Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, First Grade
Our Early Childhood program consists of full-day Preschool 3-4, Kindergarten and First Grade. Each Early Childhood section is limited to 15-18 students and taught by a certified Early Childhood teacher. Preschool sections are also staffed by a certified teacher and full-time aide.
The primary learning outcome of the Early Childhood program is to address the whole child in the areas of social, creative, cognitive, physical, and emotional development. Activities and lessons are designed to ensure a developmentally appropriate, child-centered program. The curriculum is teacher-created and responsive to the children’s interests, needs, and individual levels of development.
We believe that young children learn best through play and meaningful experiences. Structured activities are coupled with free explorations at various learning centers that are visited by the youngsters throughout the day. These centers include dramatic play, puzzles, sand and water measuring, cooking, computer, reading corner, and construction area. Other centers are often built around interdisciplinary themes or units.
Academics are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner. It is important that children at this age develop an experiential background and a love of learning. The language arts curriculum focuses on four main components: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Everyday Math, which is the basis of the primary math experience, emphasizes that math is a real part of everyday life. The science curriculum allows children to explore and observe the world around them. The social studies curriculum is designed to help children organize and develop their perception of themselves and their world. Students are also take a trimester of French, Spanish and Mandarin, forming the base for their study of world languages throughout their Lower School years.
Character education, including self-esteem and social skills, teaches "the MPA Way" (Be Kind and Do Your Best) through role modeling and positive social interactions. The wellness program further enhances these themes.
Curriculum Guide, 2012-2013 (PDF)
- Pre-Kindergarten Curriculum
The main objective of the preschool program is to enhance children’s social skills and self-image. In order to be successful learners, cooperation, turn-taking, and problem-solving skills must be developed. In addition, it is important for young children to feel confident in their ability to make choices, initiate a learning encounter, ask questions, and use their knowledge.
Activities and lessons are designed to ensure a developmentally appropriate, child-centered program according to standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young People (NAEYC). The curriculum is responsive to children’s interests, needs, and levels of development; some themes and units arise from the children’s academic interests and inquiries.
We recognize that children learn primarily through play and meaningful experiences. Therefore, structured activities are coupled with free exploration at various centers, which include dramatic play, painting, reading corner, listening center, sensory table, markers, puzzles, blocks, Duplos, play dough, beads, pattern blocks, art projects, games, sorting, office, and computer. Every day the children have the opportunity to choose in which centers they will participate. The centers reinforce the theme/unit and academic skills (reading, math, science, and social studies) that are the main focus at that time.
Reading and Language Arts
The reading and language arts component immerses children in print materials. A variety of children’s literature, rotate weekly, is available for children’s use at the reading corner. Strategies to build children’s sight words include labeling classroom objects, displaying children’s names throughout the classroom, and writing down the words children use whenever possible. Big books and trade books are read aloud by the teacher several times a day, followed by a discussion of the book’s plot, character, dilemma, and/or solution. Song and poem charts with corresponding pictures are presented during meetings.
To encourage a love of writing, the four-year-olds are encouraged to write letters, words and journals by themselves. Each four-year-old has a personal mailbox in order to foster letter writing. Key words related to themes are written on cards and are accessible for the students to copy and read.
The listening center allows the four-year-olds to follow a book by listening to a tape, and interactive CD-ROM stories are available in the computer station, as well as basic word processing.
The reading readiness skills students develop at this age include recognizing and writing their own name, using illustrations to understand the story, being aware of the multiple purposes of print, left-to-right reading directionality, recitation and recognition of the alphabet, knowledge of front and back of books, an introduction to authors and illustrators, reproduction of letters via copying, awareness of beginning sound-letter associations, knowledge that a “string” of letters creates a word, and the use of pictographs and sentence/picture journaling.
The focus of the mathematics component is on developing children’s number sense. This is achieved through daily hands-on math encounters. To develop an awareness of numeration, students use manipulatives to make one-to-one correspondence. The three-year-olds are expected to recognize and count from one to 10, and the four-year-olds from one to 20. They can also estimate more and less, and use number books.
Geometry work includes free play with pattern and wooden blocks, being able to name basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle, star, octagon, and geometric solids), recognize these shapes in everyday objects, and use the shapes in art activities such as collages. Free play is also used to help students learn about money and calculators in the dramatic play center (e.g. grocery store).
To learn about charts and graphs, students complete a daily attendance graph, daily weather chart, and create two-column graphs related to a unit or activity. Students learn about calendar patterns, hand-clapping patterns and skip counting by patterns such as 2-4-6-8. Children learn about measuring in hands-on activities such as water and sand play with volume (pails, cylinders, boxes, etc.), free play with measuring tools, and weighing activities using a beginner’s scale.
