Overview and Highlights
Cambridge Friends School encourages Pre-Kindergarten students to be adventurers, anthropologists, detectives, and scientists as they examine the world around them and integrate their discoveries into what they already know. The early childhood program at Cambridge Friends School is designed to help them learn through multiple channels, including self-directed play, exploration, social interactions, movement, watching others’ work, listening, and experimenting. Learning by doing and using concrete manipulatives and construction materials support children’s practice of academic skills and concepts as well as their understanding of three-dimensional objects and design.
They are also bursting with energy and their healthy development includes copious amounts of time outdoors and the active use of large and small muscles and coordination. Their time in Pre-Kindergarten encompasses high-energy play as well as small amounts of developmentally appropriate structured school expectations, such as sitting for class meetings and performing classroom jobs.
Teachers at Cambridge Friends School organically weave literacy into everyday interactions. For example, throughout the day, students have opportunities for book making, storytelling, reading the Question of the Day upon arrival, reading aloud and shared book reading, independent reading, and writing notes for use in play. One student might make signs for their pretend store in the dramatic play area, while another might write a “save” sign to put on a block structure. Myriad dramatic play scenarios presented by teachers or conceived by students provide ample opportunities for teachers to promote reading and writing as tools for communicating ideas.
Mathematical opportunities are abundant in our Pre-K program and we promote a culture of curiosity, exploration, and practical experience. Routine class meeting activities and organic teachable moments provide opportunities to use a calendar, count, add, solve word problems, and organize and display data.
Social Studies learning at Cambridge Friends School is intertwined with the Quaker Testimonies. Throughout the year, students learn and discuss the themes of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship. Students also learn about People of Inspiration who exemplify these themes by working to make positive changes in the world currently or in the past. For example, Ruby Bridges is celebrated as a Person of Inspiration and as exemplifying the Testimony of Equality. We highlight what the world and schools were like then, compared to the changes that have been made, and what schools (including our own) are like now. We try to alternate between popular and lesser-known heroes to inform and shine light on important people that the news and history do not typically illuminate.
Our goal is for each student to build on their natural curiosity and engagement with the physical world around them as they explore a range of topics from each of the four domains of science: life science, physical science, earth/space science, and technology/engineering. This work consists of emergent, student-directed explorations as well as some more structured experiences introduced by teachers such as caring for caterpillars and building and exploring simple machines. As they develop curricular experiences for students, classroom teachers make use of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and a variety of science curricula, as well as teacher-developed materials and investigations that respond to student interests.
The visual arts give students the opportunity to simultaneously learn with their hands, brains, eyes, and hearts. From the youngest ages, students build a repertoire of experiences upon which they can draw when they consider and interact with the material world. They develop visual, sensorial, and expressive languages, which they can apply when examining and making things throughout their lives.
Participation in physical activity and kinesthetic learning is critical to a child’s growing sense of self. With the objective of fostering a love of movement for a physically- active lifestyle, physical education provides a learning environment for students to connect and learn through movement routines, skill-based activities, games, and sports. Also embedded within the physical education setting are incredible opportunities for students to learn and develop important life skills: resilience, time management, patience, conflict resolution, kindness, determination, and trust.
Throughout the year, students in early childhood music classes develop an awareness of the elements of music through creative movement work, storytelling and dramatization, exploring and playing instruments, listening activities, and composition/improvisation. Students are often introduced to the cultural and historical context of the curricular materials used, and much effort is made to connect with the regular classroom and science curricula. Intimate performance opportunities offer students space to share their work in a supportive atmosphere at CFS.
Students in the Pre-Kindergarten library classes focus on learning about the library, learning the difference between fiction and nonfiction, learning through stories about school, friendship and conflict resolution, and seasonal/holiday celebrations. Our students are exposed to stories about many cultural, historical, and religious celebrations and observances. and are invited to draw connections/parallels between their own significant celebrations and those of others.