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November 3, 2018

What to look for when choosing a high quality PreK program

By Courtney Cairns-Pastor

With oversized magnifying glasses and handmade binoculars, PreK3 students peer intently at puddles, trees, and squirrels, making observations about everything they spot. The focus this week is the sense of sight, and 3-year-olds in Corbett Prep’s PreKindergarten program is on a hike around campus to see what they can see.

Back in the classroom, teachers point out how our senses play different roles, asking students to think about the differences in how snacks taste in the dark or if color still exists without light.

In PreK4, meanwhile, students studying body systems visit Corbett Prep’s Application Lab to peek inside the body using the augmented reality technology of zSpace. Wearing 3D glasses, the 4-year-olds examine detailed 3D images of the circulatory and digestive systems that look so real students reach out to try to touch them.

Engaging lessons that appeal to a child’s natural curiosity instill the joy of learning at a young age. The prekindergarten years are critical in preparing students academically, socially and behaviorally for kindergarten and the rest of their education.

PreKindergarten

How can parents make sure their child’s preschool is up to the task? Here are some important factors to consider when looking for a great prekindergarten program.

Curriculum: Three- and 4-year-olds will amaze you with what they are able to learn. PreK3 teachers at Corbett Prep introduce their students to famous works of art as they study how people express themselves. Parents are surprised to hear students come home talking about Degas painting ballerinas or identifying “The Starry Night” as a Van Gogh painting.

Teachers in a high-quality prekindergarten program have a research-based curriculum to follow, and they make sure students are challenged beyond basic school readiness skills. Corbett Prep teachers use the International Baccalaureate Primary (IB) Years Programme to guide students through stimulating units of inquiry in ways that support Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences as well as engage all learning styles.

Free play: While an academic curriculum is important, important lessons take place on the playground. Studies have shown that active free play can improve children’s thinking skills and help them socially, emotionally and physically. They develop compassion and understanding of others during imaginative role-play and learn to problem-solve during the dedicated time for free play.

Independence: PreKindergarten is a time for children to develop independence, self-sufficiency, and responsibility. Teachers may put students in charge of signing their names when they arrive as they stash their lunchboxes in their cubbies. Many classes have small jobs as well, assigning students to hold doors, lead the lines or turn off the lights. It’s important for prekindergarteners to have a safe and supportive environment to work on these new skills.

Enrichment opportunities: Exposure to visual and performing arts, international languages and athletics in “specials” classes or extracurricular activities provide opportunities for kids to discover their natural gifts at an early age as well as appreciate the perspectives and talents of others, creating social-emotional learning lessons. Each discipline also offers specific benefits to a child’s development and confidence.

Art classes, for example, improve students’ fine motor and critical thinking skills while sports and physical education promote teamwork and develop coordination. At Corbett Prep, specials teachers often work with classroom teachers to tie what they do into the current academic unit. Music teachers brought soundwaves to life as part of the IB unit on senses, beating a drum to make grains of rice vibrate so the PreK3 students could “see” sound.

A quality PreKindergarten program allows students to grow in many different ways during these critical years. When trained teachers create a warm, encouraging environment within a well-rounded curriculum, students become comfortable taking risks academically and socially. With so much to discover about their world and themselves, young students in robust prekindergarten classes gain the foundation and confidence they need for success in kindergarten and beyond.