Even though the Kindergarten class may study communities every year, the project never unfolds in exactly the same way twice. One class may study a worm "community" in its natural element, another may focus on the TCS community and develop a school-wide postal system, and yet another might focus on how things move—trains, cars, buses, airplanes--in a community.

 

From all of this wonderful discussion and investigation, one class decided to create their own community: Peace Town. Guided by their teacher, the children first determined what type of community they wanted to build; rural, urban, a combination? Would it be grounded in reality, or make-believe? What types of businesses or institutions would be included?

 

Using large boxes, duct tape, paint, and markers, the children created everything within their community: buildings, animals for the farm, supplies for the hospital, goods for the businesses to sell, and currency. In their roles as different community members, children practiced academic skills such as writing, reading, counting, and measuring as well as strengthening their own classroom community by working collaboratively to make their vision of Peace Town a reality.

 

A TYpical Day in a pond Classroom

Each day, our teachers write the class schedule on the board, making time for play, project-work, and instruction in academic subjects. Our teachers are also mindful of each individual student's personal and academic goals in addition to the group's goals. These are layered into a framework that meets all state academic standards, and includes weekly courses in art, music, library, and physical wellness.

Here's what your child might experience in a typical day in a K-2 classroom:

8:45 Morning Work

As they enter the school, put away their things, and settle in for the day, children are greeted by teachers and peers and join in a “warm-up” math or literacy activity. 

9:00 Group Gathering

Students join the entire school for morning announcements led by a student.
 

9:15 Morning Meeting

Students meet on the rug to eat a snack if they wish, look at the day’s schedule, and participate in calendar and other classroom routines.
 

9:45 Movement Break

The class enjoys an activity or free play with physical movement either indoors or outdoors.
 

10:15 Workshop or Explore Time

Students move around the classroom engaging in a variety of reading, writing, math, and other academic tasks and activities. Teachers will at times direct students towards certain options, but there is also room for the student to pursue their own choices and interests. 
 

11:15 Read Aloud

Students listen to a teacher read aloud. The reading could be a story, poem, or informational text related to what the class is learning about, or touch on a relevant social justice theme that augments a current project or classroom discussion.
 

11:00 Project Work

Students carry forward their own purposes in interdisciplinary, long-term projects. (For 8th graders, the second half of the year is spent on individual, self-chosen Capstone Projects that serve as a culminating learning experience for their time at The Children's School.)
 

11:30 Recess

Students play in our Outdoor Space, walk to a nearby playground, or play in the gym in the case of inclement weather.
 

12:00 Lunch

Students eat in classrooms. Two days each week, during all-school lunch, they may go to any classroom in the school for lunch. On other days, they eat in their own classrooms. A full half-hour assures that students are not rushed and can enjoy conversation and “breaking bread” together with friends and teachers.

 

12:30 Shared Reading

Students read or look at a book with a friend or on their own, or are read to by an adult.

1:00 Writing

Students dictate, write, and illustrate their own original stories, which are “published” and become part of the classroom’s book collection.

2:00 Choice

Free play. Students choose from games, puzzles, art activities, block play, and more. This is a prime time for rich, meaningful imaginative play with peers.
 

2:45 Suitcase

Students offer items for inclusion in the class’ Suitcase — what we will carry with us when we go home today. This becomes an important source of information for parents wanting to know, “What did you do at school today?”

3:00 Chapter Book

Students listen to teachers read aloud from a chapter book, often chosen by the teacher for its relevant social justice theme.
 

3:15 Dismissal and Pick-Up by Parents
 

(Optional: TCS offers before and after-school programs. Learn more.)

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”  John Dewey

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© 2018 The Children's School - 200 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302  |  708-484-8033

website by Tracy Litsey at Practicespecialty.com | photographs by Lindsay Schumaier Photography,  Eileen Moloney Photography, and Laura Donoghue