Welcome to kindergarten at Prairie Creek!
Kindergartners come to school full of curiosity, energy, and excitement. Some early nervousness may come along, too. Prairie Creek's nurturing teachers in the kindergarten-first grade (K-1) combined classrooms create an inviting, safe, and supportive environment for our youngest learners. Each fall these 30 new children are gently introduced to the rhythms and routines of school, while being given many opportunities to make choices and express themselves. At this age, almost anything can be a catalyst for learning, from the hoarfrost on the trees outside the window to the little toad that we found in the woods. Teachers honor and encourage this delightful sense of wonder by allowing time for the joys of discovery to unfold. We may have planned a certain lesson, but when the fat squirrel jumps up onto the bird feeder right outside our window, we will stop and watch him. If the children are interested, we may sketch him, read about him, act out his antics, or write about him. Our goal is to foster independent thinkers who love to learn.
If children are to be open to learning and feel free to express themselves, they must feel safe emotionally and socially. At Prairie Creek, classes spend the first six weeks of school focusing on the social curriculum, building comfort and security for our students. Here the mixed-age classroom comes into play, as each kindergartner is assigned a first-grade Cubby Buddy on the first day of school (with whom they’ll share open locker space for backpacks and boots through the year). The first graders are proud to "show the ropes" to the kindergartners, and the Ks have a first friend, someone to turn to when they have questions. Each child is respected as an individual, and teachers consider the emotional and social aspects of learning along with the academic.
Children enter kindergarten at various stages of development. Thus, our goals and expectations for each child are different. Some children come to us already reading, some are learning letter names and sounds, and others arrive somewhere in between. We meet children where they are and guide them forward, with respect for their individual learning style and pace.
Teachers at Prairie Creek develop new curriculum materials every year for our students. Much of our instruction takes place in the context of integrated themes. Topics for themes may come from the interests of the children, or be chosen by teachers—the range runs from All About Me to simple machines. Within the theme study, children have many options for showing what they’ve learned—building dioramas, writing or drawing books and posters, cutting and pasting images accompanied by captions, and other means of illustration designed to share their knowledge schoolwide.
Parents can expect frequent communication from their child's teacher. K-1 teachers write newsletters nearly every week, and are available daily by phone and email. Parents are encouraged to get involved in their student’s education by volunteering in the school or classroom, visiting, helping on field trips, and sending in supplies. Student-Parent-Teacher conferences are held three times yearly. The fall conference, in September, is a time for setting goals for the year. At the January and May conferences, children show the work they’ve completed, and parents engage in conversation with teachers and receive a written narrative report regarding their child's progress.
At the end of kindergarten year, those eager, nervous little ones have become confident, capable learners. They know that they are important members of the group. They show respect for themselves, each other, and the school environment. They are ready for new academic challenges when they come back to the same classroom for first grade.