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Meeting the Needs of our Youngest Students

Each year, the first few weeks of the new school year stir a range of emotions – not only for the children, but for their families, teachers and even the children’s teachers from previous years. 

We all want the first few weeks of the new experience at school to be ‘extra’ successful, as this can set the benchmark for children in their perspective of what school is like and how it can be for them. Much of what comes after can be impacted by the experience of the ‘first day’. One of our reflections, following the children’s first day at the Junior School is that, for each of our Prep children, this would be their first and last ever ‘first day of school’; they will never get to have this experience again. Through this lens, we become even more aware of how important it is for our children to have a ‘really good’ first day.

At Christian College, we are working hard to ensure that the first experience of school for all our children is a truly positive one. An important element of this for our Prep children is to make the transition from kindergarten to school as seamless as possible for both the children and their families. Successful transition can be achieved by building on the commonality between the kindergarten and school learning environments, and supporting children’s ongoing learning and development in ways that are familiar to both the child and the parents. Creating this progression involves building on children’s prior experiences and knowledge to help them feel secure, confident and connected as they move into their first year of school.

Building on the individual kindergarten experiences that the children have had prior to starting school, the teaching and learning in the Prep year provides explicit teaching of literacy, numeracy, and other key curriculum areas, but also continues to stimulate all aspects of their development including their social, physical, intellectual, emotional and creative abilities. One of the ways we are building on our transition program is the welcoming way the Prep learning environments are set up. Through the use of specifically designed learning centres and activities, our Prep teachers draw upon the children’s interests and lives to make learning real, relevant and meaningful. This is achieved by providing authentic opportunities for the children to think laterally and creatively; to self-initiate, explore, problem-solve, take risks, construct ideas and meaning, and to think deeply. 

Doing so maintains the real interest in learning. Such a student-centred, individualised approach provides the children with a range of stimulating activities, which are developmentally appropriate for each child and nurture their growth – both academically and their character. At Christian College, we are proud to be able to provide learning environments that support the transition to school by:

  • Reflecting and respecting the children’s ideas, interests and backgrounds.

  • Providing creative and open-ended experiences.

  • Providing opportunities to work alone and alongside each other.

  • Promoting a sense of authentic choice.

  • Embedding explicit skills of a range of curriculum areas.

  • Focusing on the development of the “whole child”.

Throughout their Prep year, the children at our College also participate in the ‘Bush Prep’ program. This is an extension of the Play Based Learning approach, in which the children are regularly engaged in an outdoor ‘bush’ environment, and they come to understand and appreciate the natural environment as the ‘third teacher’. 

The children enjoy having a different and wider space in which to design their own projects (such as building bridges, tree houses or teepees, imaginary kitchens, etc), discover special things unique to the bush setting (including the different sounds of the local frog population) and collaborate on how to solve immediate logistical problems (such as making a stick construction more stable) and so on. It is a time and space within their busy daily programs when the children can just ‘be’ and appreciate the opportunity to be in tune with themselves and their environment.

One of the strengths of the Bush Prep program is that, on a rostered basis, parents of our Prep children join us for the experience. This provides a great opportunity for parents to connect with the children and their learning in this different environment. It also creates another means for parents to meet each other and spend quality time getting to know their children’s peers, other parents and the teachers, as well as develop a greater understanding of the benefits of children learning this way. As we build upon all the wonderful experiences and knowledge the children bring with them before they start school, we believe that we are providing our Prep children with a strong foundation for success, not just at school, but for their learning and life in the world after school.

Marion Nott
Previous Head of Campus
Junior School - Belmont

 

 

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