Friends School Haverford teachers collaborate in the creation of a curriculum that is nature-based, child-centered, and progressive. Indoor and outdoor classrooms are crafted to serve the social and emotional development of children-- inviting focus, and promoting self-regulation. Lush natural spaces and thoughtfully equipped classrooms support content-rich programming. Thematic studies and the exploration of topics that reflect children’s interests build internal motivation, create lifelong learners, and give children the tools they need to ask questions and hone critical thinking skills.
Children actively learn through play. Role-playing, dramatic play, puppetry, and storytelling are joyful tools for learning. Children make choices in these contexts. Teachers scaffold the development of cognitive abilities, physical strength, and coordination.
Social and Emotional Curriculum
The Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship, sometimes referred to using the acronym “SPICES,” are the bedrock of the social curriculum and are reflected in the words and actions of students and teachers alike. Gaining an appreciation of, and respect for, the differences and similarities among us is a focus. Community and self-respect are taught and promoted through age-appropriate opportunities for reflection, spiritual growth, and mindfulness. Children learn to make friends and be friends.
Self-awareness, self-management, and resilience are taught. Individual goal setting and direct instruction in regulating emotions, asking for help, and empathizing with others are key aspects of the emotional curriculum.
Parents are supported with child development documentation and conversation regarding their child’s learning. Families are enthusiastically invited to participate in a variety of ways in the school life of their child, including being a guest reader, joining the class for a discovery period, having lunch, or going on a nature hike.
Language and Literacy Development
Pre-reading skills are developed daily through the use of literature, environmental print, body language, and verbal communication. Children are read to multiple times daily, in groups and individually, during discovery period, before and after rest, and outside. Literature enriches thematic study, is child selected, and is spontaneously chosen to support “teachable moments.” Children are assessed and brought forward in their language development accordingly. By answering questions, retelling key details, identifying main ideas, making connections to personal experiences, relating one text to another, children demonstrate and build upon their ability to comprehend. Children learn to define genres such as fiction (make-believe) and non-fiction (real). Children build their vocabulary, cultural understanding, and connections to the world. Monthly book recommendations by children and for children generate enthusiasm for books, create a sense of ownership of reading material, and build upon individual student interests.
Pre-writing skills are integrated into the classroom through illustration and dictation. With prompting and support, children create pictures about nonfiction topics and talk about them. Children learn that spoken words are related to print. Children are encouraged to write their name. Daily, children “sign in” and “sign out” by adding and removing their name from the attendance board. Children further their understanding of the components and organization of narrative by recounting events and the sequence in which events happened-- including before, next, and end.
Speaking and listening skills are improved daily. Students learn to be active listeners, to derive meaning and ask questions. They learn to reflect upon, respond to, and evaluate ideas. Speaking skills are scaffolded, demonstrated, and celebrated.
Mathematical Thinking and Expression
Numbers and operations are approached through observation, inquiry, and hands-on experience. Children learn to count to 10 by measuring snack, using manipulatives, and interacting with the natural world. Children learn to match, recognize, and represent quantities through 20. They are encouraged and supported through counting songs, rhymes, and chants. Calendar work and attendance are regular contexts for mathematical concepts. 100 charts enrich number and pattern recognition and support the development of number sense. Children compare and contrast quantity and size by measuring, pouring, and scooping. Ordinal number words are used to describe positions of objects such as first, second, and last. Engaging with two-dimensional and three-dimensional geometric shapes promotes the development of reasoning. Thinking-aloud is modeled and promoted by the use of open-ended questions. Children share their thoughts with one another.
Biological, physical and Earth sciences provide contexts for scientific study. Children use their five senses and tools for exploration such as magnifying glasses, insect jars, nets, and pails to conduct investigations and sort living and nonliving matter. Correct terminology is used. Energy flow and the requirements of plants and animals (food, light, and water) are studied through the care of classroom plants, pets, worm bins, bird feeders, and ant farms. Life cycles are observed by raising grasshoppers, butterflies, silkworms, tadpoles, and chickens. Seasons and weather changes are observed during daily walks and noted in a class weather journal using pictures. Investigations, such as planting in different soil conditions and identifying characteristics of various types of moving water nearby are undertaken. Children periodically visit the pond, creek, and arboretum at Haverford College.
Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards provide a framework for assessing progress, discerning strengths, identifying areas to support, and setting goals. Parents are kept abreast daily with anecdotal comments, weekly with classroom newsletters, and in a manner more specific to their individual child by parent/teacher conferences. Teachers offer a program that is differentiated and inclusive, providing a just-right challenge for every child.