“The Early Childhood Program at Friends is magical.”
Mary, mother of Anna
Housed in a renovated 18th century farmhouse on the Friends Academy campus, the Early Childhood program is a place where young learners grow and thrive. Early Childhood students set the course for their own studies, led by their questions and inspired by the environment around them. By the time they leave the Farmhouse, children are prepared for Kindergarten and a lifetime of learning.
The Early Childhood program is open to children who will be 3 years old as of September 1. Half- and full-day schedules are available, as well as early arrival and after-school care. View Tuition & Fees.
Inspired by the Schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy
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Developing Creative, Critical Thinkers Who Are Prepared for Kindergarten
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Based in Exploration and Discovery
Early Childhood students lead their own learning through play and exploration. Teachers listen to the children’s questions, support their ideas, and watch their thoughts develop and evolve over time. By following the children’s lead in this way, teachers create a harmonious curriculum that integrates language, math, science, and social sciences.
Our Reggio Emilia-inspired Language Arts program is guided by many essential questions, including:
- How do we acknowledge and hone “the 100 languages” for communication that is a two-way interactive process of representing and interpreting signs and symbolic systems?
- How do we use Language Arts as a tool to communicate and promote social justice?
- How do collaborative inquiry, project-based learning, and multimedia documentation provide practical ways to develop communicative literacy?
- How can our educationally rich, varied, and challenging content encourage language and literacy development, symbolic thinking, social interaction, and cultural awareness?
Early literacy is addressed through authentic writing activities and exposure to an abundance of quality literature for both information and pleasure. We use literature to think critically about complex issues. The program encourages the use of many expressive languages to represent ideas, questions, and learning.
Students see themselves as authors as they develop understanding that writing is used as a tool for planning, strategizing, understanding, and reflection. Through this, children develop the understanding that letters represent specific spoken sounds and that written word represents spoken word. Early literacy concepts such as phonemic awareness, letter formation, directionality, spacing, and the steps of the writing process (prewriting, drafting, and editing) are explored as students immerse themselves in writing for a purpose.
Math in the Early Childhood program is guided by the following essential questions:
- Do the children see themselves as mathematicians? Architects? Engineers?
- How might we use math as a tool to promote social justice? How might discussions around the topics we explore include more math to promote deeper and more critical thinking about social issues
- How do we use math to communicate?
- Are we exploring and responding to math concepts from diverse perspectives?
- Are we successfully integrating math into our long-term investigations?
- Are we using math to develop multiple perspectives and advocate for others?
The Early Childhood program cultivates mathematical skills and habits such as curiosity, risk-taking, perseverance, reasoning, and problem-solving. Teachers encourage students to find patterns and relationships, become flexible problem solvers, strategize, and articulate their reasoning. Inquiry-based investigations are used as a way to build understanding of mathematical concepts and skills.
Mathematical meaning is constructed through real-world experiences and the use of physical materials. Mathematics is presented as a tool to represent ideas with multiple materials and to encourage the use of many expressive languages to represent ideas, questions, and learning. Students work on open-ended problems, investigations, and projects to build a common language for talking about math.
Science in the Early Childhood program is guided by the following essential questions:
- How can we use long-term investigations to foster inquiry?
- Have we developed a powerful sense of place?
- Are we putting ourselves in the context of our ecosystem?
- Are we nurturing environmental stewardship and inviting the children into relationship with the world beyond our walls and with the living things that reside there?
The Early Childhood program cultivates scientific skills and habits such as observing, predicting outcomes, exploring, experimenting, hypothesizing, and thinking critically.
Teachers encourage students to identify a variety of life and phenomena in the natural world, to understand that every living thing is affected by its environment, to understand the importance of protecting and caring for the environment, and to develop an emergent understanding of the interconnectedness of our world and the common requirements of every living thing to survive (food, water, air, shelter, etc.). Students work on open-ended problems, investigations, and projects to develop an emergent understanding of concepts such as reflection, refraction, light and color, evaporation, and conservation. We nurture the ecological identity of the children by discovering what it means to live in relationship with the natural world, spending an ample amount of time exploring our campus and the rhythms, biodiversity, creatures, and elements with whom we share it.
Social Science in the Early Childhood program is guided by the following essential questions:
- How can we reflect our best selves?
- Are we practicing ethical thinking held firmly in place by the compassion that comes from thoughtful and engaged relationships?
- How can we create a school culture that reflects the unique backgrounds of the individuals within the school?
- Are we consistently looking at ways in which we experience and participate in the dynamics of bias, oppression, and privilege that characterize our communities, and exploring the ways in which these dynamics impact children and learning?
- Do we see the children as agents for social change?
The Early Childhood program explores social justice issues as a valuable and meaningful impetus of our teaching and learning by addressing biases, stereotypes, inaccuracies, and marginalization in age-appropriate ways to develop an awareness of a world wider than our classroom and subsequently, move from discussion to action. As we model by asking the questions we don’t have answers to and leading with curiosity, the children becoming skillful at taking others’ perspectives, asking hard questions, and engaging in critical thinking. We provide them the support they deserve as they pursue questions of identity, culture, and community which lead us to the intersection with social justice issues.
Early Childhood students are scheduled to meet for Visual Arts once a week for 45 minutes. Following the Reggio Emilia philosophy, lessons often depend on the strengths and interests of the class as a whole. Students are encouraged to discuss and create art that reflects their perception of the world around them. Much emphasis is placed on investigating new materials and discovering the potential and limitations of these natural, recycled, and other materials.
Skills taught in Early Childhood:
- Recognize primary and secondary colors
- Understand process of mixing colors to make a new color
- Explore art through literature
- Recognize shapes
- Combining shapes to create identifiable objects
- Recognize patterns in nature
- Experiment with new materials
- Use nature for inspiration
From the earliest of ages, students at Friends Academy participate in an ongoing experiential learning curriculum that takes place out-of-doors. A trip to the woods of Maine for the Chewonki program in seventh grade represents the pinnacle of a carefully orchestrated, multi-year participation plan that offers learning opportunities for all students from Early Childhood up. Students not only learn how to climb, camp, and swing from ropes, they are also exposed to team-building games, lessons in leadership, and personal responsibility. They learn what it takes to trust and be trusted, to communicate cooperatively, and to practice empathy.
Physical education teachers introduce the concept of cooperative teamwork through games with Early Childhood students during their PE sessions. This also happens in the rest of Lower School.
Early Childhood students become familiar with the library during weekly visits that incorporate language activities such as stories, poetry, finger plays, felt boards, and puppetry. Many of the lessons are integrated with other topics introduced by teachers.
Children begin to learn the responsibility of selecting appropriate titles and caring for and handling books. They are taught to make sure the books are returned each week and to keep them together in their book bags.