“Play is the highest form of research.”

Albert Einstein

Early Years Program

Students learn through imitation and opportunities to engage in authentic and meaningful activities such as cooking, gardening, tending to small animals, handwork, building, imaginative play, tending to the environment, and artistic endeavours. While there is a gentle rhythm to our day, week and year, students have a great deal of choice in their level of involvement in different activities. At any given time, the students’ play and activities might include an array of different provocations that invite children’s participation across the following subject areas in an integrated and authentic way.

Access to a variety of natural, artistic, and educational materials allow young children to creatively explore and express their understanding of the world around them. Extensive play in our outdoor classroom and in neighbouring parks are important in our Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten as well. Through this gentle introduction to schooling, we honour the significant transition in a child’s life from home to school. 

By the Subject

We are being exposed to language and stories through our daily story times and songs, as well as in imaginative play, puppetry, morning circle times, performing arts, and sharing circles. Some students chose to explore further and help to make signs for the classroom or an activity, and practice their letter formation – while others at this age focus primarily on oral and visual expression rather than text. They have been learning about symbolic representation using various objects or pictures to represent words, groceries, beat and rhythm, or verses in a song or story. Students have opportunities to dictate their stories or illustrations in a variety of contexts such as: paintings, nature journals, dramatic play and reflections. There are always quality children’s picture books waiting to be read in the book corner. Students are invited to practice making the shapes of letters and numbers through their play with clay, dough, sand, natural materials, scarves, mud, snow and their bodies. There are always a variety of materials around for students to use in their language and literacy development. Our primary focus is exploration at this stage of childhood.

At the beginning of the year, the students demonstrate their counting skills through games such as “Hide and Go Seek” or “Eagle’s Eye.” They make simple patterns using treasures found on our daily nature walks or in the classroom, as well as with their bodies twisting into different repeating shapes, or clapping and stomping different beats and rhythms. Sorting activities take place throughout the year, gradually increasing in complexity. Students are given lots of opportunities to use descriptive language and definitions. We begin to explore the numerals 1-10 through story and different activities in separate units lasting from one week to one month in duration. We also build with blocks, the cork boards, food art and dough – sculpting three dimensional shapes. The variety of loose materials that we have available in both the indoor and outdoor classrooms also provide ample manipulatives with which students can work and build.

We begin the year exploring “Identity” and “Courage,” noticing differences and similarities. We learn about safety and make promises to remind ourselves how to BE in a class community. Throughout the year, we come back to supporting safety for self and others, whether through the Class Promises or later learning the Peace Process for conflict resolution. We explore “Feelings” through songs, games, drawings, and drama to help us learn how to talk about our feelings and needs, especially when things don’t go smoothly. Through the “Stories of our Food,” we learn about how the environment, the community, and choices impact our lives. Later on, we learn about the experience of First Nations Communities here on the prairies, and how their lives have changed since the arrival of Newcomers. We learn about how Treaties are living promises between nations. History is not just about the past and people who died, but the Story of the Land that is still happening today. We also explore “Stewardship of the Land” through taking care of the environment and division of roles and responsibilities. We promote a healthy, active lifestyle, and encourage kids to take responsibility for their own choices.

We continually work with plants in some capacity throughout the year – from harvesting the garden in the fall, cooking, fun with food days, indoor gardening in the winter, to outdoor gardening again in spring, and simply during our daily nature walks. We use all our senses to explore the environment around us, as well as changes that occur over time. We noticed exciting weather phenomena, changes through the seasons, and learned about uses for different plants and animals. We devote a significant amount of time to experimenting with FORCES, through sledding, bowling, treasure hunts, ramps, cars, magnets, painting and more. The vermicompost bin, mirrors, observation sheets and magnifying glasses live at the Observation Station, where students draw and discuss their observations of something special. Students also draw or paste in their Nature Journals various objects of interest such as: bugs, flowers, plants, changes in seasons, and patterns made from treasures found outside.

The students have numerous opportunities to express themselves through the arts. Everyone participates in Painting Days and Performing Arts with twice a week. There are also materials available in the classroom during Exploration Stations for drawing, gluing, painting, sculpting, building, beading, knitting, weaving, sewing, and more. Music, dance and drama also have a way of weaving their way into various activities on which we might be focusing. We sometimes visit the Mackenzie Art Gallery to view artwork, and perform collaborative stage pieces with the rest of the school multiple times a year.

Starting each day in the Outdoor Classroom, we promote healthy, active living all the time. Students have ample time to run, climb and play every morning before our Circle Time. Then we always have some fun, lively, musical games and action rhymes incorporated into the morning part of our daily routine. We go on almost-daily Nature Walks, exploring the community, the park and the climbing wall across the street. We often play wide games and cooperative games in these settings. In January, when the temperature is cold, we enjoy more time in the gym, learning gymnastics with the primary year classes. Through games, we participate in a wide variety of moderate to vigorous movement activities, and practice moving our bodies through space in different ways. The students also enjoy practicing their sending, receiving and balancing skills with beanbags both indoors and out. The end of the year camping trip is a prime time for hikes, swimming, cooperative games and more.

“I will understand problem solving, self-exploration, decision making, number relationships, structures, complex vocabulary, healthy living, cause and effect, creativity, imaginative thinking, and my natural world when I am Big. Because I play outside when I am little.”