“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

Children begin to develop their early literacy skills through stories and songs, imaginative play, puppetry, morning circle times, visual and performing arts, and sharing circles. Some students chose to explore further and practice their letter formation, while others at this age focus primarily on oral and visual expression rather than text. Students learn about symbolic representation using various objects and pictures to represent words, beat and rhythm, and verses in songs or stories. Students have opportunities to dictate their stories and 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 stories and activities in separate units lasting from one week to one month in duration. We build with blocks, use cork boards, and make food art and dough, sculpting three-dimensional shapes. The variety of loose materials that we have available in both the indoor and outdoor classrooms provides ample manipulatives with which students can work and build.

We begin the year by 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 our Class Promises or by learning the Peace Process for conflict resolution. We explore our feelings through songs, games, drawings, and dramatic play to help us learn how to talk about our emotions, experiences and needs, especially when things don’t go smoothly. Through the “Stories of our Food,” we learn about how the environment, the community, and our choices impact our lives. We learn about 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 but the living Story of the Land that is still happening today. We explore “Stewardship of the Land” by taking care of the environment and learning about the division of roles and responsibilities. We promote a healthy, active lifestyle and encourage kids to take responsibility for their own choices.

We work with plants throughout the year, from harvesting the garden in the fall, cooking, fun with food days, indoor gardening in the winter, to outdoor gardening in spring, and simply during our daily nature walks. We use all our senses to explore the environment around us. We notice exciting weather phenomena, changes through the seasons, and learn about the role of plants and animals in the environment and our relationships with them. 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 draw or paste in their Nature Journals various objects of interest such as bugs, flowers, plants, and patterns made from treasures found outside.

The students have numerous opportunities to express themselves through the arts, participating in Painting Days, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities and the Performing Arts. There are materials available in the classroom during Exploration Stations for drawing, gluing, painting, sculpting, building, beading, knitting, weaving, sewing, and more. Music, dance and drama have a way of weaving their way into the various activities we might be focusing on. We visit museums and art galleries and perform collaborative stage pieces with the rest of the school multiple times a year.

Starting our mornings in the Outdoor Classroom, we promote healthy, active living every day. Students have ample opportunity to run, jump, climb, explore and play. We always have fun, lively musical games and action rhymes incorporated into our daily routines. We go on daily Nature Walks, exploring the local community. We often play wide games and cooperative games in these settings. 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 enjoy practicing their sending, receiving and balancing skills both indoors and out. In the winter, when the temperature is cold, we enjoy more time indoors, but we still go outside every day! 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.”

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