The objective of the science curriculum is to make the world familiar to children via hands-on explorations of everyday objects. The course outline includes units that arise from the children’s interests, as well as weather, colors and color-mixing, magnets, plants and flowers, bugs and insects, bubbles, babies and human growth, and animals (forest and zoo).
The primary goal of the social studies component is to promote the acceptance of the differences and similarities (cultural, ethnic, religious, physical and cognitive capabilities) of world cultures and people. The course outline includes units that arise from the children’s interests, as well as an anti-bias curriculum, and topics including differences and similarities among people, houses and homes, construction and families.
The curriculum for world languages exposes children to the study of French, Spanish and Mandarin. The goal is to allow children to explore new sounds and learn basic vocabulary words and short phrases in French, Spanish and Mandarin. The goal of this exposure is to inspire a lifelong interest in language learning as well as integrating essential 21st century skills in the early childhood program.
Students receive a trimester of French, Spanish and Mandarin, with two weekly classroom lessons. These lessons are taught by teachers in the World Language department, and may include Upper School AP honors French and Spanish students under the guidance of the World Languages curriculum leader. The students receive training through an orientation session, as well as frequent meetings where they share ideas and activities appropriate to preschool language learning. Having Upper
School volunteers with the World Languages is enriching to all involved; everyone benefits greatly from the warmth and bonding that their interaction provides.
Lessons focus on games, activities, songs, rhymes, and chants. Many props are used to engage the children. No written work is intended in this program; instead, the children learn experientially, by participating in various activities. Basic topics covered include greetings, numbers from one to 10, colors, animals, body parts, family, food and feelings.
Young children are primarily process-oriented artists. Multiple opportunities to explore the media are necessary before they can be expected to create a purposeful art piece. Because of this, the preschool art program does not focus on the end product, but rather on the process that the child experiences. By designing process-oriented art encounters, the children’s skills in drawing, painting, pasting, cutting, tearing, and sculpting can be extended to their fullest potential. Furthermore, all artistic endeavors, great or small, are appreciated.
Students use the following media throughout the school year: pencils, markers, crayons, tempera paints, watercolor, clay, pastels, chalk, collage and play dough.
The music component broadens the children’s exposure to a wide range of songs and instruments in order to increase their appreciation of music. Formal music class is three days a week for three-year olds and four times a week for four-year olds. The program’s goal is to help children become confident in their abilities to express themselves and have fun through music. Songs are sung multiple times and children have free and structured exploration of musical instruments and various sound-makers. Upper School band members visit, introduce, and play their instruments. The children also have the opportunity to create their own songs and sound-makers.
The physical education program encourages gross- and fine-motor development. The children participate in fun, interactive cardiovascular activities, both in the classroom and in the gymnasium, while also working on their social skills (taking turns, following rules and directions) and academic knowledge (counting, alphabet, colors).
- Kindergarten Curriculum
The main objective of the Kindergarten program is to develop the whole child socially, intellectually, physically, creatively and emotionally. The enhancement of the child’s self-esteem and growth of a healthy self-image are valuable assets that can be instilled in a child in Kindergarten. The program is tailored to the needs, developmental levels and interests of each student in order to provide a positive learning environment that fosters an enthusiastic attitude toward learning.
Character and Social Development
Social and character development are stressed continually through heightened awareness, programs, and role modeling. All interactions (child-to-child, child-to-adult) offer opportunities for character growth. These positive interactions are emphasized in all settings, including the classroom, centers, transitions, and recess. Programs include: the MPA Way, Let’s Find Out Newspaper, and the Wellness Program.
Reading and Language Arts
The language arts program (readiness/reading) places an emphasis on the development of literature awareness and “how print works,” as well as specific skills. In compliance with this philosophy, each child’s readiness or actual reading level will depend on his/her personal maturation on all levels. Through an eclectic approach including whole language, phonics, and author studies, the reading program offers varied approaches and focuses. Specific skills include letter-sound associations, phonetic word approach, word sense, story order, predicting outcomes, rhyming, word families, real vs. fantasy, cause and effect, sight vocabulary, and comprehension.
Literature-based material and texts used include Big Books, trade books, Rookie Readers, Story Box readers, emergent readers, pattern books, poetry folders, literacy charts, and interactive word and sentence pocket charts. Controlled vocabulary is introduced and reinforced through the daily message and Kindernews. Daily Kindernews is published monthly to reinforce basic sight vocabulary within the context of a sentence.
Through the writing process the student naturally expands his/her vocabulary base. The printing/writing/reading process includes: ABC letters (upper and lowercase), letter-sound associations, emergent writing, beginning writing, Color Me Happy weekend writing, journals using illustrations and transitional spelling, story response activities and group language experience stories.
