The teachers at Friends School Haverford work to develop a curriculum that is play-based, child-centered, and progressive. Indoor and outdoor spaces are crafted to serve the social and emotional development of children and to 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 develop 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 Learning
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, increased independence, 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. The Zones of Regulation are introduced to students as a way to help children become aware of their feelings and how to manage them in positive ways. Additionally, teachers lean on the Responsive Classroom framework to structure their classrooms. This is a child-centered approach that places social emotional growth at the forefront.
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.
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-centered, and is 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.
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 begin to learn how to identify and write the letters in their names. 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 emphasized 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 experiences. Children practice counting to 10 by using manipulatives and interacting with the natural world. Children also have opportunities to 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 and using mistakes as wonderful learning opportunities is modeled and promoted by the use of open-ended questions and conversation.
Scientific Thinking, Exploration, and Discovery
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. Energy flow and the requirements of plants and animals (food, light, and water) are studied through the care of classroom plants, pets, bird feeders, and chickens, and ant farms. Seasons and weather changes are observed during regular walks around our campus.. Investigations, such as planting in different soil conditions and identifying characteristics of various types of moving water nearby are undertaken. Children regularly visit the pond, creek, and arboretum at Haverford College.