Classrooms in Pre-Primary School are carefully planned to meet the needs of our youngest students and to create a school experience that both nurtures and inspires them. Ask any Pre-Primary teacher and they will tell you how special these early school years are. “It’s a magical age—the children are enchanted with the world, and they give themselves to you 110%,” says Discovery Room Teacher Ana Ardon. At the same time, they need a caring environment with a lot of structure: “Children this age read the world in its totality. They need help decoding it,” Director of Pre-Primary School Stefania Rubino explains.
Creating Structure with the Daily Schedule
To help children adjust to school routines, Pre-Primary School teachers create schedules with a simple but clearly articulated sequence of activities for each day. Cues are used throughout the day to reinforce the rhythm of changing activities. Schedules are designed keeping in mind the developmental stage of children in the different classrooms. For example, frequent bathroom breaks are a prominent feature of the Discovery Room schedule to help teach children how to care for themselves.
Helping Children “Read” the Space
Teachers also structure their rooms to help children learn to make sense of their new environment. The large rooms are clearly divided into areas for specific kinds of activities, and physical dividers are added so that teachers can introduce children to classroom spaces in a systematic and understandable way. When you are in one of Lowell’s Pre-Primary School classrooms, you’ll see how the placement of the furniture defines the spaces for science, dramatic play, art, manipulatives, blocks, and books. Ultimately, this careful structuring helps children develop independence and a sense of ownership of the space.
The Details Matter
Wall decorations and enticing materials, all chosen to help children develop new skills, are arranged strategically. Natural objects, games, puzzles, and toys are grouped on shelves to invite curiosity, exploration, and wonder. Only a few items are placed on the shelves at a time so children aren’t overwhelmed. And, under each one is a picture and name of the item, so that children learn that everything has its place and can help keep the shelves organized.
Teachers warm up the rooms with their creative use of gauzy curtains, glowing lamps, rugs, and soft furniture. Pictures of the children, mirrors, and examples of their artwork are placed at the children’s eye level, as well. “In order for children to gain the most from any learning experience, the physical surroundings should provide nurturing opportunities for their self discovery. This can be reinforced by providing them with comfort, a deep sense of security, and of belonging,” Ana explains.
Supporting Social and Emotional Development
The learning environment that the teachers create also supports the development of children’s social and emotional skills. Because routines are carefully established and classroom spaces are organized in a way they can understand, children can more readily learn strategies to help themselves. When, for example, they are upset, they know where they can go for some time alone. When the lights go off, they know they will need to stop their work for a new activity. Building social relationships is also subtly supported by the set-up of the room: cozy spaces and small tables to explore materials encourage children to learn to play together first in pairs and later, in threes or fours. There are also spaces for the whole group to gather and learn to appreciate community life.
Making Great Strides
Each year by mid-year, teachers and parents alike notice the great strides children have made. Soaking in the teachers’ gentle guidance, children learn to take care of themselves, express their feelings, and build skills at a pace and in a place especially designed for them.
Lowell School is a private PK-8th grade school located in NW Washington, DC. At Lowell students gain the knowledge, skills, and social-emotional literacy to be the bold leaders and creative problem solvers our world needs.