The language arts curriculum focuses on the four main components of speaking, listening, reading and writing. All areas are integrated throughout the day and the value of each component is recognized. Language Arts units are integrated with math, science, and social studies themes when applicable. Varied language arts centers provide opportunities for reinforcement and enrichment throughout the year.
The mathematical strands include: counting, numerations, operations, time, measurement, money, geometry, attributes, patterns, graphing, symmetry and 100th day of school. Each strand is designed as a spiral that begins at a simple level and grows with the child’s experience. At times, a full unit stressing a particular concept is presented.
Calendar Corner is an integral segment of the Everyday Math program. Calendar activities include day, month, year, days of the week, counting forward and backwards, place value, graphing weather, interpreting weather graphs and recognizing seasons. Materials include manipulatives, the Everyday Math student guide, Home Links, games and charts.
The science curriculum revolves around different topics, which are sometimes dictated by student interests. There are integrated units involving colors, water, trees/leaves/seeds, and farm animals. Life cycles may include apples, pumpkins and butterflies. Units are integrated through various yearly themes and centers. Materials used include theme-related centers, Big Books, trade books, Let’s Find Out Newspaper, and poetry.
The Social Studies curriculum is designed to help each child organize and develop his perception of himself and his world. Class discussions and activities involve the child, his family, and the people around him. Throughout the year, activities, art projects, calendar time, books, and discussions give emphasis to seasons and customs of appropriate holidays. Units are integrated through various yearly themes and centers. Materials used include the Let’s Find Out Newspaper, trade/holiday books, theme-related centers, and poetry. Units include The MPA Way (developing appropriate social skills throughout the year), community helpers, international celebration (country of emphasis varies), current events, and various cultural and national holidays.
Continual exploration and reinforcement of reading, math, science, and social studies is offered through various centers. Thematic centers offer reinforcement of lessons presented. Centers may include thematic explorations, puzzles, games, tapes and accompanying books, interactive bulletin boards, interactive pocket charts, puppets, dramatic play, building blocks, beads, legos, play dough, store, computer games, writing and art.
- First Grade Curriculum
First Grade Curriculum
Reading and Language Arts
In first grade the primary emphasis is on linking reading and writing as they relate to the total child. In addition to the whole language approach, a concentrated study is also placed on word attack skills with initial development of vocabulary and comprehension skills, using basal readers, workbooks, children’s literature and material relating to auditory and visual recall. Students learn to read independently, orally, and strategically.
Language Arts is interrelated with our reading and whole language approach. The program includes development of the understanding of sentence structure using capital letters, punctuation, and the use of capital letters for proper nouns. Initial instruction is given in basic language usage concepts; sentence structure, plurals, possessives, and describing works (adjectives, adverbs). The main purpose of language arts is to communicate effectively, recognize patterns in words, and write stories with a focus.
A writing workshop gives the children the opportunity to utilize and apply these skills. Personal and imaginative experiences as well as literature-based topics provide the incentives to stimulate written expression. Penmanship skills are taught and reinforced during the year. Spelling words and grammar exercises are emphasized in relation to the whole language program.
Mathematics students build mastery and confidence of basic skills through a spiraling curriculum. In first grade, they learn the basics of numeration and counting, explore the use of a calculator and gain a basic understanding of money. Students learn basic addition and subtraction, and begin to work with fractions. Problem-solving skills are developed throughout the course, and students learn to order and sequence data that they have recorded, and they display data using graphs. Foundational skills in geometry with 2D and 3D shapes are explored, as are skills in estimating, measuring, comparing, and recognizing patterns.
Science and Health
Through discussion and simple experiments, Grade 1 students explore a variety of topics in the life sciences, earth science, physical science, and the human body. Skills that are stressed include communication, observation, gathering data, making inferences and conclusions, classification, and experimentation.
In the life science unit, students learn about the nomenclature of trees and plants, gain an understanding of the systems that help them grow, and learn about insects and their life cycle. In the physical science unit, learners explore the idea of matter, the five senses, and the scientist’s tools. For earth science, students explore the themes of weather and the seasons. During the units on health and the human body, students delve deeper into how their five senses work in practice, and learn about nutrition and good health.
A weekly news publication is the source for the topics discussed and explored in the classroom. Current events, people in the news and world problems are emphasized on a weekly basis. Students also explore their world through map and globe work. The overarching goal of the program is to develop students’ self-concept while learning to have positive and caring interactions with others.
The social studies curriculum includes foundational geography, as well as history and world cultures. Students learn the names of landmasses and oceans, countries, states and our capital. They learn the names and basic facts about our president, governor and mayor, and become familiar with local and national landmarks. Students become aware of other cultures and their unique customs and holidays, and they are encouraged to share customs, language, and food at our yearly International Celebration. Students also plan a cultural diversity parade, and learn about the first Thanksgiving.