Friends School Haverford preschoolers engage in enthusiastic hands-on exploration with materials and experiences that captivate all of the senses. Curiosity and questions guide the preschool journey, with the understanding that children gain knowledge through their own investigations. Our program is play-based, with the goal of creating space for children to become completely immersed and absorbed in the play that is a child’s work. Through play, children practice social skills, learn to solve problems, develop their physical strength and coordination, and increase their cognitive abilities.
Teachers are partners in learning, guiding and extending the explorations of students. Preschoolers take part in meaningful conversations and engage in critical thinking, making connections with literature, the environment, and their work in the classroom and outdoors. Language arts, mathematics, and science concepts are woven into the work of each day in authentic ways that build on the interests of the children.
Social and Emotional Learning
Social and emotional learning are at the heart of the preschool experience. In preschool, children learn to live in community with others and to be responsible for their own words and actions. Our young students develop the ability to take care of themselves, to take care of each other, and to take care of their environment. Children learn to communicate their needs and feelings, to care for themselves, to ask for help when needed, to manage their behaviors, and to regulate their emotions using the Zones of Regulation. Treating others with kindness and respect is emphasized, and empathy is nurtured. Children also learn the value of persistence as they practice new skills. Taking appropriate risks and making mistakes are a part of learning.
The foundational beliefs of the program are rooted in Quaker values. The Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship shape the practices in the preschool classroom. Teachers and students believe in the equal worth of every person and explore the concepts of fairness and equality. Together students create rules for the classroom community. Children learn that their behavior matters, and that what they do and say has an impact on others. Children explore the balance between self and others as they contribute to creating a classroom culture of kindness. The class is grounded in fairness and seeks to be free of bias while respecting and embracing differences. Children learn to use their words and actions to bring peaceful resolution where there is conflict. This is challenging work, even for adults.
The preschool classroom is a safe place to learn how to make a friend and be a friend. Teachers actively model and reinforce this perspective by actively leaning on the Responsive Classroom social-emotional framework. Friendship skills include speaking and listening, joining a group, taking turns, being able to advocate for oneself and for others, treating others with kindness, and solving problems peacefully. Flexibility is celebrated and children are encouraged to include the ideas of others when playing in a group. Inclusion is encouraged; “try to find a way for everyone to play.” Respect is given to children who wish to play or work independently. Teachers recognize that feelings may be hurt at times and support children in learning to recover their equilibrium. Misunderstandings sometimes occur in the course of a friendship. Children learn that relationships can be repaired and that they have the power to make amends.
Language and Literacy Development
Speaking, listening, reading and writing are tools used to share thoughts and ideas with others. Preschoolers begin to use pictures, symbols, and text to gain information and meaning. Focus is placed on pre-reading skills which include strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate text. The class reads every day and throughout the day, in small groups and as a whole. Teachers emphasize phonemic awareness with rhyming stories, poems, songs, and word play. Many opportunities are available for students to express their thoughts and ideas through drawing and writing, by offering dictation, and by speaking to others.
Mathematical Thinking and Expression
Numbers, shapes, and patterns are all around us. Children begin to notice the mathematical dimensions of their world at a young age. Number sense and pattern recognition allow us to be accountable, to be fair, to determine what we have and what we need, to make predictions, and to describe our world. In the preschool classroom, mathematical skills are developed through hands-on experience with the environment. Indoors and outdoors, children engage in sorting, counting, comparing quantities, estimating, graphing, and problem-solving. Children also use measurement tools such as scales, timers, thermometers, and rulers. These early hands-on experiences and related conversations with adults develop mathematical literacy and offer concrete ways to begin to understand abstract ideas.
Scientific Thinking, Exploration, and Discovery
Preschool students learn about science and technology through play, as they observe, experiment, design, invent, build, and test ideas. Preschool teachers support budding scientists by extending their curiosity through the scientific processes of inquiry, observation, questioning, gathering and recording data, drawing conclusions, reflecting, and developing new questions. In a learning environment designed to promote curiosity and critical thinking, our young scientists formulate questions and engage in activities and experiences to build a new understanding of the natural world. Students also explore basic engineering principles with the use of simple machines.