With the gift giving season behind us, I’ve had some adults asking me why playing with rocks and sticks would be beneficial to children. I am all too excited to tell them.
In toddlerhood, children are very literal: if they can’t see it, it’s not there. But as they grow into preschool age, their imaginations begin to grow and if we nourish that growth, the sky becomes the limit. At KCS, our goal as educators is to prepare our youngest learners for the next steps in life. Yes, those next steps include reading, writing and arithmetic, but there is more. Creativity, initiative, problem solving and team building skills become possible when using open-ended materials in play, such as items found in nature. The natural world is a wonder for children, rich in textures, smells, colours and purposes. They can bring their diverse personal experience to play, allowing them to choose, invent and inquire among peers. When early learners are given the opportunity to develop internal motivation for learning, they are more likely to enjoy school and believe in themselves in an educational setting.
So remember, if you see your pre-schooler at home choosing to play with things that aren’t their iPad or commercially-made toys, smile and ask them what they are creating. After all, we only get one chance to be this tender age, so let them make the most of it. You may end up with a scholar on your hands.
‘Sharing What You Know’ is one of the KCS Habits of Mind, Body and Action, so I want to share with you one thing I know about our Pre-Kindergarten program. When I’m in the PK room, my heart fills with joy. Yes, they are our youngest students in the school and yes, they make me laugh, but my heart fills with joy because they share with me what they know from the moment I walk into the room.
The other day, as soon as I entered, one child said, “Miss De Kuyper, I’m building a house!” I could tell he was proud, and I asked him who was going to live there, to which he replied, “You!” When another child put round connectors up to her eyes, I asked her what they were. She looked at my bespectacled face, smiled and said, “Glasses!” Several children brought me toys that matched the colour they were wearing that day, while some told me what they were “cooking” with playdough.
At the beginning of the school year, the PKs are coming out of toddlerhood and into the next stage of learning; something that a lot of us take for granted. This time in their little lives is huge, and it sets the stage for every year of learning after it. When children are given time to explore, they learn to identify colours or how to build a sturdy house, all while learning to share toys, space and ideas. Children absorb what they see and hear, and as the world unfolds around them, the PK program provides them the space to drive their own learning as they continuously share what they know.
Kindergarten. When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I teach Kindergarten, I get a range of interesting reactions. Many people respond with a look of fear or dread on their faces and incredulity at the idea of spending one’s days with a room full of 5-year-olds. Others speculate about how much fun it must be to spend one’s days in Kindergarten, perhaps reminiscing about their own fun-filled Kindergarten years. Having spent the last school year as my first year teaching Senior Kindergarten after teaching a variety of other grades for 16 years, I can assure you there is no place I would rather be.
What is life like in Kindergarten? Well, there is no shortage of energy; that is for sure. It oozes out of their little bodies and minds every minute of every day. Their curiosity knows no limits, and their endless enthusiasm is extremely contagious. I have to say that it is truly inspiring to see the world through the eyes of a group of 5-year-olds. They explore and wonder and try to figure out the answers to their multitude of questions. Their imaginations take them beyond the limits they may come to know later in life. Wooden blocks become underwater sea castles, roads, storefronts, or forts. Little bits of paper become “dudes” that travel around the classroom in the hands of their creators. A few sticks, some paper, and a whole lot of tape are magically transformed into a kite or a flying machine of their own invention. When Kindergarten kids find something they want to do, they approach it with determination, creativity, and persistence. They are not afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t work the first time, they make adjustments and try again. Taking responsible risks happens naturally every day, without a second thought. The way Kindergarten kids embrace learning creates a magical environment where anything is possible.
In so many ways, the kind of learning that happens in Kindergarten should be used as a model for older grades. At KCS, many things happen that try to preserve that spirit of learning for the love of it. While there may not be the same flexibility in terms of subject matter, the more we can let kids hang onto learning for the love of it and in ways about which they are passionate, the longer we can let the magic continue. Because why shouldn’t all students have the opportunity to say, as did one of my students to a classmate last year, “My face hurts from smiling so much!” That sums up the world of Kindergarten.
Senior Kindergarten Teacher
Kingsway College School